Many skills are needed to be an effective caregiver for adults and the elderly. The care provider may be a family member suddenly thrust into a caregiving role or an experienced caregiver who has no relationship with the individual. Adult and elderly care recipients may be keenly aware that they were once self-sufficient and may resist the idea of someone else caring for them.
Effective verbal and nonverbal communication is important when providing care for adults and the elderly. If the individual suffers from dementia, keep messages short and simple, and give instructions one step at a time. If the person is having trouble finding the right words, try to help by asking broad yes or no questions such as, “Does it have to do with dinner?” When providing care, be cognizant of gestures and nonverbal cues that can be upsetting to the care recipient. Also be alert to the individual’s body language when providing care. A wince or grimace can indicate discomfort even if her words say otherwise.
Patience is a key skill in caring for adults and elderly individuals. Trying to hurry or rush will likely cause frustration and nervousness. When the person is trying to accomplish a task on his own, avoid jumping in and taking over. If assistance is needed, only help with the steps the individual finds difficult, and allow her to do the rest. Resist the temptation to finish sentences or inform the care recipient you have already answered her question.
It is very important to have a good understanding of the illness or condition the adult or elderly individual suffers from. This will help avoid unrealistic expectations of what the person can and cannot do. Also, a care provider must always be aware of physician orders and changes in treatment.
Good organization is needed for proper medicine administration and scheduling. If the adult or elderly care recipient takes several medications, a pill dispenser may help avoid missed or duplicated doses. Keep a listing of all medications handy so it can be provided to medical personnel in an emergency. Also, know where important papers such as medical power of attorney, living wills and insurance papers are located. Use a calendar or appointment book to mark all doctor visits and appointments.
Providing care for an adult or an elderly person can be overwhelming. There should always be a dependable back-up ready to provide care if the primary caregiver is unavailable. The caregiver should also be aware of community resources that are available to provide services.