March 28, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
“Caregiver” is not exactly a career that most people choose. It’s more likely that we find ourselves unexpectedly thrust into that role, when a family member or a loved one needs our support. Some have even said that caregiving chooses us, emerging as it does for circumstances completely out of our control. It’s not a responsibility that one can refuse. It’s not likely that we can delegate it to someone else, at least not in its entirety.
Being a caregiver is hard work, lots of responsibility, and exhausting. It takes a certain type of individual with a certain type of attitude to truly perform this role effectively. Let’s look at the characteristics that make someone a really great caregiver.
The greatest caregivers I have known are probably also the most flexible people I’ve ever met. You really have to be ready to make changes at a moment’s notice when you’re a caregiver. Even taking on the role is usually a real life-changer, not only for the patient but for the caregiver as well. You had no way of predicting that you would need to become a caregiver, or when that would happen. You’ve already made some big adjustments at the onset.
Moving forward, you’re going to need to be even more flexible. If you’re the type of person who always tries to carefully plan out your day, and write out a schedule that you have to adhere to, you’re going to find your new role to be challenging, and you’ll probably need to make some adjustments to your approach. Things are going to change, often on the fly, and you’ll have to be ready to take on whatever situations may arise, as they happen.
We’ve mentioned it before, but it seems that we can’t say it enough. The role of caregiver is hard work. And it will tax you on all levels – physically, mentally, and emotionally. You will often need to perform your responsibilities when you’re already long past the point of exhaustion. You’re going to need to summon all of the strength you can so you can be an effective caregiver.
When we say strength, it has to also include endurance. You’re in this for the long haul, and the approach has to be more like running a marathon than a 50-yard dash. Whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, the person for whom you’re caring has the same needs as any other day. Other perhaps they’re having a particularly rough time and need more support. You’ll need to be strong, and stay calm and patient to get through it all.
Empathy is probably the most important trait of a great caregiver. Giving care doesn’t just mean physical help. You have to support your loved one on all levels. Sure, they’re dealing with physical challenges, and there may be a lot of pain, but there are other concerns as well. When someone can’t take care of themselves, it’s a frustrating experience, and one that all too often leads to anxiety or depression. You need to be able to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand what they’re feeling and thinking, how the world looks from their wheelchair. You need to treat the person you’re caring for in the manner in which you’d like to be treated, if you were in their situation.
There are other characteristics of great caregivers, but these three are the core of what it takes, and the other traits all seem to stem from these. With the right attitude and hard work, it is possible to improve the quality of life for your loved one.