As the average lifespan increases and medical advances allow people with chronic health conditions to live longer, the potential of requiring assistance with daily life as one ages also rises. The practice of caregiving has become a hot topic as a shortage of both professional and family caregivers is already becoming evident. But let’s not forget the other side of the coin: receiving care.
Typically, the attention given to a care recipient focuses on the individual’s needs and how to address those needs. The people (especially family/friends) who are attempting to provide assistance can discover tips for “successful” caregiving from a growing number of websites and other resources. But becoming a care recipient will also be a learning process for the adult who has been independent and self-sufficient for the majority of his/her lifetime.
The art of receiving care may come more naturally to some individuals than others, however, there are some practices which will help ease the challenges for care recipients and their caregivers.
- Recognize your fears. Fear is an obstacle which prevents many people from moving forward or maximizing their potential in life. One such fear may be that opening the door to a little bit of assistance will result in the loss of all independence. Would you rather be in control of how widely the door is opened and who enters, or have the door broken down by a crisis which might have otherwise been avoided or minimized?
- Plan ahead. The ability to think clearly and the time to explore options exists before a need arises or a crisis occurs. Choosing your own potential path will make acceptance of life’s changes easier to digest and provide direction for your caregivers, reducing stress for everyone.
- Consider your caregivers. We are all individuals with our own skills, temperaments, and responsibilities. When seeking assistance from a caregiver, ask yourself if the caregiver has the knowledge to understand the task (or willingness to learn), the personality to be effective, and the time to complete the task. Appropriately matching tasks to caregivers leads to greater comfort, efficiency, and mutual respect.
- Define your goals and expectations. Were you ever assigned a project at work, but the boss didn’t share the purpose of the project or a vision of how to accomplish it? Your ideas and approach may have been completely different from what your boss had in mind. When your caregiver understands the “who, what, when, where, why, and how,” you can work together with less room for misunderstandings. The key is to empower the caregiver without micromanaging the situation.
- Express appreciation. An attitude of gratitude will help caregivers see the value of their efforts and provide motivation to continue their service. One method of demonstrating appreciation for paid caregivers (such as employees of a home care agency) is to recognize their individuality and show interest in their lives outside of their jobs.
- Create a productive environment. Whether your caregivers are paid professionals or informal family caregivers, providing adequate room to work, appropriate tools and supplies, enough light, and safe practices will set the stage for the execution of merely adequate or extraordinary care.
Individual circumstances will influence a care recipient’s ability to implement these strategies, such as the number and relationship of caregivers, the presence of cognitive impairment, and/or the type/frequency of assistance which is required. The mindset of the individual receiving care will be the single most influential factor, however.
Unfortunately, a need for help is often viewed as a sign of weakness, and people naturally resist situations which make them feel vulnerable. Receiving care with an attitude of grace is an art form all its own, and is one that we can all admire and learn from.
Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN