How Do Caregivers for Seniors Provide Essential Support?

Posted on May 11, 2021

Caregivers are some of the unsung heroes of our society. They provide an important service to people in our community who need it most, and they often do it without appropriate recognition.

Both professional and family caregivers for seniors are often the most overlooked. Elderly care isn't easy, but these people do it with a smile. 

Whether you're looking for a caregiver for elderly loved ones (or yourself), you're interested in becoming a caregiver yourself, or you're curious about what caregivers have to offer the world, we want to show you the importance of caregiving. 

Keep reading to learn all about how people who provide elderly care are crucial. 

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Caregivers for Seniors: Essential Support

As people get older, many of them lose the ability to appropriately care for themselves at home. They may develop mobility problems, become frail, experience dangerous falls, or have problems completing their normal household tasks.  

Caring for an elderly parent is a full-time responsibility. Anyone who has out-of-home responsibilities (like work or school) can't do it alone. They need supplemental help. 

Retirement communities are often too expensive for people to stay in for longer than necessary. Some older people may put off joining a nursing home for as long as possible. 

Some seniors enjoy staying at home because they believe that it helps them maintain independence. 

In these cases, in-home elderly care is a huge help. Caregivers can provide full-time support, assist family members with caring for ageing parents (if they're professional caregivers), and provide necessary social company for seniors. 

In-home caregivers support their clients to provide the best possible care. They allow seniors to stay in their homes where they're comfortable, they give family members room to live their lives, and they protect their clients' physical and mental health. 

Caring for the Elderly

Caring for the elderly isn't for the faint of heart. It's challenging and it includes a lot of difficult and often thankless tasks. Caregivers need extensive training if they want to keep their clients safe and happy, and the work is gruelling.

Caregiver Tasks

Caregivers have different tasks depending on the person that they're caring for. Elderly care varies.

 While this isn't true for everyone, many caregivers need to make meals for the people in their care. It may be too difficult for their client to cook homemade meals for themselves, so caregivers need to know how to cook healthy and nutritious meals. Caregivers may also be responsible for household tasks like light cleaning.

Caregivers need to help their clients with personal care if they have mobility issues or advanced mental health concerns. These things include bathing, using the restroom, and getting dressed. Active seniors may want help with activities like exercise.

Seniors often need more supervision than other adults. While it's inappropriate to think of them as children, they still need to be observed to ensure that they stay safe from falls, that they don't wander, and that they have everything that they need.

 A good caregiver knows that elderly care means providing emotional support. Ageing is a lonely process, and caregivers are often the primary social outlet for seniors. Caregivers are companions, and many of them develop strong bonds with their clients.

Finally, caregivers need to know how to provide general support for health issues. This means that they need to be familiar with the client's medications, their health concerns, and what a medical emergency looks like (as well as how to handle it). 

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Challenges of Caregiving

Caregiving isn't always easy. While it's a fulfilling career, it comes with pitfalls. 

Senior citizens are unique people, and like all people, they have personalities that may clash with the caregiver. They can be demanding, condescending, combative, or otherwise unpleasant if personalities don't mesh well.

Caregiving is often an around-the-clock job. While it may seem simple to stay in someone's home and provide support for them, there are many seniors who need extra care. While caregivers provide respite for family members, there isn't always someone who can provide respite for caregivers.

On a daily basis, caregivers can experience tantrums, health emergencies, and days where there are more responsibilities than normal. They may face challenging family members.

 We'll discuss some of the physical and mental health challenges that come alongside caregiving later, but in short, it's a tough career path that deserves more respect. 

Key Skills of Caregivers for Seniors

So what does it take to be a good caregiver for elderly patients? There are several essential skills that every caregiver needs if they want to succeed and provide the best possible care for their clients. Here are some of the most important ones. 

Patience

Being a caregiver is often an exercise in patience. Caregivers need to understand that their clients have needs that may be unexpected or challenging.

It's easy to be condescending or irritable with clients when things aren't going to plan. Instead, caregivers need to take a few moments to think about their actions and slow down to match the pace of the people in their care. 

Empathy

On the topic of avoiding irritability, empathy is a key quality of anyone who wants to be a good caregiver.

 Seniors are battling challenges that caregivers can't yet understand on a personal level. They're struggling with their mental health, potential cognitive decline, and a lack of mobility.

Remember that these people were once young. These new challenges are frustrating. Caregivers need to consider how they would feel in the position of their clients and respond accordingly. 

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Strong Communication Skills 

Caregiving requires a lot of communication, and sometimes that communication isn't straightforward.

 Caregivers need to know how to read body language. Not all seniors are great at explaining their needs. They may have too much pride or they may have a genuine inability to voice what they're thinking. 

They need to learn how to talk in a calm manner and respond well even when the client isn't doing the same. They also need to know how to communicate with family members, healthcare professionals, and other caregivers. 

Attentiveness 

Caregivers need to be attentive if they want to provide the best care for their clients.

 They need to be able to recognize any changes in behaviour that could be indications of physical or cognitive decline. Every small change matters for seniors. 

They need to respond to clients' needs as soon as possible, even if those needs aren't explicitly brought up.

Caregivers for the Elderly: Health and Emotional Impact 

Caregiving is challenging. It has physical and emotional health consequences, and many caregivers experience burnout or empathy fatigue. They need to be resilient despite the challenges. 

Caregivers need more support. This can include monetary support, emotional support, or respite care. 

Physical Challenges

When under prolonged stress, a person's body will experience physical health problems. These can include weakened immunity, prolonged fatigue, and aches and pains. 

Because caregivers often pay less attention to their own wellbeing, they may be more susceptible to illnesses that they'd otherwise catch onto. They may even experience heart problems from prolonged stress and anxiety.

Mental Health Challenges

Watching a client or a parent age is difficult. As they decline, caregivers may start to mourn them even while they're alive. People go through many changes as they age.

For professional caregivers, they see many clients in their lifetimes. While they understand that the work that they do is crucial, it isn't easy to see so many people who are nearing the end of their lives.

Many caregivers experience depression and anxiety. Without appropriate social support or counselling, it's not sustainable. It's important that caregivers learn coping mechanisms and have enough support for their mental health. 

Other Challenges

Caregivers who aren't caregiving as a career often don't get enough training and support. They may feel overwhelmed and underprepared for the challenges of caregiving. This can increase burnout symptoms and cause them to give up.

Someone who is caregiving for a family member may not get enough financial support. While there are sometimes stipends available for caregivers, many people can't get by without having a full-time career. Because caregiving takes up so much time, it's impossible to maintain a career while also taking care of the elderly.

Caregivers Provide an Essential Service

Both professional caregivers for seniors and people who provide care for their own family members provide an essential service for elderly adults.

Caregiving for seniors is a thankless job. It's fulfilling and important, but it comes with mental and physical health challenges. It's important for caregivers to receive appropriate support so they can continue providing care.

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