The caregiver/patient relationship can often be tenuous and difficult. Home care is a stressful setting that typically involves great sickness or disability and within that, it is easy for tempers to flare and patience to run thin. This is unfortunate, however, because in addition to being a difficult relationship, the caregiver/patient relationship is also an immensely important one. In order for quality care and healing to take place, the caregiver and the patient must foster a good relationship, no matter how difficult that may be at times. Here are seven steps caregivers and patients can take to improve their relationship and form a genuine bond:
1) Learn to Ask for Help The caregiver/patient relationship is very intimate and it often involves difficult, confusing or emotionally challenging scenarios. One of the first steps toward high-quality communication and a safe, healing relationship is transparency and the ability to ask for help. This is true for both the patient and the caregiver. In order to build trust, the patient needs to be able to request help when it is needed and, in order to provide quality care, the caregiver needs to be able to ask the patient for help in understanding something new or clarifying a preference or concern. Asking for help is central to communication and communication, in turn, is central to the rest of the caregiver/patient relationship.
2) Exercise Compassion A home care environment often entails a severely disabled or wounded person who may not have full command of brain function and capacities such as motor skills, memory and speech. These types of disabilities are difficult and can easily create frustration within both the client and the patient. Frustration, however, leads to a strained and fractured relationship, which is not appropriate for the home care setting. Instead of allowing frustration to take hold, caregivers and patients alike should seek to exercise compassion. Compassion for self and others allows people to soften their hearts toward another person and get to a place of honest communication.
3) Be Patient Patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury often have difficulty with skills like speech and memory. Additionally, since traumatic brain injuries often affect the part of the brain that deals with response to stimuli, risk-taking and adherence to rules, injured people may exhibit less concern for rules and an increased level of risky or downright dangerous behavior. Patience is the most important virtue a caregiver can have in situations like these. It is important for a caregiver to understand that injured people are not always in complete control of their actions and, with that in mind, to give the person extra time to calm down and make different decisions. This often requires reasoning, positivity and empathy.
4) Use Encouragement Encouragement is an underrated soft skill. In addition to motivating patients to behave differently when needed, encouragement also goes a long ways toward boosting a patient’s self esteem and making him or her feel capable and in charge once more. Additionally, since being encouraging with patients benefits both the caregiver and the individual, it can rapidly increase the fullness of the relationship.
5) Be an Active Listener Each client has a story to tell and learning to truly listen to that story will quickly foster a bond and encourage increased communication and understanding. Additionally, active listening with clients encourages increased rapport and allows the caregiver to better pick up on potential warning signs. When having a conversation with a client, make eye contact and turn your body toward the person speaking. Be careful not to interrupt and ask plenty of good questions to ensure that the client feels heard and respected.
6) Do What the Patient Loves Do you have a patient who loves to read but cannot anymore due to poor vision or impaired brain function? Maybe you have a patient who loves puzzles, scrapbooking or board games. Whatever the case may be, make a concerted and honest effort to engage the patient in these pastimes. In addition to helping a client feel more involved, whole and capable, these activities can go a long way toward decreasing feelings of distress in a patient and encouraging positive changes in behavior.
7) Practice Respect Caregivers must have a deep respect for the patient and his or her family. The patient’s home is a workplace and must be treated like one. When a caregiver is respectful of a patient’s home, belongings and preferences, the patient feels respected in turn, which leads to less distress and an increased feeling of relaxation and comfort. Additionally, practicing constant respect serves to place the patient and the caregiver on the same plane, encouraging increased communication and a deeper relationship. When practices like empathy, active listening, respect, transparency and patience are exercised, both a patient and a client can find themselves in a deep, caring and safe relationship. In a home care setting, these types of relationships are integral in creating healing and comfort. Although home care relationships can be challenging, at times, both patient and caregiver can take a variety of simple steps toward improving the relationship and creating a lasting bond.