Sometimes, as caregivers, we get so wrapped up in the task of providing care and ensuring our caree is safe, healthy and well cared for, that we don’t treat them with the respect we would normally show, particularly if they have dementia or are physically or cognitively dependent. We don’t do it intentionally, but it can happen.
Here are suggestions to make sure you can make your caree feel respected and comfortable:
- Adapt the caregiving routine to the needs and mood of your caree. Don’t force them to do unwanted activities. Find alternatives or find ways to encourage and support their participation in positive activities.
- If there are family members who want to visit, suggest times that work well for your parent and if your parent is sick or frail, suggest shorter visits. For example, if your parent isn’t a morning person but their friend is, ask their friend to come for lunch, not breakfast. Alternatively, if you have a sibling who has young, active children, suggest they bring them for short visits and encourage the kids to play outside when your parent looks tired.
- Don’t talk over their head as if they aren’t there. This happens frequently during medical appointments or when meeting with service providers. Be sure to include your parents in the conversation.
- Although it may become monotonous to hear the same stories over and over again, particularly if you are busy, take a moment and engage your parent in the conversation. Ask questions, share your memories. Remember, you won’t always have these moments.
- Don’t expect the person you are caring for to be the same as before. Accept them for who they are now.
- Make an effort to involve your caree in decision making. Ask what they would like to eat, where they would like to go, what they would like to do. Even if they have dementia, they can participate in some decision making. You’ll just need to tailor your questions to their level of understanding. For example, instead of asking, what do you want for lunch, ask, would you like a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad for lunch?
- Respect their privacy. Even if you are assisting your caree with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, toileting, etc.), you can still do your best to offer them as much privacy as possible. When you can, only expose the areas necessary.
- Treat your parent with dignity. If your caree has gotten to the point where they need pureed food or adult diapers, don’t refer to it as baby food and diapers. Put the adult diapers in a drawer like any other undergarment.
- Don’t do everything for them. You may think you are helping them by doing everything for them, but it can actually hurt them. The more you do for them, the less they will be able to do in the future. I had a client who lived very independently. She hired someone to come to her home a few hours a day. Her caregiver did everything for her, including helping her dress and put on her shoes. She eventually wasn’t able to do it herself. She had become so reliant on her caregiver that she lost her range of motion and became completely dependent.
Sometimes, when you are rushing from task to task and trying to keep your head above water, it can be challenging to remember that this is your loved one and one day, these moments will be a memory. No one is perfect all the time. Be kind to yourself and do the best you can to treat yourself and your caree with respect.