What does it take to be a good caregiver? Caregivers can help with all kinds of tasks, so identifying what qualities make a good caregiver depend on what their family member needs help with. Some caregivers take care of paying bills. Others keep tabs on medication. Other caregivers live with their loved one. They provide company as well as hands-on care.
But no matter the amount of care needed, stress is a part of the job. A 2020 study by AARP found that nearly 1 in 4 family caregivers say that caregiving has affected their health. Some caregivers get depressed or angry. Others put off doctor visits or healthy habits. But some caregivers find satisfaction and even pleasure in their duties. What are the qualities that a caregiver needs?
People who need care often take longer to complete simple tasks. As a caregiver, you might have to answer questions over and over. Good caregivers need patience to deal with anything from a loved one’s memory lapses to angry outbursts. They practice staying calm and avoiding frustration.
Empathy and understanding are absolutely necessary. Even when they are caring for an abusive person, caregivers try to find balance and understanding.
Finding something to laugh about can make a tough situation bearable. A sense of humor keeps a caregiver emotionally strong and is a great stress buster.
Good caregivers know the importance of respecting their loved one’s current abilities. Rather than focus on what your loved one can no longer do, be in the moment with them. Look at photos, listen to music, cook a favorite meal. At the same time, remember that they weren’t always sick.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. A good caregiver realizes they can’t do it all alone. They line up friends, family, or professionals to step in when they need a break.
Respecting your limits, and saying no to demands, is an important trait.
A good caregiver is part of a care team that may include doctors, family, and friends. Being understanding and flexible goes a long way toward being a successful team player.
Good caregivers advocate for their loved ones. They ask questions and expect answers. Good caregivers learn about their loved one’s condition, and they make sure their loved one gets the care they need.
Caregivers may make several trips up and down stairs every day. Others need to help their loved one move from bed to chair. Helping with these transfers can cause injury. Being strong isn’t always enough to avoid hurting yourself. Caregivers need to know how to manage these chores safely (or get help).
Taking care of your health might be the most important quality of a good caregiver. It’s important to eat well, get enough sleep, and get regular exercise. Making and keeping your own doctor appointments is also key. And a good caregiver finds time to do something they enjoy. You can’t take care of others well if you don’t take care of yourself.