7 Mistakes Most Caregivers Make
Caregiving skills are usually acquired through trial-and-error attempts; which is not the most pleasant way to learn. By sharing a few of our big mistakes with those just starting out, we hope to help make their life a little easier.
Hero – “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.” *
Caregivers never think of themselves as heroes, but they fit the definition perfectly. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving website, “. . . if you are a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 and are experiencing mental or emotional strain, you have a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than that of people your age who are not caregivers.” Younger caregivers, no matter who they are caring for, are at a higher risk of poor health or death as well.
The main goal for any caregiver should be to take care of himself or herself first, so they can continue to do their best for the person they are caring for. To do that, they must move through the process of learning what to do and how to do it as quickly as possible while avoiding additional stress from confusion and poor choices. The best way? – to learn from the mistakes of others.
1. Blindly hiring the first referral because it was readily available.
Sudden illness or injury strikes your family and without warning, you’re a caregiver. The hospital stay is brief but there will be rehab and perhaps home care after that. Where do you want your mom to be treated? Who will be around for her when she returns home? “Here is a list of all the licensed services in the area,” is all the discharge planner will tell you. “Choose one.”
The pressure is on. You must make the decision, and it must be made almost immediately. Not so fast. You always have the right to take some time to consider available options and it’s in your mom’s best interest for you to learn them. Besides, an informed decision eliminates the uncertainty that causes anxiety for too many caregivers.
2. Failing to understand that what they don’t know can hurt them and their loved one.
No one argues the value of early detection in the treatment of many diseases; for example, cancers. It would be foolhardy to ignore symptoms of any health issue with the thought that, “Ignorance is bliss.” Yet, many caregivers think that just because their care partner isn’t complaining, everything must be OK. This is a serious mistake.
Many older parents don’t want to “burden” their children so they keep quiet about things that are causing them discomfort. They may be hiding pain, confusion, or even depression, so it’s important that anyone who takes care of them pays attention to behaviors and knows the right questions to ask. The condition only worsens the longer it takes to figure things out. It’s important to hire a caregiver with enough experience to recognize subtle changes in behavior.
3. Believing advertisements without verifying or clarifying.
Well-known and not-so-well-known brands are notorious for making marginal and even dubious product claims. A commercial may be aired or an ad printed for years before someone questions it enough to have it withdrawn from the media. In the case of pharmaceuticals, even the best of us get lost in the disclaimers.
A website may not be a direct solicitation; however, it can be considered advertising. When most people first hear of a service they might like to use, they immediately check out the company’s site. If it looks professional and reads well, without glaring inconsistencies, they assume, sometimes incorrectly, that the information is reliable. Since there is no FTC keeping a watchful eye on the millions of good, bad and harmful websites, every caregiver must take the time to fully understand what they are getting and then verify all claims. Caveat emptor is the rule.
4. Thinking that all certified or licensed providers are the same.
Any business that meets certain administrative qualifications will be granted a state license to provide care. There is a huge gap between companies that compete for your business with first-class services and those that compete on price only. Some have a 24/7 emergency phone line and others only have a cell phone. The quality of their employees is equally dissimilar.
Home care companies often imply that all their caregivers are equally qualified to take care of your needs. But each company has its own level of competence and each paid caregiver has his or her own level of competence. Your needs are specific to your circumstances at work and at home; so, it’s important to find the one most likely to give you everything you need at a price you can afford.
All home modification contractors and remodelers will tell you they can do the work. But, some will do only what you tell them you want, while others will counsel you on what you might need today and what you might need next year.
5. Overestimating their ability to evaluate current and future needs.
No level of education or job title automatically qualifies someone to be a good caregiver as soon as they begin. I know of a Director of Nursing at a hospital who had to quit work to take care of her mom because she hadn’t been making good decisions regarding her mom’s needs and the paid caregiver’s abilities. I’ve spoken with several executives who expressed their dismay at how well they can manage at work and how confused they are at home.
Caring for an aging parent is different from business in that what is normal today changes quickly. Much quicker than at work. Learning how to deal with today’s demands and anticipating tomorrow’s needs takes practice and time. Everyone eventually gets there, but sometimes we can get in our own way. That’s when we can benefit from someone else’s experience.
6. Considering only solutions that support their beliefs.
Some of my biggest time-saving ideas have come about because of a mistake or by accident. In general, when we do something repeatedly that works well, we tend to stop looking for a better way to get the job done; either quicker, cheaper or with less hassle. The problem is when we develop an idea of how new things should be done based on our beliefs rather than on an honest appraisal of past experiences. We have become biased and therefore, less effective.
Maybe a solution that works just okay doesn’t directly affect the quality of care we provide our partner, but we might have had a few more moments of time for ourselves or a little extra money had we thought about it with a fully open mind. I’ve received many great ideas from talking with others who have had similar situations. Sometimes what they suggest works for me too and sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m always happy we traded ideas.
7. Making decisions when feeling rushed or pushed.
Caregivers eventually become adept at assessing a situation and making good decisions quickly: but it isn’t that way in the beginning. People who are new to the challenges often feel overwhelmed when hit with more than one or two issues that need attention at the same time.
For example, much angst is created when siblings are involved in a parent’s care. While one is the main caregiver, the others feel they have equal say about much of the care – usually rightly so – and sometimes they don’t consider their brother or sister’s feelings when giving their opinions. If they come across demanding, it can add a level of pressure to the caregiver that they don’t need at a time when they need to be at their best and choose wisely.
The happiest caregivers are the ones who take the time to find out all they can about their options at work and at home. With the appropriate information about choices they have regarding their career and choices they have about getting help with caregiving at home, they can get through the process of learning what to do much quicker and with much less stress.
Don’t make important decisions without knowing the facts. Call toll-free 866-210-6381 now if you’d like to learn more – or just talk about your situation.
*The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition