Do you remember the childhood game of telephone? You whispered a sentence from child to child and the resulting sentence was nothing like the original?
Like a game of telephone, messages get garbled without clear ground rules. Build a trusting relationship with your caregiver by understanding the rules of communication.
Who is the boss in this relationship? Who has the authority to make changes, or communicate problems?
Creating the Care Plan
Before care begins for your elderly parent or spouse, you and the agency’s Care Manager will create a written Care Plan. The Care Plan outlines how to take care of your elderly parent or spouse in the best way possible. This is the roadmap of tasks, responsibilities and goals. The Care Plan will identify how to meet goals for:
- Improving quality of life
- Providing a sense of security and care
- Improving independence
The Care Plan also outlines specific tasks to help with daily routines such as dressing, grooming, meals, medications, hobbies, and more. You know your aging parent or spouse the best, so you guide their care. The agency guides the caregiver based on the Care Plan and your ongoing feedback.
Following the Care Plan guides everyone toward the same goals. The Care Plan also keeps communication smooth between different professional caregivers. So, if your regular caregiver goes on vacation, the substitute caregiver will know what to do.
Enter the Professional Caregiver
The agency’s Care Manager will select caregivers that best fit your needs. You will meet them in person to decide who is the best fit for your family.
You pay the agency. The caregiver is employed by the agency. This is like any job where your employer pays you; they are your boss. There may also be family caregivers in the mix. They should also know the Care Plan and understand their role in “the team.”
Be open and honest with the agency and the professional caregiver so everyone knows their responsibilities. Tension in the home will affect the elderly parent or spouse that is receiving care. Discuss disagreements with the agency or caregiver outside the home. Keep the caregiving environment as calm and organized as possible.
Changing the Care Plan
Everyone on the team, starting with the agency, should know what is in the Care Plan. The plan will need to be changed from time to time. That is normal and expected. Changing the plan is good! Just make sure that everyone is aware of the changes you want.
Communicate changes with the Care Manager, the professional caregiver, and your parent or spouse.
Chain of Communications
You will develop a strong working relationship with the professional caregiver. You will want to talk with the professional caregiver about new observations, needs, and goals. The heart of caregiving is personal for you. It is natural to want to “be in charge.”
Conflicting instructions from many sources leads to confusion about responsibilities. We aren’t robots. There should always be a clear chain of communication. Call the agency first to discuss changing the care plan.
Here are a few examples of when you might want to change the Care Plan:
- Your parent’s doctor advises changes to diet or activity, or frequency of medication
- You notice your parent is eating less than before
- Your parent is anxious about things that never bothered her before, eg. mirrors
Respect Your Parent’s Autonomy
Your parent may resent the intrusion of professional caregivers into their personal space. Be patient and understanding. Listen to their feelings and concerns about being “managed” or “bossed.” You will be juggling your parent’s independence with their safety.
Your parent has their own style of communication, and may need time to adjust. You are the advocate and spokesperson for your elderly parent or spouse.
If there is a misunderstanding about tasks or goals, clarify with the agency first. For example, your parent wants to take part in meal preparation. Instead, the caregiver is preparing all the meals herself. Talk with the agency Care Manager about this need to foster independence.
The Care Plan will Change Frequently
Everyone should feel comfortable proposing changes. This includes you, family members, the person receiving care, the agency Care Manager and the professional caregiver.
The Care Manager will discuss proposed changes with you, and then inform the entire team. The changes will be written into the Care Plan too.
Build trust with the professional caregiver, without taking over their job. Building trust with caregivers is important. Communicating with caregivers helps to build trust and shows your appreciation. It is normal to want to make adjustments or suggestions as time goes on. But, use caution. Avoid taking over the role of supervisor.
Respect the caregiver’s professional and personal boundaries. Don’t put the professional caregiver in the awkward position of having to say no. It is tempting to ask for personal information or favors. Respect the same boundaries you would in an office environment.
Caregivers can make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Should you correct a caregiver if you see a mistake? Yes. Gently and with respect. If it is something more serious, defer to the agency to handle the situation. A good relationship with a trusted caregiver is worth protecting. Always keep that in mind.
You are at the heart of the caregiving team. Be the best advocate you can for your parent or spouse. Respect the lines of communication, and you’ll have a stronger team.