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Building and maintaining a good relationship with your professional caregiver seems like it would be straight-forward, but it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how. It is a relationship that walks such a fine line between intimacy and professionalism. Caregivers perform tasks that are personal, close and that can foster dependence. Establishing a good relationship with a caregiver will encourage open and honest communication. Remember, although a caregiver may seem like a friend, they are, and will always be, a professional.

What to Keep in Mind in Building a Relationship with Your Caregiver

Have Respect for Privacy.

Respect for privacy works both ways. As you begin to bond with a caregiver, it is natural to want to know about their private life. This may be uncomfortable for caregivers. Make sure not to cross professional boundaries so that your caregiver isn’t in a position where they feel obligated to share overly personal information.

Likewise, share only information about yourself or your family member that is necessary to do the job. Let the caregiver know that any medical information about the client is confidential, or specify who this information can be shared with. It is normal for a caregiver to get to know the person they are taking care of and important that they ask questions about their client. This kind of personal information is part of developing a bond. But it is not to be shared with anyone outside the family without permission.

Good topics of conversation include:

  • Where the client/caregiver is from
  • What kind of work the client did
  • Why the caregiver decided to go into this profession
  • Hobbies
  • Favorite books, movies, music, restaurants or plays

Read: Day 1 With a New Caregiver in Your Home

Manage Expectations.

Caregiver tasks and responsibilities should be identified in the care plan. Misunderstood expectations can interfere with maintaining a good relationship. Communicate expectations in the beginning and throughout the relationship. If necessary, write things out in a clear and simple way that mirror the plan of care. Ask the caregiver if they understand or have any questions or suggestions. When everyone is on the same page about the care that will be provided, it's much easier to form a positive relationship.

8 Ways to Foster a Strong Relationship with Your Caregiver

Starting the relationship off on the right foot will avoid problems later on, and having a good relationship will keep the caregiver and your family member happy. Here are some tips for ways to connect with your caregiver and foster goodwill.

  1. Begin by making the right choice. If you feel that a caregiver is not a good fit, then it may be best to move on to someone else. Talk with the agency about making any changes. It’s hard to connect with a caregiver that is not a good fit for you or your family. Share your loved one’s likes and dislikes with a caregiver. Give them some history of the person for whom they are caring.

  2. Communicate early and often. Communication is key when working with your parent's caregiver. When people know what is expected of them, they experience more job satisfaction. Establishing clear lines of communication (both ways) avoids misunderstandings and builds trust. If something is bothering you, don’t wait to tell the agency. Take care of the problem sooner rather than later.

  3. Use praise. Sometimes we focus too much on what goes wrong. Tell your caregiver that you appreciate what they are doing right. This reinforces positive behavior and shows that you care.

  4. Be open to a caregiver’s concerns. Caregivers may have concerns about what they are being asked to do. Take any unusual problems to the agency supervisor for review. Also, caregivers may see problems that need attention. Listen with an open mind. Caregivers often observe things that no one else does.

  5. Don’t micromanage. No one likes to be nitpicked about things! Although communicating directly with your caregiver is important, you should communicate significant changes to the agency and have them work with the caregiver to update the care plan.

  6. Show respect. Caregiving is a hard and sometimes thankless job. Show respect by giving appreciation for a job well done. This will foster goodwill and make giving feedback to your caregiver easier. Make the caregiving environment as comfortable as possible. Show the caregiver where coffee, tea and snacks are. Let the agency know when your caregiver is doing things well. They hear enough about the negative things. Tell your caregiver how much you appreciate the attention to detail and a caring, compassionate attitude when they show it.

  7. Set boundaries. Professional boundaries encourage good decision making. It is good to be friendly, but a caregiver is always a professional first. Keep the relationship positive, but professional.

  8. Check in with the family member that is being cared for. Problems may come up about which you are completely unaware of. By addressing these as soon as possible, you can maintain the positive relationship you have worked hard to establish. You'll know if you have a great relationship with a caregiver, but make sure that your family member does too! Ask your loved one how things are going and if they like the caregiver. Check in frequently to see if there is anything they would like to change.

The caregiver relationship is special. Treat it with care and respect. Depending on your situation, you may have several caregiver relationships. Take the time to bond with each one. If you are living at a distance from your loved one, ask your agency for advice on how to establish strong communication from remote. The positive energy you devote to the caregiver relationship will be rewarded!

About the Author(s)

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of Choose Your Place: Rethinking Home as You Age (November 2020) and of Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She has worked for over 20 years in the senior-related industry including mental health, marketing and guardianship. She has a passion for topics related to health, wellness and resilience as we age.

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