How To Communicate with Professional Caregivers About A Loved One

April 1, 2021 by Katie Davis

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At some point in our lives, most of us will communicate with professional caregivers about a loved one. It’s important to prepare yourself for this eventuality so you can ensure the best possible care for your loved one. 

We know it’s difficult to trust someone else with your loved one’s care and well-being. This is particularly true when your loved one is elderly and unable to communicate their own needs independently. This dynamic on top of an already confusing long-term care system creates conflict and tension between families and professional caregivers. If this tension continues unchecked, it can affect the quality of care your loved one receives.

At CarePods, we built our service around helping loved ones support their elderly family members at home. A big part of our job is helping families communicate with professional caregivers about loved ones. In doing so, we’ve learned a lot along the way. In this post, we’re highlighting our top tips for communicating with a professional caregiver about your loved one.

Tip #1: Be precise and solutions oriented.

Many caregivers find it difficult to communicate concerns concisely. That’s because their own emotions and feelings of guilt may cloud the message they’re attempting to relay. Professional caregivers are often short on time and problem/solution oriented. The more precise you can be about your concern, the better they can identify and respond with a reasonable solution.

Below, we’ll highlight a couple of example scenarios:

Instead of saying this: “I don’t think Mom has been sleeping as well as night after her fall. We took her to the doctor. He said there wasn’t a problem with her medication but this started after he added the new medication. I don’t know what to do or if we should get a second opinion. Maybe someone could sit with her all night but not sure we can afford that. I’m really worried she’s going to fall again.”

Try this: “Mom’s risk of falling remains a concern. I’d like a second opinion on her prescription, can you recommend someone? In the meantime, is there anything else we can do that may help her sleep better at night?”

Instead of saying this: “Dad’s surgery is coming up and it’s going to be really important to monitor him following. If we miss anything, it could be really bad and he’d have to go back to the hospital. Please make sure you’re watching him all the time.”

Try this: “What measures do you typically put in place following a surgery like this? I’m happy to create a checklist and split roles to better organize follow-up and cover any gaps.”

Tip #2: Reveal any hidden barriers.

This next tip may be counter-intuitive. But, it’s one of the most practical and frequent tips we give family caregivers. Allow us to explain further.

Every senior care service has its limits. Of course this makes sense: you pay a certain amount to receive a service, and the people delivering the service must make enough money to stay in business. 

But this is different in the business of caregiving. Many families find the quality of the services varies considerably depending on who is delivering care. And of course, this reality may vary dramatically from what the company’s sales person tells you to expect. 

To avoid confusion and realistically plan for the best possible care, it’s important to remember that the quality of any caregiving service is only as good as the hands that deliver it.  That’s why it is critical to identify any barriers to good, frontline care and address them when possible.

A barrier can be anything related to the business or to the individual caregiver that impacts the care they provide your loved one. It may be that individual’s personality type, their work schedule, the person they report, to, or even how much money they make per hour.

As an example, we’ll use caregiver turnover since it’s a common problem in most senior care settings. When interviewing a service provider, or interacting with their caregivers, it’s helpful to know how frequently they experience turnover in frontline positions. And, of the caregivers who will be looking after your loved one, it’s good to ask how long they’ve been with this particular company.  That way, you can plan for contingencies. 

Maybe you’d prefer absolute consistency with a single caregiver, so you are willing to make your loved one’s schedule more flexible to meet theirs. Or perhaps you’re working and caring for a family and need consistent hours, so you need to plan for the fact that your loved one will encounter different caregivers along the way. 

Other common barriers may include caregiver communication preferences, household pets, inconsistent or poor scheduling support and/or changes in company ownership. In short, highlighting barriers is a simple way to identify and plan for the reality of the caregiving process and to adjust along the way.

Tip #3: Live in the month, not in the moment.

We don’t have to tell you that caregiving is an emotional journey filled with up’s and down’s. Many caregivers measure progress day-by-day. “Mom had a good day.” Or, “Mom had a bad day.”

In our experience, this is a recipe for disappointment. When we meet with CarePods clients and their family members, we help them set lifestyle goals that we work towards on a quarterly basis. Then, during every visit, we report back on progress towards those goals.

If you think you don’t need an emotional reward and to feel some sense of accomplishment for the difficult task that is caregiving, you’re dead wrong. Caregiving is better when you work with your team to set realistic goals, monitor progress over time, and keep the big picture in mind.

Families often find that senior care organizations set care planning goals. These goals are typically medically-oriented and occur every six months or so. But, being a proactive caregiver means you can create your own goals more frequently and then pass along any adjustments or feedback to your loved one’s professional caregivers once per month.

Of course this rule doesn’t apply if something serious happens requiring an immediate response But, organizing your feedback and presenting it to your caregivers at a rate they can absorb helps everyone feel positive about progress.

When you’re ready to give feedback on the above, just remember to refer back to Tip #1 and keep your feedback concise and solutions oriented.

As we close this blog post, we’d remind you again that the quality of your caregiving journey is generally equal to the quality of your communication. Not every provider or organization is the right fit for your loved one. That’s why it’s important to communicate clearly and to eliminate barriers with professional caregivers who are a good fit. Trust us, your future self, your loved one and their caregivers will thank you.

What do you think? Do you have any tips for communicating with professional caregivers? If so, leave a comment below! And, click here if you’re interested in hiring CarePods to help you with your caregiving journey.

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