Being a caregiver is one of life's most difficult jobs. And while some are called to the path, others are surprised to end up in the role. Regardless of how you came to be an the one responsible for the care of another, these six qualities will serve you well in terms of navigating the challenges and finding personal and professional fulfillment.
These qualities help caregivers make even more of a difference.
1. The Ability to Just "Be"
Caring for another person is an inarguably demanding role, but the ways in which it's demanding may surprise the unprepared. While much of caregiving involves chores and upkeep, a lot of it also involves just being present.
Sometimes companionship is needed more than anything else, and the best way to provide that is to simply sit and be. People who must be "go, go, go" all the time may find embracing occasional stillness as one of the toughest parts of caregiving.
While caregiving involves its share of day-to-day drudgery, it also comes with plenty of unexpected -- and sometimes unpleasant -- surprises, too. If you relish being in control all the time, learning to let go of that instinct is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the person for whom you're caring. Whoever coined the phrase, "Man plans and God laughs" clearly knew a caregiver.
Caring for someone who is unable to care for himself is a huge responsibility, and one that comes with many tasks -- from remembering medication schedules to arranging for doctor visits, PT, OT, and other commitments. Keeping track of all of these things can be a chore, particularly when you factor in that most caregivers are also juggling many of these same responsibilities in their own lives. A detail-oriented nature ensures that important things aren't delayed or neglected completely.
Much of caregiving is doing, but a lot of it is also observing. Caregivers who take initiative regarding the health and wellness of their charges can help prevent small issues from becoming large problems. This means staying ahead of the curves as much as possible. While you can't predict everything -- there's that flexibility thing, again -- you can know what to look for, recognize potential threats to health and wellbeing, and promptly respond.
This one probably lands a spot on every list of essential caregiver traits, and with good reason. While caregiving can be immensely satisfying, it can also be incredibly frustrating. Patience is an essential part of overcoming the latter in order to realize the former.
When things don't go according to your plan, getting frustrated or upset serves no purpose in a caregiver setting and can lead to stress. Learning to move on gradually and recovering the best way you can, can be extremely beneficial.
No healthy, able-bodied person can truly understand the plight of a sick or elderly person who is unable to care for herself and who is therefore reliant on someone else for even the most basic needs. However, while you may not understand it, you can empathize. Caregivers who offer the most don't just go through the motions of care, but are compassionate even during the most challenging circumstances.
And the list goes on. Trustworthiness, dependability, humor, and enthusiasm are just a few of the other critical traits shared by the most productive and happy caregivers. And while you may not currently view all of these as your strong points, the good news is that as human beings we always have the opportunity to learn and grow on our caregiving journeys.If you're looking for a comprehensive resource for family caregivers, check out our online Family Caregiver Guide.
mmLearn.org offers a large library of free training resources for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. For more useful content for caregivers, make sure to access our database of free online caregiver videos.