Andelcare Caregiver Elizabeth Maina is a good example of the kind of person who makes a great caregiver. Not only does she have lots of experience and training, Elizabeth has what she describes as a “calling” to help elderly clients.
“Once I meet and connect with people, it doesn’t matter what kind of ailment they have,” says Elizabeth. “I love them, I want to know them and I want to take care of them the way they like. I am called to serve and I feel committed.”
This blog is our second in a series about caregivers.
Great Caregivers Love Caring for Elders
Our Care Supervisor Amy Tandara explains that Elizabeth and our other caregivers have what she considers the most important characteristic of an excellent caregiver, “They have a lot of experience taking care of parents or elderly family, which grows into a career because they absolutely love caring for elders.”
This attitude of respect and love for elders is often the result of a caregiver’s culture or family heritage. Amy observes that many Andelcare caregivers are African because the culture teaches this deep devotion and joyful responsibility. These individuals naturally gravitate to elder care.
Otherwise, looking at caregiver demographics, Amy says more caregivers are women than men, most fall into the middle age range from 30 to 50 and from 80 to 90 percent have worked as caregivers before joining Andelcare. She adds that a good number are younger people or people retraining, who work to build experience in the field as they study for their nursing credentials.
Personality Characteristics of Great Caregivers
According to Amy, the main quality she looks for in a caregiver is compassion. She isn’t the only one. Other experts in the field, such as author Scott Ellis’ in “7 Answers to ‘What is a Good Caregiver,’” agree that qualities such as empathy and a willingness to serve others are cornerstone characteristics.
Secondly, Amy looks for caregivers with a great attitude. There isn’t much they won’t do and every task is done whole-heartedly. A third characteristic Andelcare values, says Amy, is the caregiver feels like she is “taking care of family.” A great caregiver also always goes above and beyond to make sure the client is comfortable.
Elizabeth exemplifies all those characteristics. Not only was she raised to respect elders, she grew up in a community where everyone helped one another. A caregiver with experience from rehab to diabetes and dementia care, Elizabeth says she always wants to get to know her clients and what they want her to do. “I listen, I try to be authentic and I am always on time,” says Elizabeth. “Then they start to trust me, we connect and we become a little family.”
How Andelcare Checks for Caregiver Characteristics
All of these characteristics are wonderful, but how do you know if a caregiver really is kind, honest and unselfish?
Well, Amy has lots of experience interviewing and evaluating caregivers. In a pre-screening phone call, Amy listens carefully to what candidates have to say and how they say it. What is their attitude, how do they express themselves, how do they feel about the hard work of caregiving? “I try to grab a feel for their personality,” says Amy.
At the next juncture, candidates come into the office for a live interview and a personality test. The test helps Amy and the candidate see if caregiving is a good match for the individual. During the interview, Amy watches the candidate’s body language and asks a few semi-personal questions to get a feel for their motives.
“I ask them why they are interested in caregiving and I want to hear examples of past caregving experiences,” says Amy. “I am trying to evaluate their true level of commitment and honesty.”
Other Qualities of Great Caregivers
Beyond natural compassion, Ellis says other qualities of great caregivers include:
1. Experience – Experience is valuable but it is not the only quality one should look for when evaluating a caregiver. An inexperienced caregiver can be more eager to please and willing to go the extra mile.
2. Training –If your loved one needs personal care, you should look for a Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) but always assess how well their personality fits. Providing training is one of the many functions of a home healthcare agency.
3. Reliability – Prior references will provide clues as to whether or not they can be relied upon.
4. Accountability – How a person accepts criticism is usually a reliable indication of whether or not they feel responsible for their patient.
5. Honesty – Honesty doesn’t just mean that they do not steal from helpless old people or their families. It means they show up on time, handle their responsibilities accurately and can usually account for things such as drugs, supplies and monies entrusted to them.
Compassion and Communication Keys to Great Caregiving
In the article “What Makes a Good Caregiver Great?” the author’s list reminds us of Elizabeth.
A Great Caregiver is:
• Patient, dependable, good at reporting.
• Puts the client first, truthful, loyal, on time, loves your work
• Communication, pleasant, patient
• Good listener, observant, caring
• Tolerant, humble, able to work with tough clients
• Ready to learn, customize your care, client is your priority, use all your heart
• Passion for adult care, treat your client as if they are your own family
So, what makes a good caregiver? For a formal appraisal of what good caregiving looks like, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Association website to read a document called “Commitment to Dementia Care” It describes “person-centered care” and that staff needs to be flexible and that care should be tailored to each individual’s needs.
But when we assess caregivers we look for those special “inside job” characteristics that make a caregiver compassionate. We also look for individuals who really enjoy caring for elders. We want our staff members to love their work.
What do you find makes a great caregiver?