There are an estimated 43.5 million caregivers in the U.S., caring for people of all ages, according to a 2015 study done by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. A majority of those are unpaid positions, a family member providing care for a family member who’s elderly, sick or has a disability. Putting your own life on hold to care for someone else is rarely a role that anyone signs up for, and can be more demanding than a full-time job. In fact, almost a quarter of caregivers provide more than 40 hours of care each week. Here are some characteristics the most successful of caregivers will possess.
Throughout the day, there will be hiccups, surprises and crises, and caregivers are the main problem solvers. Caregivers need to be ready for anything, and able to figure out the best way to get back on course or schedule as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
There’s likely a long list of non-negotiable daily responsibilities, and as a caregiver, it’s your responsibility that everything on that list gets done. Figure out a way to ensure that at the very least, the most important things get done on time.
Depending on the height, weight and mobility of the person you’re providing care for, it’s important that any caregiver is able to provide the best care, whether that requires lifting, pushing, moving or just stamina. Caregiver duties can vary, so knowing what will be required of you beforehand can help you prepare.
Caring for someone else is not at all the same thing as caring for yourself. Dealing with other people’s needs and wants requires patience and understanding. Without those two, caregiving would be close to impossible.
Caregiving can be stressful. The long days can test your patience and personalities can clash, and when they do, it’s the caregiver who needs to remain calm and in control. The ability to remain calm even in moments of crisis is imperative.
Most likely, as a caregiver, you’re in charge of nearly everything for this person, from their daily schedule, appointments and transportation and need to be able to make sure everything happens when it should. Not only will you be letting down your employer, but the person you’re caring for will undoubtedly be upset missing or being late to things.
Caregivers routinely need to communicate with other caregivers, their employers, with the state, and most importantly, the individual and his or her family. As a caregiver, you need to be able to communicate ideas and concerns in the clearest way possible, especially if the person you’re caring for has a hard time communicating or is non-verbal.
Without this ability, work stress would have the ability to take over your personal life, adding to the normal stresses of daily life. When that happens, it’s easy to quickly burn out and everything in life to fall apart. By separating the two stresses, the quality of both your work and personal lives will be better.
Being able to understand what other people are going through is crucial for success as a caregiver, in order to form a meaningful and sincere relationship. Undoubtedly, the person you’re caring for has other challenges and needs than you, and being able to empathize with them will lead to better care.
Adding caregiving stresses to everyday stresses can be overwhelming but is also probably unavoidable. To cope with that, it’s important to keep a positive mindset and keep things in perspective. As with anything, one challenging day isn’t the end of the world, and the help and care you’re providing is changing someone’s life.
With so many people in this country who serve as caregivers, whether paid or unpaid, it makes it clear just how necessary the job is. Despite its challenges, caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding career or lifestyle choice.