For caregivers, learning to provide care for patients is an ongoing process. Even after dozens of hours of training, caregiving is a fluid process, within which things are always changing and adapting. Different clients require different care, mental and emotional upset can rise and fall quickly, and confounding factors like dementia and cognitive decline can make it difficult to connect effectively with patients.
As such, caregivers are always learning to provide better care for their older patients. It’s an ongoing process and, when caregivers dedicate themselves to it fully, it can overhaul the way they view their jobs and connect to their clients.
10 Ways Caregivers Can Learn to Provide Better Care
Providing better care is a process, and it requires learning new steps. Here are a few tips for caregivers who want to learn to provide better care:
1. Keep Yourself Healthy
The healthier and fitter you are, the better able you are to offer quality care. As such, it’s essential for caregivers to care for themselves. This means eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, staying active, and getting enough rest. When all these things are done, caregivers have the energy, stamina, and attention needed to care for aging patients.
2. Ask for Help
Sometimes, caregivers run into confounding care situations that can be very confusing. For example, what if an existing patient begins to develop Alzheimer’s? That changes the level of care the patient needs, and can be confusing for caregivers.
In these situations, asking for help is one of the best things you can do. Many caregivers hold the position all their life, and can act as a wealth of knowledge for caregivers struggling to adapt to changing clients, or striving to ensure they’re offering the best possible care to the people they spend time with.
While asking for help can feel intimidating, it’s one of the best ways for caregivers to learn more about their industry, and learn to provide the high-quality care their clients deserve.
3. Study Up
Reading can be a great way for caregivers to take in new information. If you’re struggling with a particularly difficult situation or making your way into a new facet of caregiving, read a book about it. Books like The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss can be comforting and illuminating for people caring for Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, there are well-written books available for people in virtually every facet of caregiving, if you’re looking for something that applies to your situation, do a quick Google search or ask your fellow caregivers what they’d recommend.
4. Take a Course
To continue your trajectory of study, look for free or low-cost courses in your local area. These courses can teach everything from caregiving techniques to self-care tactics that will quickly become instrumental in your caregiving approach. These courses are available through senior centers, caregiving support groups, and assisted living facilities.
5. Shadow Another Caregiver
One thing few caregivers think of doing is shadowing another caregiver. Ideal for any caregiver who wants to learn new skills, or is struggling to adapt to changing or more complex clients, shadowing a more experienced caregiver is an excellent way to gain hands-on experience and learn some new skills that can help inform and enhance your own caregiving tactics.
6. Reach out to Your Employer
If you’re a caregiver who works for a company, reach out to your employer for additional learning materials or educational courses. Most caregiving centers are happy to help educate their caregivers and will work hard to further learning in their workforce.
From books to courses and beyond, it’s highly likely that your employer will have some resources to pass your way. Remember: being specific about what you want to learn and what you’re struggling with is the best way to ensure you get the education you need.
7. Branch Out
While many caregivers believe that the education they should pursue is limited to the field of caregiving, branching out into other industries can be incredibly helpful.
For example, caregivers who are struggling to manage anxiety in their careers may benefit from learning about meditation or yoga, while people who are dealing with patients with Alzheimer’s may benefit from learning a bit more about the human brain, through a course in psychology or neuroscience.
Caregivers are busy people, and many think learning about these topics is a waste of time. The truth is, though, that a broad education is incredibly valuable for caregivers, and provides the extensive information and resources required to succeed in the field.
8. Join a Support Group
Support groups can be instrumental for caregivers. In addition to providing the mental, emotional, and social support caregivers need to remain happy and relaxed in their careers, support groups are also a great place to pick up resources and education.
By putting you in contact with other caregivers from different backgrounds and educations, a good support group can help you learn the tricks and tactics needed to provide better care, and to release stress and anxiety in the process.
9. Give Yourself Time to Rest
When you’re busy learning and working a demanding career, you need to give yourself time to rest and reflect. How you do this is up to you, but resources like respite care can be invaluable.
Even if you can’t take a long vacation, ensure you’re making small pockets of time throughout the week to reflect on your recent learning, unplug, and get the rest you need for the new information to sink in and take hold.
10. Participate in Online Forums
If you’re looking to pick up some new information about caregiving, head to an online forum. Popular places for caregivers from around the world to gather, discuss topics related to the field, and problem-solve together, online forums can be great resources for anecdotal experience and hands-on expertise.
A quick online search for “caregiving online forums” will reveal options from reputable sites across the U.S. To get started, try out AARP’s online caregiving community.
Better Caregiving Starts Here
There is no plateau point with caregiving. Instead, caregivers are always learning, adjusting their skills, and adapting to new information. While this may feel exhausting, it’s important to remember that the best caregivers are the ones who remain flexible and fluid, and that ongoing education is essential to providing great service. By exploring these ten avenues, caregivers can absorb pivotal new information and become more effective in their positions.