by Nancy Alexander
Time is precious, don’t you think? I can’t help but notice how much we pack into our days. Our bosses keep adding more responsibilities to our jobs. We scramble to attend as many family activities as we can. We fill our schedules to the max. And we wonder, “Where has the time gone?” We move fast and demand that of others. As a caregiver for someone with compromised physical or cognitive abilities, this can lead to significant stress and frustration. Let me explain…
Caregivers are not bad people. Whether they are family, friends or paid help, they act in the best interest of their loved one or client. They wouldn’t choose to do what they are doing if they weren’t. They are doing the best they can. Let’s start with this understanding.
Let’s also understand that our speed and the speed of the one we are caring for is often not the same. In fact, it can be very different. Take for instance an exchange I heard recently between an aide and her client. The three of us were working in a busy nursing home and for the record, the aide is one of the best there is. We were trying to transfer the client to the toilet in the bathroom. The client has dementia and she found it very difficult to understand and process what we were asking her to do. She kept asking questions. The frustration level was rising. The aide (under her breath) said, “I don’t have time for this!” The client heard her. Emphatically, the client went on to say, “I can’t move as fast as you can, I can’t process things as fast as you can. Please give me time.” I was amazed by how well she articulated this. The aide felt bad and looked down to the floor.
I knelt down next to the client and said, “It is true that both the aide and myself have a lot to do and we are sorry to rush you.” “We want to help you transfer in the safest way possible and we are here to help you do that.” The client sat and thought for a moment and responded, “What do you want me to do?” Step by step we went through the process of completing the transfer. The client performed this very well and the aide complimented her by saying, “You did it much better than I thought you would. Great job.”
The client looked at us both and said, “Thank you.” She looked at me and said, “Thank you for your patience.”
As a caregiver, meet them where they are. Have you heard that before? This was certainly the case here. Realize we all work at different speeds and process things differently. By understanding where they are, you will both me more successful and may even enjoy the process. Taking just a little more time can be so much more meaningful. And yes, you can even enjoy it.