Caregivers who are passionate about their work are always on the lookout for families who are warm, welcoming, and supportive. Inviting a new caregiver into your loved one’s home is a big deal—and starting off with great communication can help them to give your aging loved one the best care possible. It can also support the building of a strong relationship foundation: caregivers who develop a deep bond with both the older adult and family members are more likely to stay on long-term.
Since the connection between a caregiver and your aging loved one is inherently quite vulnerable and intimate, sharing information from the get-go can really benefit the relationship. Ultimately, the initial communication that you have with your new caregiver can have a big impact on the health and happiness of your aging loved one.
What to Share with Your New Caregiver
While you are incredibly familiar with your aging loved one, remember that your new caregiver isn’t. Things that you might take for granted won’t necessarily be evident to another person. Sharing critical details, as well as helpful hints, can help a new caregiver offer your loved one better care, right from the start.
Give your caregiver a well-organized and easy-to-read list of any and all important contact details.
- Include emergency contact numbers: List these numbers first, including yourself, family members, and trusted friends.
- Write out doctor information: Include phone numbers for all of your loved one’s doctors, specialists, and therapists. Addresses are useful, too.
- List other trusted caregivers: Include anyone who they can call in case they need someone to fill in on short notice and can’t get a hold of you.
- Add class schedules and community centers: Be sure to put down contact info for any classes your loved one takes regularly, centers they frequent, or organizations they attend.
- Make helpful notes: If someone lives far away, is particularly great at communicating with your loved one, or usually visits each week, write it down.
Instead of figuring it out by trial and error, your new caregiver should have a good understanding of your loved one’s food habits. Since food is so personal, this is a great way to quickly create a sense of trust between them.
- Likes and dislikes: Explain what your loved one’s favorite foods are, what meals they find particularly comforting, and any treats they enjoy. Also note any foods they dislike, or if they’re vegetarian or vegan.
- Food allergies: Make them aware of any food allergies, or ingredients that are difficult for your loved one to digest, such as dairy or gluten.
- Nutrition goals: Mention whether your loved one is deficient in any particular vitamins or nutrients like vitamin D or iron so the caregiver can prepare appropriate meals.
- Eating habits: Explain when and where your loved one usually eats meals, and how much they’re usually involved in preparing them.
Medications and Illness
Your caregiver needs to be made fully aware of any health issues, illnesses, and medications that your loved one takes.
- Write out thorough instructions: All medication should be fully marked with detailed instructions on how to take them. It’s also helpful to include any preferences your loved one has—for example, if they only take pills with juice, not water.
- Describe medication management: Explain clearly the system you have for organizing your loved one’s pills, like how often they get restocked, and when prescriptions need to be filled.
- Explain warning signs and symptoms: Clearly describe any indicators your caregiver should look out for that might indicate an illness is worsening, or that a drug is having an adverse effect.
- List medication risks: Let your caregiver know if there are activities that your loved one shouldn’t do while on their medication.
Level of Care
Help your loved one’s new caregiver understand how much help your loved one needs and expects with daily tasks.
- Establish expectations: Share how much your loved one usually contributes toward cleaning the house and cooking, whether it’s a lot or a little.
- Divulge difficult activities: Notify them of any chores that your loved one finds unmanageable. For example, they might enjoy sweeping, but find vacuuming tough on their back.
- Explain personal hygiene requirements: Let them know of any hygiene-related tasks that your loved one might need special help with, like washing their hair.
- Share their bathroom routines: Be specific about what your loved one might need help with, such as getting toilet paper, wiping, or washing their hands after. Knowing this can help these vulnerable interactions occur as smoothly, and compassionately, as possible from the start.
Personality and Hobbies
Of course, it’s important a new caregiver have a good sense of who your loved one is as a person, what their typical day looks like, and what they enjoy doing.
- Personality type: Explain whether your loved one is more extroverted or introverted, how much alone time they usually want, and if they like to talk a lot.
- Daily routine: Give them a rundown of a typical day for your loved one, including when they watch TV shows, check email, afternoon snacks, and where they like to sit.
- Exercise habits: Share what your loved one does for exercise and whether the caregiver should encouraging more (or less) fitness.
- Computer time: Mention how tech savvy your loved one is, and if there are any tech problems they might need help with.
- Bedtime and sleep: Go over your loved one’s usual sleep schedule, including naps, bedtime, and when they wake up. Note if they have sleep problems—and any tips or tricks to help if they do.
Sharing an abundance of information can have a really positive influence on your loved one’s initial experience with their new caregiver. It also can help the caregiver to immediately feel empowered when caring for your loved one, and offer their best supportive care. Be sure to tailor these suggestions to include any special needs or requirements your aging loved one might have—or anything you feel is important to their well-being.
When discussing routines, habits, and needs with a new caregiver, take your time and encourage them to ask any questions. It’s also a good idea to schedule a regular meeting with them—every few weeks or months you can check in to see how they’re doing, handle any concerns, and, of course, say thank you. And, remember, having this initial discussion isn’t just about conveying information—it’s about welcoming a very valuable and impactful person into your aging loved one’s life.
If you want to better support your aging loved one, Institute on Aging offers a wide variety of service, programs, and online resources to help. Connect with us today to find out more.