How to Build Stronger Relationships With Your Parents’ Caregivers

If you want your aging parents’ care experiences to be more positive, it’s a good idea to make friends with their caregivers. Building personal connections can make your parents’ time in senior living more pleasant and it can improve your lines of communication with the community. Having a friendly attitude can also boost the morale of the professionals who work long shifts to care for seniors who may not always feel well enough to be gracious themselves.How to Build Stronger Relationships With Your Parents' Caregivers

Here are some tips for creating positive relationships with your parents’ caregivers.

How to Build Relationships With Your Parents’ Caregivers

Author, former family caregiver and friend, Pamela Price, suggests that while you don’t need to become buddies with every one of your parents’ caregivers, reaching out to the ones you click with can make it easier to keep up with your parents’ condition when you’re not there in person. It can also open the door to a better relationship between that caregiver and your dad or mom.

Here are some ways to make it happen:

  1. Learn everyone’s names. This may sound obvious if your parents get care at home, but in a large, busy nursing home or senior living community, it can be hard to keep track of the CNAs who care for your parent. For example, when my grandmother was in rehab care after a broken hip, there was a different CNA with her nearly every time I visited. By taking the time to introduce yourself and learn their names, you’re setting the tone for a respectful relationship.
  2. Look to caregivers as a resource. CNAs and other professional caregivers can help you be a better caregiver, too. For example, if you share caregiving duties with an in-home CNA, you may ask them to show you the best way to change wound dressings, monitor blood pressure and keep track of medication schedules. Experienced caregivers can show you the safest ways to lift and transfer your parent from bed to chair and from chair to car.
  3. Practice empathy. Caregiving is hard work and it doesn’t pay much — the national average salary for a CNA in the U.S. is about $26,000 a year, according to Glassdoor. Like family caregivers, professional caregivers may love their work, but burnout is common and still rising in the nursing profession. Do what you can to be calm when you’re interacting with your parents’ caregivers. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.
  4. Respect caregivers’ time. The flipside of getting to know your parents’ caretakers is remembering that they have a lot on their plates. CNAs in a senior living community are usually responsible for several residents and have to ensure their patients bathe, eat, get to social activities and take medicine on time. A simple, “Do you have time to talk right now?” shows you respect their responsibilities. If it’s not a good time, you can ask to arrange a chat later.
  5. Share information about your parent. Busy caregivers sometimes fall into the habit of calling their patients “dear” or “sweetie,” which can confuse or offend seniors. Post a name tag on your parent’s door or nightstand so every caregiver knows what your dad or mom prefers to be called. If your parent is nonverbal or has dementia, a one-page life story can help caregivers get to know your parent by offering background and topics for conversation. You don’t have to include everything, just the highlights — favorite hobbies, movies and music and any interesting life experiences.

If your parents are in a nursing home or senior living, their caregivers can keep you up to date about changes in behavior, health, new interests and more.

A caregiver at my great-aunt’s nursing home helped her climb out of the despair she felt when she turned 94, the age at which her older sisters had died. Another family member told the CNA what was going on and the CNA introduced my great-aunt to the community’s social butterfly, an energetic 100-year old who got her engaged in more activities.

Investing in friendships with your parents’ caregivers can enrich your own life, too. I’ve spoken to adult children whose parents have passed away but who still exchange birthday and holiday cards with caregivers who grew close to their parents.

One woman I know got a thoughtful phone call for many years on the anniversary of her mother’s death from the caregiver who has been closest to her. She looked forward to it as a day to share remembrances of her mom with someone who knew and liked her. That’s a legacy worth cultivating.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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