By Jemima Vetha
Caring for elderly people requires many natural skills, that are not easily taught at college or at training courses. Empathy, patience, good listening and a cheerful attitude are a few key personality traits that are essential to provide meaningful support to an older person and to create a relevant and lasting relationship with them.
Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and to put yourself in their shoes, whatever the situation. Older people might get worried or anxious about things that we consider irrelevant or unimportant. They might be feeling saddened or frustrated when physically unable to do something or to remember a name. It is very important for a carer to be compassionate and to be able to share, not dismiss, the older person’s worries, sadness or frustration and offer appropriate reassurance and emotional support.
Patience is an essential quality when supporting someone who might have become very slow through age and physical disability. Walking, eating or getting dressed can all turn into very long and time consuming activities. Even talking can be a difficult process. It is important not to rush elderly people through any of these activities and not to make them feel inadequate or embarrassed by trying to do things for them. A carer’s role is to promote a person’s independence through appropriate and dignified support.
An elderly person has many years of history behind them. In fact, they have a lot more life behind them than ahead of them. Their memories are very precious to them, they take them back to a time when they felt strong, able, loved and purposeful. A good carer has the willingness to listen carefully and actively to all the stories from the past, to hear about the people and events that coloured and filled their older client’s life: reminiscing is good for the soul of a person who feels that the happiest part of their life is gone.
And finally, a smile is the best gift you can bring into someone’s home! Being cheerful can turn around the mood and the whole day of the person you are looking after. Older people might live in a once busy house that is now empty and quiet, they might have a long, lonely day ahead of them and they might feel overwhelmed with aches, pains and worries. Going in with a smile and a positive attitude will without doubt lift their mood and brighten their day!
A carer, therefore, has the power to make a real difference in a vulnerable person’s life, simply by using and sharing their natural talents, in what is a very rewarding and undoubtedly enjoyable role.