Seniors: 6 Traits Every Caregiver Should Have
Sally Farhat Kassab, Contributor
Articles> Advice for Hiring Caregivers> Seniors: 6 Traits Every Caregiver Should Have
elderly woman with granddaughter

You've narrowed down your search to a few wonderful people, but still aren't quite sure who the right one is. We talked with experts to get the six qualities your caregiver should have.

Debby Bitticks' father-in-law was in a bad caregiver situation until she and her husband rescued him and brought him home. Now Bitticks, producer of the documentary Saving Our Parents, is sharing her knowledge with the world. Her two favorite traits: kindness and compassion. "This lets the person feel safe and understood by the caregiver," Bitticks says. "It protects a person's dignity."

Here are six other characteristics to look for:

  • Willing to sit still. "A caregiver has to just 'be' sometimes, just sit and touch the older person's hand," says Kari Berit, author of The Unexpected Caregiver: How Boomers Can Keep Mom & Dad Active, Safe and Independent. "They shouldn't feel like they have to fix something all the time. Sometimes, they just get to know the older person's history."
  • Flexibility. "If you or the next shift is running behind, would that be a problem for them?" says registered nurse Diane Carbo, founder of aginghomehealthcare.com. "There are many elderly who are confused and cannot be left alone for even a few minutes. A gap in the schedule could mean someone with dementia leaving the stove on or a diabetic eating the wrong type of food. There are many more stories of individuals calling 9-1-1 for help because they were left alone, then knocking on neighbors' doors, frightened and lost."
  • Pays attention. The doctor isn't seeing the older person every day, so it's often the caregiver that has to notice changing skin color, perhaps, or facial expressions, or how much food she's eating. Even if you've found someone who doesn't have medical training, "observing changes and getting the care recipient seen by a physician early can avoid serious illness, and helps keep the recipient in optimal health," says Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM, owner of Visiting Angels, a network of homecare agencies in Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Not afraid to sing. In other words, are they comfortable stepping out of their shell? "You have to get out of your own self and your own ego, and do things you are uncomfortable doing," Berit says. "For example, you might take them out to a restaurant and they are a sloppy eater. You have to let go of that. It is what it is."
  • Drama-free. You know that person who always seems to have something going wrong in their life? She's not the ideal person to care for your mom or dad. "There is absolutely no way the caregiver should bring their problems and drama to their care giving," Tarach-Ritchey says. There's a powerful reason why: "A caregiver who spends too much timetalking about their personal issues and challenges adds to the emotional burdenof theolder adult who may feel compelled to help them," says Diane Keefe, former president of A Plus Aging Advantage, a geriatric care company.
  • Similar hobbies. Is your dad a NASCAR fan? How perfect would it be if the caregiver is, too? We know that can't always happen in a perfect world, but finding a commonality will make the process much, much easier.
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(20) Comments
Ania G.
Ania G.
Very helpful article.So very often the simple things are the most useful in providing good care. Of course it is also important to learn and be well prepare to calmly provide assistance in case of emergency.
Patience, sense of humor, respect and above all compassion are the traits needed the most.
It helps to sing too.:-)
February 4, 2015 at 11:59 AM
Julie Ann Ellis C.
Julie Ann Ellis C.
Good to know Olivia B.
January 26, 2015 at 9:24 PM
Julie Ann Ellis C.
Julie Ann Ellis C.
What the client brings to the table, I what you would call dig in.their interest are my interest.if it's something I'm not aware of then I'll ask bout it or go home and research it.i want them to feel comfortable with me, like a friend they have known for years or even a family member.
January 26, 2015 at 9:16 PM
Kathleen S.
Kathleen S.
The tip about taking time to sit is so true.I always felt I was paid to "work" and would do my best to be thorough with every task.My patients taught me to take time to sit after I asked" How can I help you?" Hospice training also taught me that just being there allowing the quiet time but providing that gentle caring human touch may be what mattered the most that day. So even when I do the tasks needed I make sure its with a caring touch and time to rest and listen.
October 13, 2014 at 9:19 AM
Simone Wiley
Simone Wiley
Great article. A caregiver must be a selfless person with high patience and a strong mental constitution. I have been leading the life of a caregiver for past 7 years. At times, we have to deal with bodily fluids and wounds sometimes we have to clean their feces. A caregiver should be ready to take up the job regardless of the age barriers and difficulties.

Most of the people now have a busy life schedule. They are ready to get the elders anything which money can buy. In most of the cases, they buy an emergency pendent (eg: My Alarm Care Canada) or hire a caretaker. But all they need is time and love.

But I have witnessed completely opposite cases as well. This lady was staying with her mother, caring her. Her husband and daughter had passed away in a tragic accident. And now her mother is having dementia and she is not even recognizing her. At times she get violent and beats her. I feel very sorry for her.

My life as a caretaker was loaded with such innumerable contrasting experiences. It was ruled by the sense of empathy for those being cared for. Yes, at times it becomes very hard. But this job gives me a self satisfaction and fulfillment which I hadn't experienced before.
October 3, 2014 at 9:31 AM
Artelia M.
Artelia M.
I have been a caregiver since 2004,and Iove and enjoy it.My patients becomes like a family member and loveone.I lost my mother at an early age and I had three little sisters younger.So I had to grow up fast to take of them.Got them through high school along with my son.So I have been taking care of someone all of my life.I know this is my calling.
September 20, 2014 at 11:25 AM
Theresa
Theresa
I personally came from a family of eight children , I never ever heard my mother complain so this was instilled , she made many of outfits by hand, patients was learned,she would have us help each other when needed and not before, it taught us how to observe and listen. Mom showed us how to show love and understanding.Mom let us help in the kitchen it taught us a lot of rules,and to do things with care and love. I can go on but , all this to say , from my up bringing and helping neighbors of all ages helped me to see where my calling was for years. A living so deserves quality of life.
July 20, 2014 at 11:19 AM
Gina H.
Gina H.
I have recently come off a case that was a great fit as most great caregivers do adapt to their clients and surroundings that always smile. My friend as she will remain nameless had a bit of a sense of humor . Her wit left me smiling most days . She liked rides in my car , a jeep that she had to get into with the help of me and a stool. Ha ha she made me laugh every day. Great caregivers usually become dear friends with the folks they care for as in this case and many more that I have had the pleasure of caring for.
July 20, 2014 at 1:36 AM
Marylynn J.
Marylynn J.
Thanks for the input!I know I really do have what it takes to be a great caregiver..as all these tips have already been instilled in me. As I have been a caregiver to my husbands 100 yr old gramma, and my own parents. And of course my 19 years of being an EMT, I have held a hand or two of some elderly patients that were frightened by the events that were taking place. Heck, I would even maybe sing..I have actually gone Christmas caroleling at our local nursing home and to some local homes where there were terminally ill people there..we weren't very good..but it was the thought that counts and I even know a little about NASCAR!
July 14, 2014 at 10:56 PM
Mustafa M.
Mustafa M.
That love to sing part cracked me up, I don't think anyone wants me to sing
June 24, 2014 at 9:20 AM
Laura M.
Laura M.
Good article and I think I possess most of these traits;
the article will help me in my new position with a elderly woman with Alzheimers that I accepted just today :-)
March 25, 2014 at 4:19 PM
Sennora B.
Sennora B.
Great write up and very informative. I agree with it all and the most amazing thing to me is being able to spending time with "wisdom". It's a great thing to soak it up, embrace it, enjoy it and love on it while you can.
March 9, 2014 at 12:16 AM
Ratu D.
Ratu D.
Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.
February 17, 2014 at 1:13 AM
Karen B.
Karen B.
Wonderful advice!! Our Seniors deserve nothing but the BEST! I have watched Caregivers in the past send residents out for activities etc. with the same clothes from day before or their hair is matted from sleeping. It breaks my heart to see. As Caregivers it is up to us to continue the Dignity our Seniors deserve.
February 4, 2014 at 12:02 PM
Laura J.
Laura J.
What woderful advice ! CARGIVING can be difficult if you don't have patients,respect, enjoyment, and family support.Working for a wonderful family at this time I am Bless.
December 6, 2013 at 9:26 AM
Beverly O.
Beverly O.
So true Olivia, I have been a medical assistant for over 20+ years, but not certified. Most of the recent interviews I have been on don't even have the person to care for available. I am very compassionate, caring, and wanting to help others, but have found everyone wants certification? Does my 20+ years working with families not count any more? I'm 55 years old and I'm very discouraged between scams and not finding work available. Thank you for your post. Their are excellent, compassionate, caring, honest caregivers out there!
August 9, 2013 at 1:06 PM
Susan L.
Susan L.
Being a good listener is great, but alot of times the elderly don't express the things they want or need, you need to use your intuition, which should come naturally to be a GREAT caregiver. You really need to try to anticipate the elderlys wants, needs and desires. I believe in being proactive, the elderly sometimes thinks they would be expecting too much from a caregiver. There is no thing as needing too much in my book.
June 15, 2013 at 2:04 AM
Stana H.
Stana H.
I really liked this because as a caregiver you realize each has certain strengths and qualities to bring to the table, but this article helps to pinpoint and to clarify each quality. ty
May 21, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Beverly O.
Beverly O.
I have been a caregiver since I was 12 years old. Every time someone was ill mom would send me over to help. I'm always there to prepare, set up, serve , and clean up at all those Christmas parties, and special occasions. I love people and have enjoyed every client I have ever laughed with, cried with, and just being their for them and they're families. I enjoy what I do and I am blessed for all of the families and friends that have crossed in the past, in the present , and the future because without caregivers, the world would be a dark place. So keep smiling and pass all the love and compassion to others. It must show because I still receive a phone call from an old friend/family member asking for help, advice for a friend, or just to say hello. Keep Smiling because someone, someday will be looking for you, and as usual you are their to listen, help, or just say hello.:)
April 3, 2013 at 8:25 PM
Linda W.
Linda W.
great tips, be professional and caring loved the no drama ,nothing like hearing a caregiver complain all day.
March 25, 2013 at 11:43 PM

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