Almost every senior has a medical caregiver for a time, whether it’s a short hospital stay after a procedure or a longer home care situation. No matter how long you will be working together, establishing a positive and communicative relationship is key for the well-being of both of you. Here are tips for both seniors and caregivers to build trust and rapport with each other:
What Seniors Can Do to Build Relationships with Nurses
If you are a senior, here are the four things that you can do to establish a positive relationship with your nurse or caregiver:
Ask for help, but don’t be overly demanding.
Some patients are afraid to ask for help, either because they think it makes them seem infirm or because they don’t want to inconvenience their caretaker. Others are extremely demanding, bothering their caretaker every other minute and criticizing absolutely everything they do, from the way they tie the hospital gown to the quality of the food they serve. Usually, the best relationships fall somewhere in the middle, where the senior is not afraid to ask for help but also isn’t trying to micromanage the caregiver. That being said, you obviously should never stop yourself from asking for help when you need it because the caregiver is literally there to take care of you (it’s right in the name!).
Show interest in your caretaker.
Showing an appropriate level of interest in your caregiver and treating them as a fellow human being will go a long way towards establishing rapport. When asking questions about their personal life, take your cues from your caregiver’s responses and don’t push if they’re not very forthcoming. Some people are happy to chat about their families, hobbies and life outside work all day long, while others prefer to keep things strictly professional and only discuss things relevant to caregiving. If your caregiver doesn’t want to give details, don’t hound them about it. It’s totally within their rights to keep their personal lives to themselves.
If you are in a hospital or long-term care situation, where the nurse or caregiver is looking after multiple people at once, show patience towards your caregivers. Most places are understaffed right now, which unfortunately means that all the caregivers are stretched thin and don’t have as much time to devote to their patients as they normally would. We know it’s really frustrating to have to wait longer than you would like, but yelling at your caregiver for something that is probably out of their control will have a negative effect on your relationship, not a positive one.
Suggest activities to do together.
Doing things together is not only a great way to pass the time, but also a fantastic idea for building a positive working relationship with your caregiver. If you have a home health aide who helps keep you company in addition to helping you with making meals and putting on post-surgery clothing, don’t put the onus of coming up with things to do on them all the time. Take initiative and come up with some activities you can do together, such as jigsaw puzzles or playing board games. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated — just something that two people can do together.
What Nurses Can Do to Build Relationships with Seniors
On the flip side, things are a little different if you yourself are the caregiver. Here are four different ideas to build rapport with your seniors:
Show compassion and empathy.
No matter what kind of caregiver you are, you are going to have difficult patients at certain points in your career. In many cases, the factors that make it difficult are out of the patient’s control. They often have physical and/or mental health conditions that make them prone to emotional outbursts, incontinence episodes and other situations that are hard to cope with. When you encounter these situations, try to practice compassion and empathy, putting yourself in the patient’s shoes and understanding how much pain they must be in. It’s totally valid to feel frustration and other negative emotions, but try not to vent these around the patient or take it out on them.
Practice active listening.
When you’re a caregiver, especially one taking care of multiple patients at a time, it’s easy to tune out the patients and go about your work as fast as you can. Resist that temptation as much as you can and, instead, practice active listening. Give the patient as much of your attention as possible when you are with them, even if you are doing other tasks like checking IV bags and adjusting their hospital socks. Just feeling heard will be a huge positive for them and help build trust and rapport quickly.
Be proactive about communicating.
Open and clear communication is a critical skill for successful caregiving, and as the caregiver, it’s up to you to model this for the patient. If you think about it, many of them may not have had a caregiver long-term before, so they don’t have a blueprint for how to communicate with their nurses and home health aides. Telling them about their treatment plan, as well as any changes in their condition or medications, is an excellent way to get started with this.
Watch your eye contact and body language.
On the subject of active listening and clear communication, eye contact and body language is a huge component of that. Just making eye contact when someone is talking, even if you don’t say anything, silently signals that you are paying attention and they are being heard. Orienting your body towards and mirroring their gestures shows openness and develops a feeling of synchronicity. If you don’t know much about nonverbal communication, do a little research into the basics and see how you can apply what you have learned in your relationships with your seniors.
Follow these tips to build a great relationship with your caregiver or your senior patients. Got more advice? Share it in the comments below so everyone can benefit!