Just “The Help”?
Many people do not understand the relationship that develops between a caregiver and a client. There is a common myth that caregivers provide a professional, efficient service with little to no emotional involvement. This is, quite simply, not true. For many elderly people, the quantity of personal relationships is severely diminished. Many of their friends have passed away and, for some, their family lives remotely and seldom visit. Even for those with family close by, the idea of caregiving can be daunting. The person he or she spends the most time with is his or her PAL. Therefore, a harmonious relationship between the elderly client and the PAL is vital to the emotional and physical well-being of the client.
Graceful Living believes in and encourages the establishment and maintenance of a positive, long-term relationship between a caregiver and a client. In a caregiving relationship provided by a Graceful Living PAL (Personal Assistant Liaison), it is a new and untested relationship. Neither of them have decades of past, combined, bitter-sweet experiences, typically formed in relationships. The parent/child or sibling bond is not there, thus allowing the client a more relaxed communication level. They have a clean slate allowing them to bond. The caregiver provides a reliable, trustworthy presence that allows the client the privilege of depending on somebody other than themselves to assist with mundane daily activities such as showering or other personal hygiene, light housekeeping, and laundry, just to name a few. This, in turn, allows the client to reserve and spend their energy doing activities more important to them such as visiting with those they care about, gardening, going to their favorite park, playing Bingo or anything else that they may deem important.
Our PALs develop such a relationship and are attentive enough that they are able to anticipate and assist without verbal request or cue from the client. In conversation, if the client doesn’t hear well, the PAL smoothly repeats the words to the client. The client is then enabled to continue with the conversation. In dining out, if the client can’t read the menu, the PAL scans the selection of entrees and suggests some of their favorites. The PAL defers to the client’s wishes while providing safe boundaries. The PAL understands that his or her job is to be ready with assistance when the client’s limitations let them down. The PAL never misses a beat. The client never feels left out or unattended. The PAL will always be unobtrusive and tactful about any assistance, thus allowing the client to maintain their dignity and pride. The respect and caring that our PALs display is often reciprocated and always appreciated.
Our PALs provide a safe environment, both physically and mentally for the client. Sometimes, just the idea that somebody else is nearby empowers a client and they can live free from fear, if even for a little while. The client feels free to reminisce and tell stories about their lives, their children, or to remember the people who have gone on before them. They feel safe knowing somebody is there to care for them and assist them with activities they love doing. The tend to be more physically active. Their mental status stays healthier longer with daily stimulation and conversation. They can feel independent; feel safe and secure in their own homes and be free to make their own choices.
Unfortunately, the care that our PALs provide for dementia or mentally diminished clients is the most misunderstood. We often enter in their care when the disease is quite advanced or when the care becomes just too much for family members such as children or spouses. Family members quite often do not understand that the person they are caring for with dementia is not the “same” family member they have loved and had a relationship with. It is especially important with these clients that we maintain continuity by placing the same PALs with that client and maintaining a regular schedule. By creating a stable and safe environment, we evoke a sense of independence, security, and, most importantly, respect. Everybody wants to feel that they matter no matter what stage of life they are experiencing. The relationship our PALs and our dementia clients develop is difficult to explain as the clients may not remember faces or names. But, if they have been made to feel safe, respected, and well cared for, they WILL remember and react to how that PAL made them feel. Even the most cantankerous client will display signs of affection and caring and our PALs understand that without the shadow of years of emotional turmoil and stress, or sadness about “the person they used to be” clouding a simple, easy-to-overlook moment or action. Our PALs understand the progression of dementia; they expect the good days as well as the “bad” days. They foster the good moments; cherish the great moments; they stay upbeat and always stay forgiving.
A person taking care of another human being should always do so because they care. We do not believe what we do is “just a job”. Our PALs are carefully chosen because Graceful Living knows that our staff is the very heart and hands of our company. We encourage them to participate, to make decisions, and to care about the mental and physical comfort of our clients. There are always guidelines, comfort levels and capabilities which may hinder or restrict us as human beings and we adhere to strict levels of safety and confidentiality as a company. However, we believe that creating a bond and an appropriate relationship with our clients will only benefit them in the long run. We believe that being able to show our clients that we care about them as people, and not just as a body, is what makes them believe they themselves can overcome anything and makes our PALs some of the best caregiving staff around! The bottom line is: WE CARE; WE TAKE PRIDE, and we treat every individual client as we would our own families.
Nobody has ever complained of having too many people love them!
**The terminology that is used in any situation can create a difference in the manner in which relationships are perceived. At Graceful Living, we have chosen to call our caregivers PALs, which means Personal Assistant Liaison. We chose this term to encourage a sense of independence and to encourage a more trusting relationship between our PALS and our clients. We feel that we don’t need to remind them that they need assistance and we do not want to appear to pose a threat to their independence. Adjusting terminology gentles the threat a client may perceive as a stranger (our PALs) enter their lives. We feel alternate wording can create more of a sense of peace and assist the clients with acceptance of the presence of our staff as we start care.**