caregiver caregivers caregivingFor well over 15 years, I’ve taught a twice a month class for Family Resource Home Care’s newly hired caregivers.  The class covers a variety of topics including communication, safety, and policy and procedure matters. But the essence of the class goes to the heart of home care – what is a “caregiver?”

The standard view of a caregiver is one who provides care. Care is thought of (correctly) as providing assistance with “ADLs” (activities of daily living), “IADLs” (instrumental activities of daily living) plus social activities and companionship. ADL tasks, also known as “personal care,” include hands-on assistance such as transfers, bathing, dressing, toileting, and grooming. IADLs include meal preparation, housekeeping, and shopping. These tasks to be performed by the caregiver are outlined in a “care plan,” which is updated as the needs and desires of the client changes.

When a client has ended service with us, we send them a client comment survey. I have read hundreds and hundreds of these surveys over the years and find at least one particular aspect fascinating. With few exceptions, we do not get comment survey forms back that praise how well we dusted, vacuumed, and folded sheets, how skilled we were at bed baths, wheelchair protocols, medication assistance and transfers, or how competent we were at running errands. In other words, after our caregiving time with a family is over, clients aren’t (for the most part) complementing us on the basic job they hired us to do – provide assistance with the tasks on the care plan.

What Our Clients Say

What do our client families say about us? What do they remember and write on their comment forms?

“Caregivers were extremely kind and respectful and attentive.”

“The compassion and patience of your caregivers was outstanding.”

“The kindness and loving care the companions provided was so wonderful.”

“I was so pleased with the kindness and gentleness.”

“The phone help was so quick and friendly.”

“Everyone at your company had a positive and respectful attitude.”

What?! No one was pleased with how clean the kitchen was?

In my class, I take a more expansive view of the term caregiver. In addition to giving care by performing ADLs and IADLs as part of a care plan, a true caregiver is one who also is caring, and on a fundamental level, cares about the client and communicates that caring to the client, who in turn, feels cared for. It is this feeling cared for that our clients find so compelling, that moves them to write such wonderful compliments.

One of my favorite quotes is Maya Angelou’s “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Long after our clients have forgotten how clean the kitchen was, they will remember that their caregiver truly cared about them, that their caregiver in many little and not so little ways showed the family that they were important, that they were truly understood and respected.

Oh, and we will also do the personal care and take care of the house. After all, they are in the care plan.