As an occupational therapist, we typically spend the most one-on-one time with our elderly patients. This is very necessary. The reality, though, is that it’s difficult enough for our patients to focus on healing, much less remember all the details about how to modify their homes according to their limitations. That’s where a caregiver comes in. It’s very often a neighbor, friend, or relative that ends up taking charge of these home modifications. We can’t accompany the patient and caregiver home to point out all that needs to be done. So how can we help them?
In order to reach out to the caregiver, start with befriending him. Express appreciation for all he does on behalf of his friend or relative. Showing basic kindness to the caregiver will surely motivate him to be more receptive to what you need to share.
As healthcare practitioners, we realize that people learn in various ways. Take the time out to ask the caregiver if they would prefer, for example, written instructions or a voice recording they can play back. If we teach the caregiver in a way he understands, the chances he will carry out our recommendations for home modifications will exponentially increase.
As a clinician, it’s easy to get lost in “medical speak.” The problem is, the caregiver doesn’t speak medical. If we want him to understand we need to use the same vocabulary he uses in daily life. Avoid terms we know he won’t understand. For example, instead of using jargon such as 3-in-1 commode, why not use the more common phrase “bedside commode.” Communicating in this way creates a win-win situation, as we and the caregiver can feel confident he is leaving the facility equipped to create a safer environment for the patient.
Our goal is to interact with the caregiver in a way they will understand so they can ensure the needed modifications are made to the patient’s home. In this way, they will be able to enjoy the best quality of life possible in a comfortable environment.