At lunch this week, a co-worker overheard me talking to my mom’s caregiver. When I hung up, he asked me, “What exactly does a caregiver do?” While at first I thought the answer to be pretty obvious, I realized it is more complex.
I learned over the last few years that the right caregiver can do far more than provide care.
My mom’s caregiver plays a number of different roles, including:
- A friend. Just like having a roommate, the caregiver and your loved one will spend a lot of time together. And just like a roommate, a caregiver and your loved one can become great friends (or not, but that’s a different discussion). My mom and her caregiver have become very good friends, going to events together, watching movies together and chatting like good friends do. At many times, the “caregiver” side of their relationship is minimized, and they are friends. This is a good thing!
- A listener. The transition to assisted living can be difficult for many people. You’ve probably read my mom’s story. It was especially difficult for her to move from being so independent to becoming so dependent. Caregivers can be great listeners and counselors. In many cases, their experience gives them a far greater understanding of these challenges than you, and they can be a great resource for your loved one to talk through the issues.
- A cheerleader. It can be tough to get motivated for the activities of the day, physical or occupational therapy or just to get out of pajamas in the morning. It’s often tough for all of us. Caregivers can serve as a great cheerleader, giving pep talks when necessary to get out and enjoy the activities of the day.
- A big brother or sister. Often in assisted living, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. A caregiver can be the first line of defense to ensure your loved one gets what they need, when they need it.
For families, caregivers can play a whole different set of important roles, including: