How Home Care Workers Can Establish Rapport with Elders

Establishing rapport can take time, but the results are priceless!
Image source: Flickr user Becky Platt[/caption]

Home Care
Establishing rapport can take time, but the results are priceless!
Image source: Flickr user Becky Platt

If you’ve taken the time to hire a qualified home healthcare worker, you’ve probably done your homework. You’ve gone to an agency with a good reputation, checked the person’s credentials (including license, bonding, insurance, and criminal background), and given them a rigorous interview. You feel confident you’ve chosen the right companion for your mom, dad, or elder loved one. But how do you know how that loved one will react? Can your new home care worker establish the right rapport with your elder?

Why home care workers must establish rapport with elders

A great deal of attention is given to the medical expertise home care workers must have when serving the elderly. However, it’s just as important that they know how to make seniors feel at ease on a daily basis. This isn’t just about good customer service; home care workers take care of intimate information and tasks (such as health care conditions, bathing, and toileting). These are things that require trust and respect to attend to. If the elder does not feel comfortable with his or her aide, the aide is likely to meet with resistance on the job.
Resistance can come in many different forms. It can be overt or covert. It can be something as simple as an elder not wanting to undress in front of their aide, or it can be more complicated. For example, an elder might not want to admit they’re in pain for fear of seeming weak, and may, therefore, fail to ask for enough pain medication to keep them comfortable. If rapport hasn’t been established, the potential for resistance is high. Here are some helpful tips for solidifying a bond.

Tips on how home care workers can quickly form a bond with elders

Have a “pre-meeting”
Fortunately, establishing rapport with elders can be fun! First of all, tell any proposed home care workers as much about the senior as possible before they meet. In addition to obvious items, such as the senior’s medical history, caretaking schedule, prescriptions, and diet, review things like personality, interests, and even off-limit topics.
Likewise, tell your senior about his or her new aide beforehand as well. Let them know the aide is skilled and experienced, mentioning any special qualifications he or she may have. If the aide is agreeable to it, you can show the senior a picture of them prior to their first meeting. It’s always nice to have a friendly face to go with a name!
Communicate clearly
Next, establish some guidelines for communication. Many rapport problems can often be traced back to poor communication. Your home care worker should be aware of any physical or cognitive issues the elder may have that might hinder communication. These may include poor hearing, limited speech after a stroke, or vision problems. Have the home aide work around these by sitting closely to the elder, speaking loudly and clearly, and using any tools provided to increase communication. If your elder’s first language is not English, it would be very helpful to hire an aide who speaks their native language fluently.
Make time for fun
Far from being frivolous, socialization between your senior and home care worker is a key part of establishing rapport. Even if it’s only for a short period every day, they should do something fun together – within the senior’s capabilities, of course. This can consist of watching and discussing the senior’s favorite television program, playing cards, reading the paper together, or going for a walk (if the senior is able).

With a little time and patience, home care workers can establish rapport

There’s no need to panic if your home care worker and elder don’t establish rapport right away. Like all relationships, building the one between your home care worker and your elder cane take a while. Give it two or three sessions, and if you notice the aide and your loved one beginning to relax around each other a little, things are probably on the right track. With enough time, your elder and their aide will likely develop a bond that will allow them to work together for years to come.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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