To care and be cared for forms the very foundation of a balanced life as a human being. Without the necessary quantity and quality of it, no form of achievement can ever truly equate to success, because something will always be missing. Care transmits interest, empathy, comfort. Without it, it is impossible for any of us to truly thrive.
The language of love
In every care-giving establishment the inter-relationship between carers, personnel, residents and even the kitchen staff and tea ladies is fundamental to true quality of life. For caring should be a shared language which benefits the overall well-being of all the individuals who live and work in the care-environment. As the month of May celebrates both Mother’s Day and Nurses Day, it is fitting to contemplate the meaning of care in its truest and widest sense.
Care environment problems
The major cause of dissatisfaction in a care environment is that days can be endlessly repetitive for every member of the team. They can be filled with an unvarying series of tasks, procedures and events that are predictable, boring and unstimulating. This lack of any element of freshness or surprise can numb the soul of even the most positive person. The pleasurable daily routine of making tea can lose beneficial value unless it is accompanied by the expression of a meaningful relationship between the giver and receiver of this gesture. It also makes both elders and others playing a role in the environment feel as if they merely belong to a system and are disconnected to their private, personal world.
Possible solutions to care-giver challenges
All individuals feel dispirited by the loss of the elements that make them unique: their relationships, personal possessions, their hopes, dreams and goals. An interactive role means true communication between care partners. It means developing trust and affection on a deeper level. It means discovering the unique character traits, experiences and ideals of another, whether it’s a preference in music, daily snacks, or methods of exercise. All care environments should guard against stripping away individuals’ identities and ensure that all parties are equally engaged in daily decision-making. This also promotes socialisation skills, because it encourages focus on the strengths, talents and aspirations of each individual. The following tips can be helpful in building a rapport and deepening the relationship between elders and all others in the care environment:
- Pay each other a compliment about something
- Bring up a topic the other enjoys
- Ask insightful questions to create common ground
- Maintain a balance between being professional and personal
- Always take the time to listen well
- Employ courtesy and be respectful
- Employ the healing power of touch
Teamwork as a community
In order to function as a successful, happy care community, the implementation of what can be termed “person-oriented principles and practices” should be encouraged. Three main problematic conditions which afflict the elderly under care have been identified: loneliness, helplessness and boredom. These afflictions can extend to all members of the care team and it is therefore essential that the needs of those who work closely with our elders are also met on an ongoing basis. This is what transforms the care institution into a meaningful environment where everyone benefits simultaneously by experiencing, growth, development and stimulation as a team.
The joy of living will become smothered if the singular physical, developmental, emotional, intellectual and psychological abilities of those who live and work in the environment go unrecognised or are neglected. It is of utmost importance that the specific needs, preferences and desires of all parties receive the acknowledgement and attention required to allow expression of the distinctive inner voice of each.
Every member of the team is an individual in their own right. Each has its own history. This is what makes us human: to communicate the story of your life to another and get to know theirs. It reminds us who we are. This cordial give-and-take has the added benefit of introducing something fresh and unexpected into the day. All parties immediately feel connected to each other, less lonely or bored, and more in touch with the larger living world. And as is the case in that wider community, each must be part of individual decisions in the system. Every individual has valid likes and dislikes, interests, passions and preferences, and these can become common denominators that establish truly enriching bonds.
That individual touch
Receiving or giving adequate or even excellent physical care is not enough. It is the recognition of, respect for and nurturing of the innumerable subtle nuances of what makes up an individual psyche that must receive paramount attention. For this is what ensures a life worth living: days filled with spontaneity, stimulation and growth, and especially with all the unexpected joys of true closeness and sharing that ensure uplifting experiences for every member of the caring team. It is reaching out. It is touching another’s life in both a literal sense and the endlessly gratifying, figurative one.
Vera Nazarian, in The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, puts it this way:
“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”
Helderberg Society for the Aged
The Helderberg Society for the Aged provides a variety of secure lifestyle options for elderly people in an environment of mutual support and care. We encourage the awareness that an interactive role amongst all those involved in the care-giving relationship is of the essence to combat loneliness, helplessness and boredom. We believe life should be lived to the fullest for all the people within our services which encompass Independent Living, Assisted Living, Home Based Care and Frail Care.
Learn more at: www.hsfa.org.za