Do you know why you’re here?
The answer to that why could be clear as day to you as a caregiver: to make your client’s life easier; to provide a sense of dignity by staying in the home; or simply to provide a feeling of connection. You do this by providing a variety of assistance, from personal hygiene to homemaking – whatever is needed to make life healthier, safer, and more pleasant for the person (or people) in your care.
To a client, the answer is more complex. The individual things you do to help are things that your client likely has done on their own all their lives. Speaking from personal experience, the transition between “I can handle that” to “let me help you with that” can be jarring and difficult.
It’s hard to give up your autonomy. This may sound overdramatic, but to someone who has always done it myself that is exactly how it feels. Speaking for myself, needing help with intimate tasks such as dressing and bathing was particularly difficult in the beginning.
What makes accepting help easier is to have it defined as help. “I can help you with that” is a world away from “let me do that,” and the first step here is listening. Asking if it’s awkward to get in and out of the shower, difficult to wash your back (a task that everybody has a hard time with!), put on your socks – to a client this sounds so different than saying “I’ll do that for you.”
Sometimes watching while someone struggles with a sock is a perfect opening to say, “I can help you with that.” Again, I am speaking from personal experience as a hardcore do-it-myself person. The teamwork of helping is much easier to accept than having someone do it for you.
Which brings us to the “magic words” of our title. There is a certain hesitancy when it comes to having someone else step in and help. My personal response was saying “Thank you!”every five minutes. The first time my lovely Home Health Aide said, “That’s why I’m here,” was nothing less than transitional. She was saying “I am here to help,” rather than “I’m going to take over your life.” She was asking, “Tell me what you need (even if you think you don’t need anything),” as opposed to instructing me, “This is what is going to happen.”
Again, it all comes down to teamwork. Becoming a team with your client will create the feeling of working together and helps replace the “doing for me” with “doing together.” As my wonderful Home Health Aide Rose told me last week, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”
And after all, that’s why you’re here.