So what exactly makes a good carer?
The key quality is 'learning to care for you before caring for others'.
For many years I have been very involved in working within the care industry and am very aware of all the bad press that has been dominating the news during this past year (and certainly before as well). My role as a trainer has played a significant part in addressing these awful reports on 'bad care' and I will endeavour to continue to do so in every way I can.
I have huge respect for carers as their job is not an easy one and in my experience the majority do enter this profession because they truly care. There will always be isolated cases in every profession which make us question but we mustn't forget the majority show compassion, patience and go well beyond the call of duty.
I'm sure you've heard of the saying 'How can someone love you if you don't love yourself' well the same applies to caring. If you don't know how to care for yourself how can you truly care for someone else?!!
To make a good cake you need the correct ingredients and when some are missing the cake won't taste as good. So I will share with you what I feel are the key qualities to making a good carer, but before I do that I will tell you why I feel so strongly about this...........
Some years ago after gaining experience from being a Matron in a large residential home for the elderly, I ran a three bedded residential home, I also had a family so there was a lot of juggling involved. To begin with I was full of energy and enthusiasm so my residents were constantly stimulated and totally cared for. After a few years of being constantly on call for 24hours and feeling tired from the constant demand of looking after elderly people who needed lots of attention, my energy levels dropped and without being aware of it, I began to experience 'burn out'. It was only when a concerned friend asked 'what do you do for you?' I realised I didn't do anything for me and had completely forgotten how to look after myself properly. I was then encouraged to take up dancing, an interest I had since childhood but had lost touch with. I also took up offers of help so I could have 'time out'. Very quickly I re- gained energy levels and it was about this time I trained to become a counsellor and then a trainer and decided after discovering the value of looking after myself I wanted to teach others in this profession just how important it is. My residents gained from me looking after myself because I was happier and more energised. I also had more to share with them, such as demonstrating what I had learned from the dance classes, which certainly raised a smile or two especially when they decided to have a go. My outside interests filtered into my work and I no longer felt so isolated.
Another example I will share with you is when I was training hospital staff on 'gaining confidence and self esteem'. When I described how bullying presents in the workplace, one member of the group surprised us all by saying 'everything you are describing is me. I go home and cry myself to sleep because of the way I treat the staff'. I then asked them to fill in a questionnaire about how they looked after themselves. She beckoned me over as they sat quietly doing the exercise and said 'I don't do anything on here and her eyes filled up with tears.' To which I answered 'That's why you treat others the way you do.' You have to learn to treat yourself better first.' She agreed to have individual counselling to sort out her own issues as for the first time she recognised the importance of looking after herself. There are many like her and I expect everyone of you that reads this will either know someone as I have described here or may even recognise some of what I have described in yourself.'
So what qualities make a good carer?
- Someone who shows respect for others and expects respect back.
- Someone who has a good awareness of others needs while also recognising their own needs.
- Someone who applies T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care) to others and also to themselves.
- Someone who naturally has empathy.
- Someone who can say 'No' without feeling guilty when they recognise their health needs outweigh keeping going for others.
- Someone who makes a good team player.
- Someone who can share their knowledge and experience without having to control others.
- Someone who has a good sense of humour and others look forward to working with.
- Someone who is a good organiser, especially when it comes to pacing themselves when working long hours.
- Someone who appreciates and applies the basic needs for looking after themselves: Good nutrition, adequate exercise and fresh air balanced with enough sleep/rest.
- Someone who genuinely loves caring for others and also cares for themselves.
Over the years I have developed a comprehensive training package, incorporating all of the above while addressing the mandatory subjects e.g. Moving & Handling, Health & Safety/Infection Control, Food Awareness, First Aid and Sova.
More recent subjects I have included are: Dementia Awareness, Palliative Care, Epilepsy Awareness, Autism Awareness and Learning Disabilities and many more coming.........................
My trainings incorporate discussion and hands-on experiential learning while informing carers of the correct procedures involved in the roles of their duties.
I am constantly in touch with what the role of a carer is as I often roll up my sleeves and actively do the job myself, so I can train from the heart and not just from facts I've learnt.
Carers enjoy training and here are some of the comments I've received as a result of the sessions I've run:
'I now understand what autism means and had no idea what was going on for these people. I will definitely view them differently from now on.'
'I've really enjoyed learning more about the job I do and how to do it more effectively without always feeling close to 'burn out'.'
'It's been fun learning how to look after myself better and it makes so much sense. I will really apply what I've learnt so I can do my job better.'
'I didn't realise how I treated others but today has made me rethink and I've now learnt some skills that I know my staff will benefit from.'
'I didn't realise that training could be so much fun. I wish we could have more as it makes me more interested in my job.'
Training not only makes carers more competent but also more interested, which means they are more likely to stay........Happy staff means happy atmosphere means happy residents!