working with the care assistant
Help for Carers

Building a good relationship with the care assistant

Building a strong, trusting relationship with the extended team that cares for your elder, spouse or friend is essential nowadays…

You never know when you’re going to need each other to go the extra mile in an extraordinary situation.

If your elder is a ‘self payor’ (a care sector term that means they can afford to pay for homecare themselves), they can engage their own home care assistant/s privately and buy the time they feel they need. If your elder is eligible for Local Authority funded homecare, the visit’s time length will be out of your hands and likely to be too short (through no fault of the care assistant, I should add).

Find out how to find home care support.

Once you’ve selected a personal assistant (a term increasing used interchangeably with care assistant) or a home care provider team of care assistants, you can help them do a great job in the following ways:

Be clear about the help you need

Together with your elder, agree on the specific help that’s needed. Be prepared to review the level of support (and time) needed, at least annually.

The first help we need as we age, tends to be with getting up in the morning and/or getting ready for bed at night. Does your elder need this help every day? Then think about all their preferred, individual activities to do with getting up or getting ready for bed, and where support might be needed. The care assistant will (rightly) encourage independence for as long as possible. ‘Use it or lose it’ is true.

Does your elder need help with medicine dosage and taking? If so, this has to be carefully managed and recorded. Your home care provider will advise you on this.

Prepare a detailed care plan

If routine activities become swifter with this extra support, then there may be time for other things like exercise, whether an accompanied walk for a paper or chair exercises, or a shop nearby.

The care assistant may have a long list of clients and be unable to maintain all the precise details of your elder’s needs and preferences. You need a care plan that they can refer to, including important contact numbers, like yours.

Get to know the care assistants that visit

If you can (because you live close enough), get to know the care assistant’s names. A good home care company will keep names and photos updated in a file for everyone, to help you all put a face to a name if there are many different people involved.

If you live remotely, some distance from your elder, some home care providers have apps that help you feel closer to the care being given.  You can use an app to see how your elder is, know what has been done during a visit and feel connected even though you’re not physically there.

Build a supportive relationship with care assistants, so they feel OK about having any potentially difficult conversations with you about needing extra time or equipment. 

Listen to their recommendations

Chances are that they have helped many people through your family’s care journey before and will have their own hints and tips on how to make things smoother. I’ve learned a lot from Marj’s care assistants over the years, from which cutlery and china to use, to new activities Marj might enjoy.

If your care assistants say they need living aids, arrange to get them. We all need to help carers stay safe from harm themselves, however well they’ve been trained in heavier tasks.

And if the care assistants prefer a particular barrier cream, because in their experience it works, then buy it. 

Support them

First, show your appreciation frequently, be generous with your thanks. Small seasonal or birthday gifts are always appreciated too. Heaven knows how hard these remarkable people have worked to keep their charges safe and well these last two years or so. In lockdown, my husband washed their cars, it seemed the least we could do.

Put frequently used household items or food in logical, easy to find places eg breakfast things together in one cupboard, the iron, bedding etc easy to find when needed. Think of all the ways you can help carers quickly find the things they need and do what they need to do in the time allowed. This may mean moving things around a bit for them.

Consider whether you need to label cupboards to remind carers how your elder likes their hot drinks or prefers their meals. This is doubly important if you rely on Local Authority funded carers who will have much, much less time to give support. 

Help with the peculiarities of your elder’s home. Temperamental boilers, loos or locks that you all may be used to, may need explaining to a newbie. 

Let’s value our care assistants more highly

Care is skilled work. It upsets me that society appears to value big-hearted, skilled and resilient care assistants so lowly. 

Storm Eunice severed our power yesterday. One of Marj’s local care assistants (who also had no power) brought Marj a flask of hot water for a cup of tea (and offered us one too as we didn’t have the means).  Like any relationship, we reap what you sow.

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Carers’ perspectives on BBC1 ‘Care’ drama, aired 9 Dec 2019