Working with an aging patient or resident population can be one of the most stressful occupations today.

Family members who care for ailing older loved ones report considerable stress and even illnesses of their own. Therefore, it bears to reason that professional caregivers should also feel extreme pressure as they work with older adults; many who have a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities – sometimes both! Keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy as you care for this challenging – but highly gratifying – patient demographic.

Contribute to Quality of Life

Many residents and patients may not be lucky enough to have family close, so it is up to their caregivers to show compassion. Make a point to “just” interact with your patients in at least one fun activity each day. Don’t be there as a caregiver, per se. Just be there with them, enjoying their company, creating friendships and trust – and great memories – with them.

Take Care of Yourself

Caring for ailing elderly patients can take a mental, emotional, and physical toll on you. If possible, try to take a break every morning and afternoon…one where you can “close the door” on dealing with residents, or even the concerns of your colleagues. If possible, take a short walk outdoors or, at the least, sit in the break room and sip some coffee or tea while reading your favorite magazine or book. Just take a real break.

Handling Loss

Loss is a constant when caring for seniors. Many caregivers forge strong bonds with their residents, and the passing of a beloved resident can be as gut wrenching as losing a parent or grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle. Give yourself permission to grieve. Take a break during the day, if you must. Talk to your co-workers and residents about the deceased – sharing fond memories can help tremendously. If possible, share your memories with the person’s family members. They will appreciate your thoughts more than you can imagine.

Learn From Peers

Take time to connect with a mentor or friend with whom you can commiserate. This person should be someone who absolutely “gets” what you’re going through. It could be someone with whom you work, but it’s best if you can find someone who doesn’t work at the same facility as you do. Search out a former colleague or former classmate who is in the same line of work as you, and work together to be each other’s sounding board, where both of you can talk freely about your challenges and stressors. You will be able to provide valuable insight into each other’s daily issues, learning from you own experiences. This will also contribute to your professional support system and get through the highs – and lows – of your professions.

Allow Others to be the Caretaker

Allow your colleagues and residents to “care” for you, too. If you’re feeling excited or had a monumental event happen, you might mention it to a resident. This gives the resident a chance to feel useful and needed which, as you know, is important for seniors, who often don’t have the opportunity to feel “included.” Even just a hand on the shoulder and a knowing nod by the resident can be of great help to you – and to your resident/friend.

What do you do to help yourself stay emotionally and physically healthy? Do you exercise daily? Meditate? Write your tips here!

We hope you’re finding the Snelling Medical Blog useful. Check back next week when we discuss how to train your staff to work hand in hand with patients and family members.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.