By Michelle Daniels, Vice President - Product Strategy, Development and Administration, and
Kristy Warren, MSN-ED, RN, Director, Clinical Resources
Encompass Group, LLC
According to Merriam-Webster, a caregiver is “a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill)”. But that definition barely scratches the surface in characterizing the nurses, aides, and family members who deliver care year-round in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and at home.
Did you know that there are 4.3 million registered nurses in the U.S. workforce and more than 1.7 million people working in long-term care facilities in our country? What about those who provide unpaid home care for a family member or friend? That number now exceeds 40 million!
As we celebrate Thanksgiving and kick off the holiday season, we want to take this time to reflect on what makes caregivers unique, the ways they go above and beyond, and how we can support their extraordinary commitment to patient care.
Caregivers are a special breed
Whether they’re nurses, aides, family members, or friends, working in a facility or providing home health or personal care, caregivers have exceptional characteristics. What makes the best caregivers? There are six qualities that stand out:
- Passionate. Caregivers are passionate about caring for others and making a difference in the life of a patient, resident, or family member.
- Empathetic and compassionate. They understand not only the healthcare needs of each patient but are also sensitive to addressing their unique feelings and challenges.
- Changes in the day-to-day life of a caregiver are unavoidable; accepting that they may have to adjust to accommodate changes in a patient’s needs, or modify schedules or care plans, allows caregivers to offer thoughtful adaptations and provide care in a positive way.
- Attentive and responsive. Caregivers are not only tuned in to what’s required to care for a patient or resident, but also the nuances of what might improve their quality of life. By paying attention to those needs and responding accordingly, caregivers can improve the effectiveness of their care - and the resident’s or patient’s overall health.
- Communicative. Whether it’s asking the right questions of a family member, resident, or patient, or sharing current healthcare status or concerns with colleagues, caregivers who communicate well (and often) make an impact on the outcome of those in their care.
- Caregivers who are cheerleaders for residents, patients, or family members, who encourage them and celebrate even the smallest advances in healing, create a positive mindset that can frame a successful hospitalization, rehabilitation, or long-term care situation.
Show appreciation to nurses and aides
Nurses and aides often go above and beyond to care for their patients or residents, especially during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. They often balance spending time with their own friends and family and a busy work schedule - and still make everyone feel warm, welcome, and accommodated.
At work, caregivers often try to make holidays a positive experience for the people who need treatment at healthcare facilities. Whether it’s decorating a ward, dressing in festive attire, or putting a small holiday treat on a food tray, nurses and aides are known for finding ways to brighten the holidays for those unable to mark these special times as they traditionally would.
So what can you do to show your appreciation for their professional dedication and personal sacrifices?
- A sincere, verbal thank-you goes a long way. Let them know you realize it’s not easy to work on holidays, and it means a lot to patients/residents and their families. Write a note if you want to detail how a nurse or aide has made a difference in caring for your loved one.
- Give a token of your appreciation. Maybe it’s a gift card to the coffee shop down the street? Or perhaps a homemade treat to leave at a nurses’ station or break room? Why not a tray of sandwiches from the local deli? If you’re providing a meal for on-duty staff, let them know ahead of time, to save them from preparing lunch or dinner to bring to work. And don’t forget the people who work overnight, too!
- Make or buy a meal for caregivers to take home to their families. Knowing an additional holiday demand like cooking has been lifted from their shoulders can bring joy to any holiday, no matter when they get to have their own celebration.
Support home-based caregivers, too
While nurses and aides in hospitals or long-term care facilities are highly visible by the patient care they provide 24/7/365, home-based family and friend caregivers should also be recognized for their selflessness! Whether parents are caring for a child disabled since birth, or an elderly spouse is looking after their life partner, the devotion of these caregivers should be recognized and saluted.
If you know a caregiver, what should you do to support them? Here are some practical tips often recommended by various health agencies:
- Help them with errands, chores, and other tasks, letting them decide which ones and when.
- Provide emotional and social support, from a listening ear to time with friends.
- Negotiate convenient times to check in on them.
- Make sure they’re managing their own healthcare needs, both mentally and physically.
- Offer to support them with occasional breaks allowing them to step away for small increments of time.
- Acknowledge their hard work and sacrifices and remind them how much it means to their loved one.
Caregivers are the heart and soul of our healthcare system
The daily care and compassion that caregivers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and private homes show is an inspiration to us all. For those with healthcare challenges and ever-changing needs, a caregiver who can thoughtfully communicate the “why” and the “what” is invaluable to the patient/resident and their family or support team.
At Encompass Group, we’re dedicated to providing healthcare products that make every caregiver feel more safe and comfortable. Whether it’s antimicrobial scrubs to help resist caregiver and patient infection, medical device systems to reduce patient falls and pressure injuries or color-coded uniform apparel that identifies specific roles and increases security, we’re constantly working to improve professional environments for caregivers - knowing such enhancements lead to higher quality care and increased employee satisfaction.
So, when you’re expressing gratitude, on Thanksgiving or any day, be sure to include the caregivers. What would we do without them?