As a social worker for a home care agency, I’m often one of the first team members to meet with prospective new clients and their families. While families are often very forthcoming with some questions, I know there are other questions they feel awkward asking.
Our challenge becomes finding the right caregiver when we don’t have a true picture of the client’s needs. We can’t really understand what families need and want when they withhold important information from us.
Do you have any advice for encouraging families to open up?
Meeting a Caregiver for the First Time
Thank you for sharing this great insight! I agree that withholding information can be an issue for families, and understandably so. Sometimes we see it with families caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease. They are afraid we will turn their loved one down as a client if they share the senior’s complete history.
Other times, it is a concern about a very challenging parent. The family may be worn out from trying to navigate difficult times with their loved one and fearing that being honest about their family member’s personality will prevent them from getting the necessary assistance.
What may help is to ask targeted questions to families during your meetings. Make it as easy as possible to ask and answer these awkward questions. For example, colorful language is a common but embarrassing behavior for families to discuss, but it helps to know so the right caregiver can be assigned.
Preface your questions by saying something like, “A few of the challenges faced by other families we work with are…”
Then ask if they are struggling with anything similar. You’ll need to be honest and reassure the family that the information won’t affect your willingness to care for their loved one.
A few topics to cover may be:
- Any fears or phobias (e.g., people with Alzheimer’s often develop a fear of water)
- Unusual behaviors such as agitation, aggression, paranoia, or wandering
- Hoarding tendencies that seem to have increased during senior years
Other topics families aren’t sure how to tackle include:
- The desire for an aide to accompany the senior to a weekly religious service
- A senior love one’s habit of smoking heavily in the home
These are just a few ideas for conversation starters. Once the family understands that home care agencies are accustomed to working with a variety of different personalities and navigating difficult health care conditions, they may begin to feel more comfortable and open up to you.
I hope this helps, Sharon!