What are 5 key ways to connect with a senior client?
How can I add value to the daily life of my senior clients? What can I do for them that will really make the visit a success?
Over the years working as a private caregiver I have been able to condense what I think has been a big contributor to my success working with senior clients and their families. Learning how to connect with a senior client is one of the most important of your job as a caregiver.
It really just comes down to the ability to connect with a senior client on a level that is authentic and mutual. When you operate from a place where you are always asking what can I do for my senior client you will see great success in your relationship and your business.
Analyze yourself before you take on a client, and ask yourself some questions even if this is your first client. As you go along in your business you will gain experience and knowledge with the seniors you work for. You will learn how to communicate with the families of seniors, care teams, and medical professionals. All your gained knowledge as a caregiver can be put to use with future senior clients. Ask yourself things like what value and skill can you provide to the best of your ability, what areas could you work on?, where could you meet other like minded individuals in the senior care field.
If you are a new caregiver, the best way to acquire experience on how to connect with a senior client is to practice the 5 key ways to connect with a senior client as a volunteer in a senior residence. In a residence you will be exposed to many seniors at once, and be close by to care professionals who will be working side by side with you. Watch how they interact with the residents and pick up any tips and guidance along the way, think of it as an internship.
5 key ways to connect with a senior client
Ask the family during, as well as after your caregiver interview important questions to build your information base. The best way to enter into a caregiver – senior relationship is to know more about your new senior client before your first visit. Find out what makes their loved one come alive, what matters most to them. Here is a link to find more useful tips on what to ask
Learn as much as you can about your senior clients habits and customs in and around where they live. What are the top five priorities where the family or person in charge of senior care feel would help out in each one of your visits. Of course the list will grow over time and and a good private caregiver will adapt to all the priorities as well as all the changing needs over time.
Ask the family how can you assist your senior client during your time together. What are the simple yet special small details that would be helpful to know, things that can create instant connection. Ask questions about the history of your client. A lot of who they are now is a result of the many years that they were a part of the daily inner workings of their community. Things such as; what did they like doing while they were young? Where did they go to school? What level of schooling did they complete? What did they do for work? Career is a big one. What are some of the accomplishments that they are very proud of in their life? etc
Main information to start with;
Location where they grew up
Nieces/Nephews (some cases very close if senior never married)
Interests (arts, travel, social groups, music, reading etc)
Keep in mind that you need permission from the family or person in charge of senior care to do certain activities.
Often when you have a good foundation to work from, a senior client will know if the family trusted you with personal information, perhaps even enough in order for them to have the comfort to open up and elaborate on what you already know.
First, you want to be completely authentic with your senior client. Second, to initially connect with a senior client requires you to find a way to relate to them. Third, analyze the level and ability of communication of your senior client. Once you have the level of communication you can introduce yourself, try to make the initial conversation about them by asking them questions, and then slowly move into some mutual interests to keep the conversation going. Once you find some common ground your senior client may want to ask you a few questions as well. From this point you will both feel better about the meeting and relax a bit.
What you want to scan for in the first few minutes are the first few key points in the conversation that will keep it going and buy you more time to gather more information as to where to lead the communication. The conversation is about creating a safe and comfortable space where your senior client can really enjoy the conversation with you.
Basic conversation can be in some cases the highlight of a seniors day. The moment you see a smile, a strong interested reaction, or laughter is when you start to feel your purpose and how your new client may benefit from your caregiver services
Try to gauge at what speed and clarity that you need to speak at, as well as when you should add on, begin to slow down, or work towards a conclusion of the topic. Sometimes you may need to switch mid- conversation, just make sure to follow the lead of your client and allow them to control the conversation change. Find small ways while you are listening to connect with a client throughout and maintain a natural flow.
When you work with clients who live with dementia it can be challenging to have a conversation when some of it, or all of it does not make any logical sense. Being in this situation can be a challenge at times but also very rewarding if you discover your ability to relate, follow, understand, connect the wording, as well as respond back. A senior with dementia can ‘feel’ by your facial expressions if you understand them even if your response does not make sense. It is better to try and take the conversation as it comes and create a flow. This communication skill takes time to develop, but it is one of the greatest gifts that you can offer someone who lives with dementia.
Not to worry if the first 1-2 minutes feels like an absolute eternity while out of your comfort zone, but to a senior they are usually excited, and so happy to have someone to talk to. It takes time like anything but stick with it and you will both grow, and learn together.
Another way to connect with a senior client is to become familiar with their current living environment. See where things are placed and perhaps ask a few questions about items in the room or house that might be of special importance such as photographs, wall hangings, decorations, pets etc.
During your first few visits try to refrain from touching or moving anything personal. Ask if you can do anything to help out, say reach something high or low, retrieve something from a different room or level in home or residence. Sometimes things get misplaced and this might just be your chance to demonstrate your usefulness. What you consider a small action might seem like a huge task to a senior. A good example of this would be the TV lost the cable signal and with a few adjustments on the remote the TV is back in working order.
Often it is the simplest of moments where you can find a way to connect with senior client. Being aware and stay in the “now” as much as possible, this is especially important when you are working with a senior who lives with dementia. Observe what is going on around you by using your 5 senses and try to incorporate those elements into your conversations. Even when you feel yourself tense up due to a long silent pause or don’t feel comfortable, remember that you are present to make your senior client comfortable and safe. When you remind yourself of this simple fact it takes you back to the present and you can focus and find a way to enjoy the moment together.
In all honesty most of your greatest connections will be found in those awkward moments where you are both experiencing something new together. Being present, spontaneous, creative, adaptable, and positive will lead you to new heights in your senior care business.
If your plan is to obtain quality work with senior clients and their families then you need to prove that you are excellent caregiver who will go above and beyond to improve a families senior loved one(s) quality of daily life as well as make their lives easier moving forward.
Understand the value that you bring as every caregiver has their own unique set of strengths. Provide a superior service for your senior clients as well as family members or people in charge of the senior care, it will get noticed and appreciated.
An excellent way to start your business or incorporate a new level of professionalism with a new client is to make the job of paperwork and the gathering of necessary information a lot more simple for your clients. You need to make the person who hires you aware of the benefits when they hire you, and that you have a good handle on all the logistics of your senior care business.
Remember to ask for feedback! You should be the one to ask because in most cases this can be an awkward situation for a family member. Given the nature of the relationship and you being in a loved ones personal space, this does require a tactful, open, and honest approach. You offer a very personalized care service and part of that is to find out exactly what you are doing right, as well as what you could improve upon or make complete changes.