Volunteering with low-income seniors is a noble way of connecting with past generations and providing support to the people that have shaped the world as you know it today. While volunteering may seem like a daunting task, but as long as you’re willing to help, you can become a valued asset to your community and everyone in it. If you’ve been interested in providing care to low-income seniors but you aren’t sure of your skills, there are a number of things you can do to become the best caregiver possible.
Establish What Care You Want to Provide
Caregiving can be a complex role with many different responsibilities, many of which may seem intimidating for volunteer caregivers. The first part of becoming a fully effective caregiver is establishing what kind of care you want to provide. Developing a sense of direction can help focus your caregiving skills and prevent you from feeling aimless with your volunteer work as a whole.
Stay Flexible, but Know Your Limits
Flexibility is one of the greatest qualities an effective caregiver can have. Many seniors require a wide range of care services from medication reminders to light housekeeping so having skills in multiple areas can help you deliver well-rounded care that satisfies. There also may be emergency situations and being able to adjust accordingly will ensure your senior remains safe.
It’s also important to recognize, however, that you may not have the same skills as a professional caregiver, and that’s okay. If there are aspects of caregiving that you’re not comfortable with or don’t have the proper skills for, acknowledge those blind spots. This way, a different volunteer or caregiving professional can step in to provide the necessary care. This prevents you from falling into an unfavorable position, and it ensures that your senior receives the care they require in the end.
Help Improve Quality of Life
Aging can be a difficult process for many seniors due to physical, mental, and emotional changes out of their control. One of the best ways to alleviate this pressure is to provide service that helps improve your senior’s quality of life in any way possible. There are many ways to keep a senior feeling youthful and happy. It’s just a matter of finding what works best for your caregiving situation.
Keep Them Active
As seniors age, their physical health and mental acuity may begin to wane . One way to prevent this decline is to engage a senior in activities that can keep them mentally or physically fit. Whether it’s a walk in the park or a game of sudoku, it can all help to improve your senior’s overall health.
Help Them Feel Useful
Many seniors living in continuing care retirement communities may struggle with the loss of independence that comes with relying on a caregiver. They may feel like they don’t have as much control over their life and worry that they can’t be as helpful as they used to be in their youth. A great way to alleviate these feelings is to give seniors tasks they can reasonably complete with minimal assistance. From cleaning dishes to folding laundry, it can all serve to make seniors feel more helpful in daily life.
Help Them Stay Connected with Loved Ones
Many low-income seniors in need of a caregiver may not have friends and family nearby, but it’s still important for them to maintain those relationships. If you can provide transportation for a senior, taking them to social events with loved ones can be a great way to keep them from feeling lonely or separated from their family. It can also be helpful to schedule phone calls with loved ones; that way, the senior still has a way to communicate with the people who can provide some of the strongest emotional support.
While caregiving can be an enlightening and rewarding experience, it also comes with many challenges that can become difficult to manage. However, just because caregiving is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and there are many ways to find solutions to possible issues. As long as you exercise patience and flexibility, you should be able to become an effective volunteer caregiver.
One of the best ways to prevent any issues when caregiving is maintaining constant communication with your senior. Discuss how they feel, what makes them comfortable, what makes them uncomfortable, and tailor your care towards their needs. Not only will this make you a more effective caregiver, but it will show your charge that you genuinely care about their well-being.
In your volunteer caregiving journey, you may come across situations where a senior doesn’t want to comply with certain requests and may be stubborn when it comes to releasing some of their previous independence. It can be mutually beneficial to develop compromises when your senior doesn’t agree with something to avoid any unnecessary conflict. While it may not result in the outcome you were initially expecting, you and your senior can still work together to find a solution that best fits both of your needs.
See Through Their Perspective
Not every senior is going to be receptive to certain forms of caregiving, and some may become saddened by the fact that they require care in the first place. In these situations, it can be helpful to build a sense of empathy with your seniors and show them any compassion they may need. What they’re going through can be very difficult, and being able to see through that perspective can help you build a stronger relationship overall.
Remember Why You’re Volunteering
At the end of the day, the most important part of being a volunteer caregiver is remembering why you’re doing it in the first place. Whether you want to become a more compassionate person, or a reliable figure in your community, or want to care for your own loved one, maintaining that motivation every day will give you the strength and energy to deliver quality care. Caregiving might not always be easy but providing support to the people who need it can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do.
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey. She writes on behalf of several continuing care retirement communities in New Jersey.