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Why Don’t Caregivers Understand Exactly What Their Participants Need?


In his spare time, caregiving consultant and healthcare speaker Dr. Aaron Blight is happy to answer questions on Quora about caregiving organizational development, senior care, healthcare consulting, and many other topics. In this month’s post, we highlight his recent answer dealing with caregivers’ understanding of participants’ needs.

Why don’t all caregivers understand, or at least try to understand, exactly what their participants need, not just the surface stuff, but the deeper things beyond “fed, meds, bed?”

“Checklist care” is faster and easier to provide because it focuses on the physical needs of the care receiver.

This “surface stuff” that is described in the question is easy to observe and relatively simple to do, albeit after a bit of training. A bonus is that after you finish the checklist for the day, you can say you’re done!

“Whole person care” is slower and harder because it adds the emotional, social, and even spiritual needs of the care receiver. It gets messy. There’s not a daily “completion box” that you can check off.

Most caregivers know that humans actually need more than the satisfaction of basic physical requirements in order to thrive. But when someone is dependent upon you for things as simple as eating or toileting, your caregiving starts there.

There are many reasons why caregiving may also end there. The scarcity of time, the requirements of those paying for care, emotional exhaustion, or a lack of knowledge on how to “fix” the deeper needs of the care receiver are some of those reasons. The most tragic reason of all, however, would be indifference to the needs of the care receiver, which I’ve seldom observed.

When a caregiver consciously focuses on “whole person care,” the results may not be immediately visible, but the long-term effects can be life-changing for both the care receiver and the caregiver. It is where the greatest rewards of caregiving are discovered.

Somewhere in the middle is the best you can really hope for, the best you can expect. If you are an aging parent and your adult child genuinely listens, offers help when you want it and when you really need it, and respects the decisions you have made about your life, then you’ve got a pretty good foundation of “understanding and support” that will make the waning years of your life a little easier to bear.