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How to Have a Healthy Relationship with your Family's Caregiver

By May 21, 2015Aging in Place

Bringing a caregiver into an existing home can be challenging. Developing a healthy relationship with your senior loved one’s caregiver can help prevent issues and ensure that everyone in the arrangement is happy. Planning ahead for effective communication and clear expectations can make your decision to employ assistance a rewarding and positive experience for you and your family.


Poor communication may be at the root of many family-caregiver conflicts. There is a significant transition period and you need to prevent future problems by establishing a good communication system up-front.

Your loved one’s caregiver may be the person with whom he or she has the most contact. The relationship between the caregiver and the senior will be critical and you don’t want any family conflicts to intrude. It is your job to oversee that your loved one’s needs are met and but it will be the caregiver’s job to actually meet those needs – that requires proper lines of communication.

Communication is a two-way street. You communicate with them, they communicate with you. Hopefully, both of you are listening to what the other says. You certainly have your concerns but they may have concerns as well and both of you need to be able to speak clearly and freely – and to listen.

Only when both parties are open to constructive advice and even occasional criticism, can issues be resolved. You should also not forget to tell the caregiver when he or she is doing a good job. Remember that being a direct caregiver can be difficult and everyone appreciates positive feedback.

Setting Expectations

Expectations need to be clearly set in advance. Ideally, this should be clearly communicated and documented in writing to avoid any misunderstandings. You both have responsibilities in this relationship.

Your loved one’s caregiver is expected to arrive on time, every time, or to let you know as far in advance as possible of any issues. Your caregiver should have a solid understanding of what duties are required. Whether this is simply “sitting” with your loved one, attending to personal care issues such as bathing, or providing light housekeeping duties, every activity should be defined beforehand. Even if no medical care is required, he or she should be given a clear explanation of any medical issues and appropriate contact information so that emergencies or events can be handled appropriately.

The caregiver has expectations of you as well. You need to be able to provide a work schedule which does not vary unexpectedly. He or she needs to be able to rely on your payment. If you are contracting directly, the “payroll” depends on your organizational skills. Remember that this is the caregiver’s livelihood and predictable scheduling and consistent payment is required.

Any discrepancies or conflicts should be addressed immediately and any disputes should not be allowed to color the patient-caregiver relationship. If a complaint is coming from either party, realize that you may see your loved one in a different light than the caregiver. If there seems to be a big discrepancy with what you know and are being told, observation of the interactions may be in order. Finding out who is “wrong” should not be the goal, your goal is to make sure your loved one gets the care he or she needs, even if personality or behavioral traits are challenging.

Arranging Finances

Financial matters are a huge concern and something you should keep careful track of. Certainly only a few caregivers have taken financial advantage of a senior, but it has happened. The caregiver should not have open access to financial accounts of your loved one, but he or she may need access to resources to conduct day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping.

Your main goal is to see that your senior loved one is taken care of in a respectful and adequate manner. Establishing clear boundaries and ensuring an open communication line at the start can help you get off on the right foot, hopefully for a long and satisfying relationship.

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