Be Brave and Make Your Initial Introduction Count!
In fact, I recall the day of my first shift ever... standing at the top of the steps, staring at a stranger's doorbell (of someone I would shortly be helping undress for their shower) and wondering if it was not too late to turn and run for the hills!
I remember too, thinking how I hadn't really been forewarned on the reality of what to expect when arriving at a skeptical senior's house for our first meeting. I knew that I needed to be confident and professional in order to gain trust, but it turned out to be instinct I relied on to provide my client with a warm friendly vibe that put them at ease.
I wanted them to know that not only was I was good at my job, but I was genuinely kind, empathetic - and that I CARED too.
Luckily for me, my first client was the most adorably grateful old gent who didn't give a toot that I was a learner. He was just so relieved to have me there. Which I guess at the end of the day is what it's actually all about... THEM.
And NOT you!
So I thought it might be helpful to list some essential, yet often under-appreciated pointers, to ensure the inital meet 'n' greet with your new elderly client is as successful as it can possibly be. That brief, but impressionable moment where you get to reveal your amazing self and to plant the seed for a future (hopefully) mutually respectful working relationship.
Although take note: if your client suffers from any form of memory loss issues, you may be repeating these steps all over again - and again - and again......every time you visit them.
But that's no problem to an exceptional carer as yourself, is it?
Trust me, it works a treat - and what have you got to lose?
2. Use Formal Address - ALWAYS.
If you are unsure of their marital status (you will come across the odd hard-nut spinster out there who’s never married but who will soon let you know if you dare assume she’s a Missus) - in this case, it’s best to opt for the full name approach
For example: “Hello... Marjorie Brown, is it?”
I will never forget standing outside Mrs Gina Kantezkantopituolos’s front steps in a cold sweat at the thought of insulting her by stuffing up her name and having her hate me forever. She actually confided in me later that she’d appreciated me having a crack (as feeble as it was) because most people never even tried.
She'd eventually become known as ‘Mrs K’ anyway, "for efficiency's sake", she said.
Fortunately, 'Gina' and I eventually got on so famously she insisted I call her by her first name. Phew...problem solved.
So to avoid confusion or client embarrassment it is vital that you clearly state your name, rank and serial number when you meet for the first time. That is before you launch into your work.
That is - tell them where you are from and what you intend to do to them!
There is nothing worse than arriving with your bucket and mop to do a Domestic Assistance duty - only to turn round and discover your client has stripped off down to her petticoat in anticipation of having a wound dressing changed by who she thought was the District Nurse instead.
You’ve got several logical explanations:
- your client is deaf (the obvious and most common one)
- your client's English isn't flash
- your client is unwell - mentally or physically
- your client is in a very, very, very bad mood (...is it too late to run away?)
Use hand actions if you need to and don’t be afraid to yell. I can spend entire days bellowing at older adults who have hearing issues. Then I come home at the end of the days only to continue the trend with my poor family...sorry, boysies!
Or, if you are struggle to find something personal to say about your client, then admire the lovely photo of their grandchildren instead... or the beautifully manicured lawn... or the fabulous blooms on their camelia bush.
Plus it’s a superb way to break the ice and show that you at least seem interested in them.
Who knows, you might even CARE for goodness sake.
- "Mum only likes using the pink towels… never the green ones as they were Dad’s towels and she will get upset if you try and use them for her shower."
- "When you take Uncle Reg on his walk to the library… he loves going via the paddock so he can say hello to the horses on the way. He needs to stick to this routine or he will get quite upset and then we will ALL pay later!"
I’ve broken down many a barrier by patting mangy old dogs, admired ugly weepy-eyed cats and even whistled at the odd tatty budgie in its cage.
Fake it til you make it, don’t they say?
It’s definitely worth it in the end, so do whatever it takes - scratch flea-bitten ‘ol Yella behind the ears, win over the confidence of your brand new judgmental client… you can always disinfect the hell out of yourself in the car later!
8. LISTEN to your client
And if their speech is slow or they are struggling to get words out (for whatever reason) - DON’T be tempted to talk over them or pre-empt their sentences.
Body language, the way they talk, their hearing and vision, their coordination and mobility – all can reveal potential physical health problems, mental conditions or even emotional issues. All situations that are handy for you to be aware of even before you’ve entered their home - and their life.
So keep up the excellent work, maintain pride in what you do, trust your little voice (always) ...and HEAVEN HELP YOU NOW.