Working with older people requires finding ways to connect and create meaningful relationships with them, in order to create trust and to be able to help them more effectively. For some people, it can take a lot of work if you feel like you have little in common.
Finding Common Ground
Studying adult gerontology with universities such as Wilkes, will help you gain an insight into issues faced by older people. This can give you a deeper understanding and knowledge. In addition, it’s possible to find common ground by talking with them and understanding common fears and experiences which most of us share.
People of all ages will usually have experienced the same things – love, loss, family issues, poor health, etc. While someone older may have faced challenges where the precise details are different to yours, you can use your own experiences as a starting point for understanding and building on professional relationships.
Often you can learn more about their unique experiences by just listening to them. While the emphasis may be on personal and physical care, providing emotional support is key to creating a relationship, which effectively leads to trust, which is important when you’re responsible for someone else’s care.
When it’s not possible to rely on your own experience to get a better idea of how someone in your care must be feeling, having empathy can help you imagine what they might be going through. Trying to put yourself in their place and considering how you would deal (or perhaps struggle to deal) with the same thing, can help to come up with a solution, or if no solution is available, just a way of easing their pain or stress.
This can lead to a better relationship than if you simply charge in with what you think is the best treatment, or say the first thing which comes to mind, without careful thought of what they are going through. Sometimes showing compassion is all that is needed. You don’t always have to agree, but you accept their reasons for disagreeing.
While not exclusive to older people, it can be difficult for some people to trust those who are there to care for them. They may have been let down before or have read of cases in the media where someone in a position of responsibility has stolen from or harmed the person in their care. All you can do is be trustworthy and show them through your actions that most people, including you, are not like that. Hopefully, over time they will come to trust you, but it can’t be forced.
Having patience and reminding yourself it’s nothing personal is the best way to try to create a meaningful relationship with the older people in your care. Some of the people you work with will be easier to build a rapport with, while others will be more challenging. Patience, kindness, and understanding are key to improving these relationships and being able to help them more effectively.
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