Caring for People

Caring for people can mean caring for anyone from a young child, a parent or sibling, best friend, or patient. Specific skills and abilities that are encompassed within this will differ depending on the context in which you are caring for a person or people. There are however a host of qualities that you need to possess to work in any form of caring role.

Qualities for caring for people

Ø Non-verbal communication– this includes both body language and physical contact. Body language such as facial expressions and eye contact can demonstrate reassurance and compliance, as well as attentiveness. Empathy can also be shown by different facial expressions such as sadness, dismay or happiness. Physical contact be used for emotional security or reassurance, and depending on the situation can be anything from touching a hand or arm, to an arm around the shoulders or a hug. This may not be appropriate however where the gesture could be misinterpreted.

Ø Supportive and encouraging– no matter what the age, praise and encouragement go a long way to offer positive reinforcement. Praise may be used for example for a task that is done well, or for a situation where a challenge is overcome, or a milestone is reached. Encouragement can be in the form of verbal communication, in written communication such as a letter or a card, or can be simply accompanying someone so that they feel more comfortable. Encouragement can also help to reinforce adaptive behaviour which is behaviour that is more favourable, or can increase well-being. Being supportive can mean something different to different people. It can be in an emotional or psychological way such as being there to listen in times of need, or can be in a physical way such as helping someone to do daily tasks, doing shopping for them, or assisting with personal care.

Ø Patience – this is quite often used when caring for people, and means that someone does not need to rush, can take their time, and do not feel uncomfortable. You may need to be patient if you are with someone that has difficulties with mobility and is slower moving around, has difficulties in communicating, or has memory problems and
needs a lot of repetition.

Ø Responsible and trustworthy– if the person you are caring for believes you to be trustworthy, they will feel that you will not cheat or steal from them, can be counted on to do what they promised, and not breach confidentiality (except where necessary). Being responsible also means that you can be trusted to work or act without being watched or supervised to make sure you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. Both responsibility and trust will also lead to respect, and respect will in turn make the person you are working with feel that you care abouttheir needs. 

Ø Communication – this needs to be appropriate to the person that you are caring for with in terms of language use, and how you come across. This would vary significantly depending upon the person you are caring for as to whether this needs to be professional or not, and whether you know someone. You must know how to communicate effectively with tact, sensitivity, and consideration of background, religion and ethnicity. You can also communicate your concern for welfare of the people you are caring for. An important element of communication that can be forgotten is the ability to actively listen, which involves concentrating fully on what someone is saying, understanding what they mean, and then responding appropriately. If you also fail to understand what someone is telling you, this could also be detrimental for them, and could potentially place someone at risk. You may also need to change the way that you deliver information or facts to match the communication style of the person you are caring for, and ensure that the person has understood. 

Ø Understanding – this doesn’t necessary mean agreeing or having the same opinion, but means trying to see a situation from the perspective of the person that you are caring for, and being non-judgemental. Understanding something means that you are more likely to be able to understand how you can help or what needs to be done.  

Ø Social perception – this means trying to recognise a person’s feelings, behaviour/demeanour and needs and intentions, as well as using your best judgement. This will put you in a better place to try to care for someone, especially if they are not able to communicate this freely. You may need to try to calm someone down whilst remaining calm yourself, or try to reassure someone if they appear anxious.  

Ø Multi-task/flexibility – you should possess the ability to adapt how you care for someone, or change plans at the last minute if needed. You may also be overstretched if you are working in a team and are understaffed, and need to be able to deal with more tasks than usual. Situations can also change quickly and therefore the ability to think on your feet and deal with unexpected challenges is also important.

Ø Willingness to learn – when you are caring for people, you should always be open to learning more and being the best carer that you can be. This may be changing the way you do something, or taking a course to learn more.

put yourself first

When caring for people, the most important factor to consider first is your own needs, and how much you can cope with looking after other people. When your own needs are taken care, you are in a better position to help someone else. Caring for people can be a career, a voluntary role, your own choice, or because there is no-one else around that can help. Care needs for people can be small or full-time, and may also vary over time. You may also not know how to best care for someone, and therefore it is advisable to look for advice from places such as charities, webpages or books, or to look for what courses there are available that may help. You may also need to seek professional help if you are caring for a loved one if you cannot manage yourself.

As a professional in the care industry, there are generally mandatory training courses which you must attend before working as these cover the core basics of caring for people. It is then more than likely that you will need to attend more relevant and specific courses for the area that you are working in. Mandatory courses may include those such as First Aid, Manual Handling, Health and Safety, Food Hygiene, Equality and Human Rights and Safeguarding.

About the author

Amy Thomas

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