What are the Basic Principles of Caregiving?

Knowing what are the basic principles of caregiving is essential for any individual interested in pursuing a professional or familial role as a care professional. While there are certainly more, these seven principles can help you to understand the fundamentals of your role, as well as remind you of how to continuously maintain a standard of excellence for your patients.

Safety

One of the basic principles of caregiving is safety. This includes patient safety, personal safety, and the safety of others. Here are just a few of the key ways that industry professionals can provide a safe care environment for themselves and their patients. 

  • CPR and First Aid. All caregivers should be certified in CPR and First Aid. This potentially life-saving care can make the difference between long-lasting negative outcomes in the event of an emergency. If you have not yet received your certifications, you can sign up for our CPR and First Aid course.
  • Disease prevention. All caregivers should receive infectious disease control training to prevent the spread of infectious diseases to their patients. This includes proper sanitation practices, preventing close contact with sick people, and more. Additionally, caregivers with the proper medical certifications may administer relevant medications to assist their patients with illness recovery or prevention when necessary.
  • Injury and fall prevention. Caregivers should be careful to safety proof the main areas that their patients will be in. The level of proofing needed will depend on the patient’s relevant conditions, needs, and primary care area. For some, alarms and cabinet locks may be necessary to prevent the patient from accessing caustic substances. For others, they may only need railings and accessible lights installed. It’s important for caregivers to carefully consider what the primary risks are to their patients when taking measures to secure their safety and comfort. 
  • Exit prevention. For some patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, it is imperative that steps be taken to prevent unsupervised exits from the designated area. Without the proper precautions in place, consequences can be dire. Patients could accidentally fall into waterways, walk into oncoming traffic, or be taken to an unknown location by a stranger. That is why caregivers must always take the proper measures to monitor their patient’s location at all times. 
  • Personal safety. Caregivers must also take their personal safety into account. This can mean using the proper lift and transfer equipment while moving the patient, or requesting further assistance for patients who exhibit challenging behavior. Remember – it’s always better to ask for help sooner, rather than later. If you are unsure of how to handle a caregiving situation, reaching out to receive the proper training and resources is a must. 
  • External safety. In some cases, patients may accidentally cause injury to other family members or even strangers. That is why caregivers need to take relevant safety precautions when other people are over to visit their patients or when taking patients out on excursions. These can vary depending on the patient’s needs, past behavior, and expressed concerns. 

By considering these concerns, caregivers can prevent injuries, illnesses, and potentially even deaths. That is why safety serves as one of the fundamental basic principles of caregiving. 

Dignity

Every patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Here are just a few ways that caregivers can ensure that they are treating their clients in a dignified manner. 

  • Respecting patient requests. While there may be medical, dietary, or mobility concerns that prevent caregivers from meeting every patient request, every effort should be made to meet as many as possible. This will allow the patient to feel like their voice is heard and respected. 
  • Speaking with respect. Caregivers should never talk down to their patients, or address them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Care professionals should be conscious of whether or not a patient prefers to be referred to with an earned title like doctor or sergeant, or formal terms like sir/ma’am. They should avoid swearing, using degrading language, and making vulgar remarks even when they do not believe the patient can hear them or respond. These simple changes to one’s everyday verbal communication can help make a patient feel respected and heard. 
  • Providing choices. Many individuals in need of care feel like they have lost a great deal of personal autonomy. By providing your patients with choices, you can give them a level of that autonomy back. This can be as simple as asking whether a patient wants a window opened or closed, or if they prefer coffee or tea. When you allow the patient to make choices for themself, you are communicating that you respect their judgment, needs, and desires. 
  • Treating family members with dignity. When family members are present within the home, ensure that you are polite and respectful. Accepting the care needs of a loved one can often be difficult for the family, and treating them with dignity will communicate to the patient that you respect to manage their own space and relationships. 

When caregivers go out of their way to treat every patient with dignity, they are ensuring that they feel valued and secure during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. That’s why caregivers should carefully consider the previous guidelines when interacting with patients. 

Independence 

When adults need to receive ongoing care, they can often feel a sense of helplessness. They might feel like they are being treated like a child, or that they are unable to complete simple tasks for themselves. Over time this can lead to a sense of depression in patients and a lack of cooperation with the caregiver. 

That’s why it’s so important for caregivers to allow their patients the opportunity to attempt tasks without assistance. A caregiver should only interfere with a daily task if it is requested by the patient, or if it is a safety necessity. But for patients without mobility issues, tasks like dressing, teeth brushing, and light cooking can usually be done with a limited (but reasonable) level of supervision. 

In cases where patients can’t complete certain tasks on their own due to mobility issues or disability, a caregiver should still emphasize the tasks that a patient can complete autonomously. While a patient with balancing issues may not be able to bathe independently, they may still be able to participate in independent hobbies like reading, knitting, or scrapbooking. Finding what a patient can do by themself will foster a greater sense of control and personal autonomy for the client, leading to a better overall quality of life. 

Privacy

While it is often impossible for caregivers to allow total privacy for their patients, every effort should be made to provide them with as much as possible. 

For example, if it is possible for a caregiver to safely allow patients to dress and bathe themselves with limited supervision, this should be accommodated. The level to which this will be possible will vary greatly from patient to patient, and safety should always be a top priority. Caregivers should also honor requests to avert their gaze during vulnerable moments within reason. Showing that you value a patient’s need for privacy illustrates that you care about their feelings and want to honor their boundaries. 

Caregivers should also always avoid discussing intimate patient details with others. Sometimes this will even include certain family members. Make sure that you are up to date with all HIPAA guidelines to ensure that you comply with your state’s regulations for what patient details can and cannot be shared, and with whom. 

Communication

Communication is another basic principle of caregiving that can’t be overlooked. Open and consistent communication ensures that you and your patient are on the same page, and can work towards goals together. It also ensures that relevant information is conveyed to external parties quickly and completely when necessary. Here are three key ways in which caregiver communication is essential. 

  • Communicating with the patient. Patients have a right to be informed of any progress made in their treatment plan. When a patient receives necessary treatments, it’s important to explain what they can expect. Too often caregivers proceed with necessary grooming or medical interventions without verbally communicating what is going on to the patient. This can lead to feelings of distrust and resentment over time. That’s why it is always best to debrief a patient before proceeding with necessary, but potentially uncomfortable, care. 
  • Communicating with the family. Oftentimes caregivers must convey key treatment information to a patient’s family. When this is necessary, the caregiver must communicate clearly and compassionately. This is often an emotional time for family members, so care professionals must cultivate a kind bedside manner, and deliver difficult news gently and completely. Always ensure that you are following HIPPA guidelines, and only delivering details to family members with legal rights to the information. 
  • Communicating with relevant agencies and authorities. If you suspect that your patient may be experiencing abuse or in need of urgent services, then it is important to get in contact with the relevant authorities immediately. As a caregiver, one of your top priorities must be protecting your patient in whatever way you can. In these situations sometimes seconds can make a difference. If you suspect that a client may be in any form of active danger, never be afraid to call emergency authorities like the police. 

By maintaining clear and consistent communications, caregivers can build ongoing rapport with their patients, their families, and any relevant agencies. This leads to higher levels of trust and easier collaboration across parties. 

Sensitivity

For many patients, entering into a long-term care arrangement can be very emotionally taxing. This is especially true for individuals who are entering hospice care or those who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. In these circumstances, the individuals’ families are often also deeply affected, and it’s not uncommon for tension to arise as a result. 

While a caregiver should never accept ongoing abuse from a patient or their families, they should also be sensitive to the emotional realities surrounding the situation. Sometimes this means they may deal with individuals who are curt with them or seem unhappy with their presence. Often this is part of an adjustment period for these individuals, and they will warm up to the caregiver over time. 

It’s also important that caregivers are aware of cultural differences that they may have with their patients. They may have different values, political beliefs, or religious beliefs than the individuals they serve, and they must remain aware of that. Part of being sensitive towards patients is accepting and respecting that they are entitled to their values, even when they do not align with those of the caregiver. 

Connection

Losing connection with the outside world is a common fear for those in need of caregiving services. They worry that they will miss out on time with friends, hobbies, and excursions that they used to love. For many, this can make them feel isolated and lonely, which can in turn result in significantly worse health outcomes

That’s why one of the basic principles of caregiving is connection. Caregivers should always be doing as much as possible to ensure that their patients don’t lose contact with the outside world. Sometimes this means arranging patient transportation to participate in their favorite activities. Sometimes it means inviting over a patient’s old friends for a visit. Whatever the case, maintaining a patient’s ability to stay in contact with the outside world is very important, and will lead to better health outcomes and elevate their quality of life. 

Why are the Basic Principles of Caregiving Important?

By studying and understanding what are the basic principles of caregiving and having the required training for caregivers you are setting yourself up for long-term success. These core fundamentals can help you to improve your overall care standards and provide your patients with the best possible treatment. It’s important to revisit these standards often and carefully consider how you can make advancements in each category.

If you would like to learn more about the basic principles of caregiving, we hope you will consider signing up for our course Caregiving 101: Basics to Caregiving. This course summarizes all the basic relevant information to the caregiving industry, as well as the responsibilities and roles of a caregiver. You can also check out the Caregiver Courses portal for other relevant courses.

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