Caregiver Blog: How to Tackle Unfamiliar Tasks While Caregiving

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Skills

If you’re a caregiver and need to perform an unfamiliar task, what would you do?

Let’s say you are asked to do light housekeeping at a client’s home, and you're struggling to make the vacuum work. What's your next step in this situation? Would you try to operate it on your own? Would you read the manual first or ask the owner for instructions directly?

What if your new patient has some weakness and will be using a cane to walk around? You try your best to remember how to correctly use mobility devices, but suddenly that part of your brain feels like a corrupted file you simply cannot open. Will you go ahead and assist them with walking anyway?

Many times, you will be faced with new challenges because either your skills or training are lacking, or you have not tried out the procedure before, even once. Naturally, you’d hesitate to proceed
You might not have noticed, but most of the tasks you know are done on autopilot, meaning they’re a repetition of an earlier task so your brain is already programmed to do it effectively. For new procedures though, you don’t trust yourself and feel threatened, so you lack confidence. It takes you more time to figure the problem out, or you freeze and stall.

And because humans can feel each other’s anxiety, patients, coworkers, and your supervisor know when you’re having trouble with a procedure. Your body language will show it, and the patient may become nervous and mistrust you.

In case you find yourself in a similar situation, below are a few things to keep in mind as well as some tips to get you through:

1. Ask yourself, "Will the patient's safety be compromised if I go ahead and try it on my own?”

If the answer is yes, do not proceed. If you are unsure, still, do not proceed. Patient safety is the priority. Ask for help instead.

If it's new equipment, ask an expert coworker or an agency technician before operating it. If you are in a patient’s home, ask the owner or patient how the appliance works.

2. If it’s your first time doing a procedure you learned during your training, recite the steps to yourself before you begin.

Never do something that is beyond what you were trained for. If your memory is not serving you properly, ask your supervisor or a willing coworker to demonstrate the procedure for you.

As you recall the correct way to do the procedure or task, you may step in and take over as long as you feel confident enough to perform the job successfully.

3. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to ask for help.

“Better safe than sorry” is the way to go in this situation. Volunteer to watch a colleague perform the task so that you can see firsthand how it’s done, and then ask them to supervise you the first time. Don’t forget to ask for feedback to know how you can further improve your care.

Learning and perfecting unfamiliar tasks is what makes caregivers grow in their job and become experts in the process. Do not be afraid to learn new procedures with the right attitude and self-confidence. Be humble enough to admit you need assistance, because help is available only if you know how to ask for it!


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