What are the six prime directives of every caregiver?

Caregiving is not an exact science – or a science for that matter – but like Robocop or StarFleet, a caregiver can choose to follow a set of prime directives by which to perform his or her caregiving duties. These directives are:

1.       Preserving dignity.

2.       Involving your loved one.

3.       Promoting independence.

4.       Asking for help.

5.       Becoming an advocate.

6.       Taking care of yourself.


Caregiver prime directives

Preserving dignity

Your loved one has a right to make decisions regarding their personal life, and retain a sense of control and privacy for as long as it is possible.

·         Listen to what they have to say.

·         Pay attention to their worries and concerns.

·         Help your loved one on their own terms, not yours.

·         Activities like dressing and bathing are personal, but there are ways to help while respecting their privacy.

·         Encourage them to maintain as much control over their life as possible.

Involving your loved one

As mentioned above, the person should be part of the decision-making progress for as long as they are mentally sound. Examples include what to eat or what to wear.

Promoting independence

Assess your loved one’s skills and determine what they can or can’t still do. Taking over an area in which they are still proficient puts an unnecessary burden on you and limits their independence.

·         Encourage efforts at independence, however small they may be.

·         Allow your loved one to perform tasks even if it takes them longer.

·         Do not treat your loved one as if they were a child.

Asking for help

All caregivers need help at one time or another, so do not think twice about asking for it and accepting it.

·         Go first to your family. Relatives may be more willing to help than you may imagine, but you have to ask them for help in specific, rather than general ways.

·         Join caregiver support groups.

·         Your friends and neighbors can also be great helpers.

Becoming an advocate

You may not be a doctor or a nurse, but you’re still a member of your loved one’s medical care team. More often than not, the caregiver has to act as the mouthpiece for the care receiver. Healthcare providers know a lot about their trade, but they don’t know your loved one like you do.

Taking care of yourself

Most caregivers already have day job, and the accumulation of responsibilities may lead to stress and burnout. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for your loved one.

·         Take advantage of respite care.

·         Listen to your body.

·         Ready yourself for life changes.

·         Exercise.

·         Spend quality time with friends and family, and with yourself.

·         Get plenty of rest.

·         Eat well.


Related: What is Respite Care for Caregivers?