Experience and qualifications are important, but so is personality. Find out what personal traits a carer needs to excel at their job.
What are the qualities of a good carer?
We work with carers up and down the country - from London to Edinburgh - and the people who need them all day, every day, so it’s fair to say we know a few things about how to choose the right home carer.
Looking after the elderly is a challenging job, as you’ll likely know if one of your loved one is getting older. It can be one of the most fulfilling careers out there, but to be successful, certain personal qualities are required.
1. RespectAs a person ages and their independence and mental capacities reduce, it's easy to fall into the trap of being patronising. Even if an elderly person is becoming frail and/or senile, it's important to remember that they are a person with a lot of experience, and a person who was once able to stand on their own two feet. A great carer will be able to connect with your loved one as a person, not just as a client who needs care. Find out more: How do I find the best private carer?
Empathy is one of the most important qualities any carer needs to have. Ageing can be a confusing and difficult process for some older people, as tasks they used to find simple become a challenge that needs to be overcome. A carer needs to be able to connect with their client in order to help them through it, and a great carer will understand the emotions an elderly person may struggle with as they face new realities.
Find out more: Is domiciliary care right for me?
Many carers will be responsible for ensuring their client eats, drinks, takes medication and makes appointments on time. The side effects of not doing these things can be dramatic, so you need to find a carer you can depend upon to ensure everything that should be done, is done.
Find out more: 9 good ways to stay healthy in old age
As anyone who’s spent any time with an older person knows, elderly people can be frustrating. Unfortunately, the natural passage of time often means that molehills really can become mountains. Seemingly simple tasks can take much longer to complete, frustration, irritability or aggression on the part of your loved can become normal, and memory lapses can be frequent.
A great carer needs to be patient enough to handle each situation that arises calmly, without getting flustered or resentful. Patience is critical.
Find out more: Dementia care: how to find the right carer
5. A sunny disposition
Any good carer is the sort of person who lights up a room when they walk into it. Many older people suffer with depression or low moods, and a carer should be someone who provides a lift, not a dampener.
Depending on their state of mental and physical health, some older people can be uncooperative when it comes to eating, drinking or bathing. A carer with a sunny disposition is more likely to be able to elicit cooperation and soothe their client.
Find out more: Live in care: 4 simple tips to find the right carer
6. Not prudish
Carers will often find themselves helping with personal care activities such as bathing, using the toilet, period care or wound dressing. In other words, people with a sensitive constitution need not apply.
A great carer should be able to handle the sight of bodily fluids and bodily functions with ease, without ever making the person they’re caring for feel ashamed or embarrassed.
The physical or mental health of an older person can change dramatically in a short space of time. A good carer will pick up on the signs of deterioration early. Decreased appetite, weight loss or gain, increasing confusion, increased irritability – these things can indicate an underlying problem, and a good carer would know never to dismiss them.
Find out more: Self-employed carers: 4 tips to find the right candidate
It might sound painfully obvious, but a great carer has to actually care. Care can be as difficult as it is rewarding, and if a carer sees it as 'just a job' they’ll be likely to struggle. You want to find a carer who genuinely cares, and loves what they do.
9. The right experience
Most people who have built a career as a carer will have the personal qualities listed above – it would be rare to be attracted to the career without being a certain type of person.
However, as well as personality you also need to make sure the carer you find has the experience you need. For example, if your loved one suffers with dementia, then you’ll ideally want to find a carer who has experience caring for others with the condition.
10. The right qualifications
Experience and personality trump qualifications every time – but they are still important. There are many different care courses and qualifications that a carer might have.
However, there isn’t a real standard in the care world, so don’t be put off if the carer you’re considering doesn’t have a specific qualification, as long as their references and CRB/DBS check out and they have the relevant experience you need.
Location, location, location
This isn't a carer quality, but it's an important consideration. Location is more important in London than elsewhere, simply because the city is so vast. Simply looking for a carer in London isn’t enough. Try and find a carer in the same part of London as you, otherwise last-minute care emergencies and late night pop-ins can be difficult.