Besides the ability to creatively solve problems and defuse tension before it escalates, caregivers who work with individuals with intellectual disabilities need a certain amount of resilience to get through their work day.
Because individuals with intellectual disabilities may not have strong reasoning or social skills, they may not know how to filter out some of the thoughts that pop to mind. And that makes them fairly uninhibited about expressing their feelings when they get worked up about something or frustrated when something doesn’t go their way.
In these situations, a certain amount of resilience, patience, and flexibility can make a caregiver’s job easier. Caregivers who are able to stay calm no matter what the individual is doing will find work easier than those who are thin-skinned.
It’s not about you
It’s important not to take anything an individual says about you personally, says Daisy Williams, a direct care professional with Casmir Care’s Community Residential Homes. Sometimes, she has noticed that less experienced staff at places she has worked are not as easygoing or patient as other caregivers. “Their buttons are more easily pushable than mine are,” she says.
But when you don’t take things personally, it frees you to be a better caregiver, she says.
If you do take a verbal attack personally, it’s hard to use a comforting voice to pacify the person. “You have to calm yourself first and not let thoughts run through you head” about how they should know better, she says. “No, they don’t know better. They’re angry and they’re just expressing themselves, and you just happened to be right there at the time.”
Tomorrow is a better day
It may also help to realize that the individual might not be angry tomorrow. You might have a good day ahead with them. “So think about that,” she says. The attitude to take is: “Okay, we’re just going to get through this day and look forward to a better day tomorrow.”
As a caregiver who has been working for Casmir Care Services Inc. for eight years, Daisy has noticed that the people who stay a long time at one company have a thick skin. They tend to be the ones who are good at controlling their emotions when situations heat up. They are the ones who are able to separate the fact that the resident is just expressing himself in a way that you would if you were at home and somebody was not doing what you asked them to do.
“It helps to stay really calm, no matter what the person is doing,” she says.
Offer other options
And sometimes a compromise is in order. As a caregiver, you may not always be able to convince the individual to do something your way. But you can get him to understand that there are more options. For example, you might do something his way that time, but tell him, “I want to show you other ways as well.”
A lot of her job as a direct care professional with Casmir Care involves coming up with other options, Daisy says. When the individual is focused on just one thing, he may not see that there are more choices beyond the thing he is fixated on. “I show them and help them understand they can do it in many different ways and still come out with the same outcome,” she says.
For caregivers, it’s all in a day’s work.