At Custom Elder Care, we have developed a number of quality-caregiving principles that we believe reflect the “custom-care” approach to elder care. It is on these principles that our products (workbooks, and soon a toolbox and guidebook) are based. They guide the tips and guidelines that we have developed to help people customize care to their needs, and they stem from the best available current science, which shows that humane caregiving benefits both the person in care and caregivers.
Custom Elder Care has 12 quality-care principles (on our website), two of which we consider “umbrella” principles because they reflect the overarching moral base on which we believe all care should be based.
To be a good caregiver is to be felt as relevant and useful to the person you’re helping. It doesn’t take much to impose our own ideas of what “should” be. But is that really helpful? Of course we all want to think that our efforts to help are appreciated, but not all styles of helping are equal!
Every single person has a personal context from birth to death that guides lifestyle and is composed of genetics, personality, culture, experiences, material and spiritual values, priorities, preferences, etc.
Knowing someone’s personal context elevates care from good enough to really good because you can customize your actions to that person’s usual way of being in life.
Good enough care may be based on training and experience, but really good care is based on training + experience + knowledge about what’s special about the person in care, and this is what elevates care to best practice, or said otherwise, your ability to do the just-right thing. There are three basic approaches to helping, and they are not all perceived as equally helpful by the person asking for help.
The self-referential approach is based on the helper’s own context (his or her feelings, attitudes, culture, etc.). The mindset is this: I think you should… Advice often falls into this category, which is why you often hear people respond, You don’t understand or This doesn’t feel right. This approach pays no attention to the other person’s context (feelings, attitudes, background, circumstances, life experiences, goals, etc.).
The empathic approach – often referred to as walking in someone’s shoes – is promoted by helping professions. The mindset is this: If I had your eyesight, I would wish soft lighting. Therefore, I will provide this for you. In this case, the helper acts as if he were in the other person’s circumstances, but the issue here is that the solution is still something the helper would do in a given situation, so to some degree this approach is still helper-centered, although it’s higher on the totem pole.
Finally, the altruistic approach – promoted by CustomElderCare – is driven solely by the context of the person needing help (his/her feelings, goals, attitudes, usual ways of doing things, etc.). The mindset is this: I know that you would do this if you could. Therefore, I will try to make this happen for you. This approach can be called person centered, and it’s the most effective approach to helping someone, because it is evidence based; that is, solutions are based on knowledge (evidence) about what the person has done or would do (or be likely to do given his or her history) under these circumstances if able to function independently.
This is where Custom Elder Care comes in. We believe that quality care is altruistic. We believe that people in care have the right to recognize their own lives and to have that life stay true to their values no matter what.