Elizabeth Azevedo-Flowers is the Caregiver Homes Branch Manager for the Southeast Region in Massachusetts.

As professionals in the Human Service field, we are equipped with tools to promote good health, well-being and positive decision-making in the caregivers and consumers we serve. We know how to review notes and recognize patterns, and how to be keen observers and listeners. These tools of the trade help us ensure that consumers are thriving at home and in their communities. But we sometimes underestimate one of the most important resources we have at our disposal: our own intuition.

I once met a caregiver who I felt could really benefit from respite. Even though he didn't mention it, I sensed that the caregiver needed a break from the 24/7 responsibility of caring for his mother. Although caregivers are encouraged to identify an alternate caregiver to accommodate needed personal time, he did not have an alternate caregiver in place. I could tell the consumer was anxious and reluctant about having a non-family caregiver step in. I invited the consumer and caregiver to meet a non-family caregiver that I identified from within the community. They were able to ask questions of one another and understand what working together would be like.

As a result of this successful conversation, the caregiver and consumer decided to try out an alternate, and they have been using their alternate care dates every year with the same non-family caregiver. The caregiver is so grateful for this time to recharge, and so is his mother.

A gut feeling alone is not enough to draw a conclusion, but it can be well-worth exploring and asking more questions. As professionals, our intuition is another tool in our professional tool boxes that can help us provide more effective services to families.