Working as a Caregiver
Caregivers are an important part of offering exceptional care and comfort to people who need assistance. Pursuing a career as a caregiver can be rewarding and fulfilling. With minimal training and a compassionate work ethic, you can earn a living while helping and caring for others when they need it the most.
Qualifications to Become a Caregiver
The path to becoming a caregiver provides you with the training and certifications that you need to help others. A minimum of a high school diploma or GED is usually a requirement to be a caregiver. Other agency requirements will vary from employer to employer, including:
- Background check
- Drug test
- TB test
- Flexible work schedule
- Eligibility to work in the U.S.
- Reliable transportation
Depending on where you work, there may be additional qualifications, like a driver’s license, good driving record, or specialized care in Alzheimer’s or dementia. Certifications in First Aid and CPR can also be useful and make you more competitive when applying. Some employers may also request that you have familiarity with HIPAA requirements, but this may also be included in the job training.
Most caregiving training is done on the job. While employers may not look for specific experience working as a caregiver, they may require candidates to have a compassionate and empathetic personality.
Certain skills can be beneficial when working as a caregiver:
- Interpersonal: Good interpersonal skills are beneficial when working in a caregiving position. Caregivers will need to be patient, understanding, and empathetic.
- Communication: The ability to clearly and effectively communicate, both verbally and nonverbally, is essential. Caregivers will need to know when to listen and when to speak. They will need to carefully understand and translate the needs of their patients and the directions of their medical team.
- Problem-solving: Good problem-solving skills can be beneficial when working as a senior caregiver. Different patients will have different needs, and caregivers may be tasked with solving problems.
- Project management: Whether you have multiple patients in your care or you’re tasked with the caregiving of just one patient, good time management skills are crucial.
If you have a passion for helping others and have these specific skills, you may find a career as a caregiver to be enjoyable. Caregivers, by nature, tend to be helpful and empathetic.
Professional Caregiver vs. Family Member
The line between a professional caregiver and a family member can sometimes be blurred. There are some similarities between the two, including:
- Both want the best for your loved one.
- Both accept and understand that your loved one needs assistance.
- Both have a willingness to help.
- Both complete non-medical care tasks.
While many family members may feel like it is their duty to take on the primary caregiving tasks of a loved one, a professional caregiver can bring a few added benefits.
Having previous experience in caregiving is valuable. Caregivers with previous experience or training will already have a basic understanding of how to complete certain tasks. For example, they may be familiar with scheduling medications or have special tips for improving the comfort of a loved one.
Professional caregivers often have specialized training in working with patients with common diseases, like Alzheimer’s or dementia. They also have training in safety protocols, safe movement and mobility techniques, and First Aid or CPR. Some professional caregivers may also have a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification.
It can be difficult to schedule family members to be there for the senior on a regular basis. Most family members have other jobs or families to raise. With a professional caregiver, family’s get reliable around-the-clock care that they can trust. This can be especially beneficial for patients who need overnight or 24/7 care.
Some patients may appreciate the willingness of their family members to care for them, but this can have an impact on the parental-child relationship. Senior parents may feel guilt or embarrassment turning to their adult children for assistance. Many seniors value their independence. Some family members may also feel uncomfortable in some situations with their parents, like bathing or feeding. Leaving this type of care to a professional caregiver allows families to preserve the relationships they have.
Family caregivers often forget about their own mental health and wellbeing when caring for a family member. They may put the needs of their loved one over their own needs, which can lead to burnout. Instead of feeling guilty when working or running errands, family members can relax knowing that a professional caregiver is caring for their parents.
Finding Job Openings
If you have decided that a career in caregiving is right for you, it is time to choose the right employer. Depending on where you live, you may have a lot of caregiver jobs available. In addition to finding a caregiving position that you are qualified for, it is also important to ensure that the agency you choose is a good fit for you.
Consider things like:
- Scheduling: Do they offer flexible scheduling that works around your needs?
- Training: Is in-house training available? Do you have to find your own training?
- Career goals: Some caregivers choose to continue their training, moving into other types of caregiving positions. Does the employer align with your career goals? Is there room for upward mobility with the company?
- Support: While a career as a caregiver can be rewarding, it can also be challenging. It is important to have a supportive work environment, regardless of where you work.
You can learn a lot about an employer by reviewing their mission statement and values. It can also be helpful to review what current clients say about the company. If you receive an interview for a caregiving position, create a list of questions for the hiring manager to help you choose the best fit. Some caregivers may also choose to work with an agency.
Caregivers are needed in all different environments. You may choose to work in a hospital, outpatient clinic, nursing home, or even in a patient’s home. Some caregivers may also choose to work in a specialized dementia care center with patients who have memory concerns. This often requires specialized training, but sometimes training may be available on the job.
When considering a position as a caregiver, it can be helpful to consider the populations you want to work with and what location. You will also want to consider your preferred schedule. Caregiving jobs may be available part or full-time but may require evenings, weekends, or even overnight work.
There will likely always be a demand for caregivers as people will continue to age. Adult children will always worry about the safety of their aging parents, meaning they will always need experienced, compassionate caregivers that they can trust, especially for in-home care needs.
Senior care is one of the biggest duties included in a caregiver job description. Senior care duties will vary from patient to patient but focus on activities of daily living (ADLs). A few key parts of working as a senior caregiver include:
- Companionship: Caregivers are in a unique position to become trusted companions for their patients. Seniors may turn to their caregiver for comfort and support.
- Assistance with household tasks: Caregivers offer assistance to seniors with certain household tasks. This might include cooking, cleaning, errands, or personal care.
- Transportation: Caregivers may be responsible for transporting patients to doctor’s appointments or running other errands.
- Mobility assistance: Caregivers are often responsible for helping their patients get around the house.
- Medication management: Monitoring and managing medications and medication reminders are an important duty of caregivers.
A caregiver’s work does not usually involve medical tasks, but they may play an important role in the senior’s care team. They will often spend the most time with the patient, meaning they can assess and update their needs. They can be a useful resource for the family and the senior’s team of medical providers, updating them on their symptoms and conditions.
Providing Care for All Ages
While the majority of caregivers will work with seniors, there are often caregiving positions available with other populations. Respite care is needed in many fields of medicine, a task that caregivers are well-trained to do. Respite care is short-term assistance, usually following a medical procedure or temporary injury.
Professional caregivers may also offer assistance to adults, including veterans, of all ages who have chronic health conditions. The caregiver not only works closely with the senior but also their family. They may provide them with emotional comfort and support. Finally, seniors of all ages may need different degrees of assistance.
Caregivers in a nursing home may primarily work with elderly patients. But, caregivers who work in an in-home care setting may have younger patients who require assistance but are not yet ready for a nursing home. Some caregivers may also work in a retirement community, where the age of residents tends to be younger.
There is a range of caregiver jobs available in different settings and specializations. Each type of caregiver is important in meeting the needs of different aging populations as they navigate chronic health conditions or recovery following surgery or an injury. Working as a caregiver provides you with career stability and overall enjoyment.