Required Training for Caregivers
A caregiver is a person who helps someone else with activities of daily living (ADLs), whether that’s a senior or another individual recovering from a medical procedure. Some people who are compassionate and have a desire to help others may find that a career as a caregiver is right for them. Learn more about the required training and other caregiving positions you might consider.
Common Questions on Becoming a Caregiver
It is common to have a lot of questions regarding education and training requirements while considering a career as a caregiver. Here are a few of the most common questions:
I’m New to Caregiving; Where Should I Start?
The first step in deciding if you want to pursue a career as a caregiver is to determine if you could imagine yourself working in a position with those who need assistance. From here, you might decide in what capacity and with who you want to work. Most caregivers work with seniors, working in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or an in-home care agency.
Can I Get Paid to Take Care of a Family Member?
Some programs do allow family members to collect a paycheck while also caring for a loved one. Medicaid services can provide your senior parent or loved one with the home care they need. Depending on your state and your loved one’s eligibility with the program, this may include a family member.
How Do I Choose a Caregiver Training Program?
What is considered a good program will depend on your career goals and current level of training. If you are new to caregiving, you might consider an inclusive program that includes both classroom and hands-on training. Additionally, you may also want to consider specializations.
Some programs may offer more Alzheimer’s or dementia care training than others. If you do choose to receive additional training in memory care, choose a program that is accredited.
Can I Train to Become a Caregiver Online?
Online programs can be a good way to learn the necessary skills and build a foundation for becoming a caregiver. While hands-on experience is still an important part of learning to become a caregiver, many programs allow you to complete the classroom training portion online. You would then complete your training in person.
What Is Required to Become a Caregiver?
The specific requirements to become a caregiver will vary, depending on your home state and where you choose to work. Basic requirements often include:
- A minimum of 18 years of age
- A minimum of a high school diploma or GED
- A background check and drug test
- Reliable transportation
Some states also require that you complete a minimum number of training hours and successfully complete a state certification test. It can be helpful to check with your state’s licensing board to know your state’s specific requirements to become a caregiver. It can also be beneficial to check with your employer or any agencies you may want to work with.
How Can I Find a Job as a Caregiver?
Once you have completed the required education and training to become a caregiver, you can begin applying for jobs. Some caregiver training programs may connect you with agencies in your area. Otherwise, you can reach out to nursing homes or in-home care agencies to learn more about their hiring requirements.
Resources for Caring for Alzheimer’s
Taking on the caregiving role for someone with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. In addition to the common senior care tasks, dementia gradually gets worse over time. The caregiving role can often require more assistance as the disease gets worse. To assist with these challenges and provide the care recipient with the support they need, it can be helpful to have resources available. These resources can help caregivers understand the disease while also getting tips for caring for someone with a memory condition.
- Alzheimer’s Association (AA): The Alzheimer’s Association stresses the importance of a team with Alzheimer’s. The role as a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s frequently changes over time, and the AA offers many good resources that can help caregivers navigate each step. The Alzheimer’s Association also encourages family caregivers to connect with others in a similar situation for support through local chapters and support groups.
- National Institute on Aging (NIA): The NIA is another good resource for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. The NIA institution recognizes the different levels of Alzheimer’s and stresses the importance of a local support system, whether you are a family member or a professional caregiver.
- Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR): The ADEAR Center is a good resource for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s. They are also a leader in clinical trials.
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America offers tips for caring for those with Alzheimer’s and has a list of resources.
- Eldercare: Eldercare is a nationwide service with locations in each state. They provide family members and caregivers with information about in-home care, adult daycare, and other senior care services. They are funded and regulated by the Federal Government and are a part of the U.S. Administration on Aging.
Navigating Alzheimer’s can be difficult, whether you are a family member or a professional, employed caregiver. These resources are a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the research of Alzheimer’s and other dementia conditions. They can also connect you to other caregivers, providing you with caregiving tips and lessons.
The Difference Between a Caregiver and a CNA
Caregivers and CNAs are both individuals who provide care for someone else, often in an in-home care or nursing home environment. While a caregiver and a CNA may complete some of the same tasks, and their names are often used interchangeably, there are a few important differences between the two.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs):
- Must complete an education: CNAs are required to complete education. Training for a CNA may vary from state to state but usually includes a requirement of 75-100 classroom hours and hands-on clinical training. CNAs must also successfully complete a certification test.
- Higher pay: Because CNAs complete more classroom and training hours, they will usually earn a higher pay rate.
- Job duties usually include some medical tasks: CNAs may have training in completing certain medical tasks. Their job duties may include administering medications, recording vitals, and tracking weight. CNAs may also help with supporting doctor treatment plans, including assisting with physical therapy or managing prescriptions.
- More job opportunities: With the ability to complete some medical tasks, CNAs may have more job opportunities available.
- Does not require a certification to work: While certification to work as a caregiver is not a requirement, some agencies may require a certain level of training. This, however, can be as little as 10 hours of training.
- Job duties do not include medical tasks: Because caregivers do not have training in basic medical tasks, they will not have these types of job duties. They may complete tasks like cooking, laundry, running errands, or assisting with hygiene tasks.
- They have a respite role: Caregivers will often take on a respite position. They may provide relief to family members or primary caregivers.
Some caregivers may choose to further their training and become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) to access additional job opportunities and to be able to help their patients more. Many in-home care agencies require certification because a lot of their patients require assistance with basic medical care tasks or memory care.
Working as a caregiver can be a good starting point to becoming a CNA or determining if you want to take on additional training.
Other Senior Care Positions
There are all different experience levels and types of caregivers. Some agencies may hire brand-new caregivers and provide in-house training. Others may choose to hire only caregivers with previous experience or specialized training in certain areas, like memory care or chronic pain. Other positions that provide senior care include:
- Home health aide (HHA): HHAs are also state-licensed but have limited healthcare training.
- Personal care attendant (PCA): PCAs don’t traditionally need any formal education but may need to complete some training.
- Respite caregiver: Respite caregivers visit to provide rest and relief to the primary caregiver. They don’t usually complete medical tasks or even assist with bathing or mobility needs.
- Geriatric care manager: Geriatric care managers are informed of the best resources, often making recommendations to families on what type of care they need.
Some positions and their specific requirements will vary, depending on the agency. The needs of the patient will also determine what type of professional is needed. Caregivers may assist with minimal memory care conditions as long as the person doesn’t require medical care. However, if a patient has had previous health conditions, then they will need a CNA.
Each type of caregiving professional is an important part of providing comprehensive care to seniors.
Online training can be beneficial for caregivers who have a busy schedule or who want to continue their training while working. The following programs offer online training:
- Mmlearn.org: Morningside Ministries has a database of over 300 caregiving training videos, including lessons by lawyers, physicians, and other memory care experts.
- The Institute for Professional Education: The institute offers free caregiver courses specifically developed for family caregivers.
- Caregiver Action Network’s Caregiver Video Resource Center: This resource center is a collection of videos from other caregivers, including topics like identifying the signs of Alzheimer’s and how to find support.
- Right at Home University: The Right at Home University is a program led by nursing professionals. You can sign up for a course or take advantage of resources available through their online system.
- UAMS Schmieding Caregiver Training Program: UAMS offers many free workshops and educational programs for caregivers who want to pursue their certification.
- American Caregiver Association: The American Caregiver Association has courses online for those interested in becoming a caregiver. They also have specialized classes for current caregivers who want to further their training, including the National Caregiver Certification Course (NCCC) or the Advanced National Caregiver Certification Course (ANCCC). Some may also choose to become an ACA Member.
- Caregiver List: Caregiver List has a long list of caregiving training programs available. In addition to lessons that help with basic caregiving job duties, their programs are also designed to assist with communication skills, creating patient care plans, properly using adaptive equipment, and enacting emergency policies. Students can train with Caregiver List to get certifications like Professional Caregiver (Certified Caregiver) or Certified Home Health Aide (C.H.H.A. status in some states). Their classes are perfect for both family members and professional caregivers.
- Caregiver Training Institute: The Caregiver Training Institute provides training to all levels of caregivers, whether you are still considering a career or actively working as a caregiver. They offer training as a nursing assistant, certified nursing assistant, or AHA and CPR training.
With online classes and easy-entry training programs, you can receive the training and certifications you need to care for others. The length of training varies, depending on the program you choose and whether you work toward becoming a caregiver or CNA. Additionally, specializations can take longer to complete.
Some of these online training tools are also free, making them easily accessible to caregivers in all different positions. Free online classes are a good way to develop your skills further. Online video training can also be especially useful in learning how to complete certain tasks, like helping seniors get around or how to help with pain management. Caregivers can also use videos to learn from other caregivers.
Training to become a caregiver online, you can expect to take certain classes like the fundamentals of being a caregiver, fundamentals of senior care, patient rights and HIPPA care, and understanding activities of daily living (ADLs). You may also take classes to identify and treat infections, nutrition and food safety, fall prevention and safety, and prevent elder abuse. Certified caregivers may learn briefly about memory care, but topics are not usually in-depth. If a caregiver wants to learn more, they will usually need more training.
Why Caregivers Need Specialized Training
A caregiver is a word used to describe any person who cares for another. Traditionally, this could be a parent, a childcare worker, an adult child, or someone who works in a nursing home. However, it often refers to a person who offers care and assistive services to seniors, either in a nursing home or assisted living facility or in a patient’s home.
While the basic requirement to work in caregiving includes a desire and a caring and empathetic personality, completing specialized caregiver training can help caregivers offer better care. Certain specialized training may be needed for memory care, including Alzheimer’s or dementia care. Additionally, seniors may need assistance with mobility, which may require training.
Training in certain medical conditions, like COPD or recovery from a full hip or knee replacement, can also help caregivers meet the specific needs of their patients. Employment in certain agencies or in-home care settings may provide caregivers with training, but this varies from employer to employer. Specialized training may include:
- How to change bedding when occupied
- Safe methods for transferring patients
- How to handle memory care emergencies
- How to assist with blood sugar and blood pressure readings
- First Aid and CPR
- Effective communication skills
- Nutritional care for certain medical conditions
- Alzheimer’s and dementia care
- Infection control
- Preventing readmissions in hospitalized patients
Even family members who are caregivers could benefit from specialized training. A recent study found that most family members do not receive training and as many as 15 million people provide unpaid caregiving services. A lack of caregiver training can not only affect a caregiver’s ability to offer safe care, but it can also impact their overall mental health and well-being.
One of the biggest challenges as a family caregiver is that while tasks may begin as minor, like cleaning or transporting patients to doctor’s appointments, the tasks can get more extensive. Over time, the patient may need assistance with getting around the house, cooking specialized meals for certain medical conditions, or administering different medications. So, while family members may help out with some tasks, others are best left to specialized trained caregivers.
Even when working as a caregiver who doesn’t perform medical tasks, caregivers may benefit from specialized training. Caregivers will work with all types of patients, and having a good understanding of common medical conditions can help caregivers connect with patients by understanding their medical symptoms.
Being a caregiver can also come with its challenges. Specialized caregiver training can help caregivers overcome some of these challenges by managing stress and knowing how to deal with common concerns.
Caregiver training is an important step in becoming a caregiver, whether you decide to complete specialized certifications or not. Some caregiver training programs include specialized training in Alzheimer’s and dementia which can be beneficial when working with patients. Many training programs can be completed online before then transitioning to clinical work.