What Makes a Great Caregiver?

Are you kind, caring, compassionate, and patient? Do you have a love of serving others and a desire to help people, especially the elderly, improve their quality of life? Do you enjoy spending time with older adults? Then you might be interested in how to become a caregiver pro. In addition to these important character traits, an effective professional caregiver must:

  • Be reliable and dependable, and generally act in a professional manner.
  • Communicate clearly and effectively with clients, their families, and other healthcare professionals–and if needed, law enforcement officers or attorneys.
  • Get along well with sometimes-difficult personalities, and be willing to build a positive patient and caregiver relationship.
  • Have mental, emotional, and physical stamina.
  • Have a basic knowledge of health care terms, medical conditions, and medications.
  • Be sensitive to family situations and crises.
  • Be literate enough to follow written orders and leave messages as well as read and understand prescription medication labels.
  • Have reliable transportation and a mobile phone.
  • Be honest and willing to put the health and well-being of the care recipient first.

Managing the Challenges of Being a Caregiver

Being a professional primary caregiver can be a very rewarding profession, but it can also be a challenging one. A paid caregiver works hard for their pay, which is not always as high as could be wished. There may not be any paid leave, and the hours could be long. It will be important to contract with the right home care agency to ensure that needs for pay and adequate time off are met.

In-home caregivers, especially those who have been providing long-term care, can be prone to burnout, as care recipients can be demanding and the work can be physically and emotionally draining. Older adults living with alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia or mental illness could strain the patience of even the most kind-hearted. A person with developmental disabilities, or one who needs end-of-life care could also be a challenge for any certified caregiver.

Therefore it is important for caregivers to protect their own mental health and plan time for their own self-care, with activities that will help restore their energy and keep their spirits high. If you are a home care aide, you can even receive caregiver trainingto help you learn how to maintain your energy. Studies have shown that caregivers who have firm spiritual convictions, a belief in loving and serving others, a strong sense of community, and feel that caregiving is their calling in life are the most successful.

What Are the Job Requirements?

Requirements for being a professional caregiver vary depending on the level of training and education desired. Caregivers employed by a home care agency are usually certified nursing assistants (CNAs), home health aides (HHAs), or personal care attendants (PCAs).

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certified nursing assistants are state-licensed nursing assistants who have received classroom and hands-on training, as well as passed an exam. They have a basic health care education and can help monitor their patients’ medical conditions. They have the most training (out of CNAs, HHAs, and PCAs) and can dispense the most caregiving services, including some treatments that registered nurses would have traditionally provided.
  • Home Health Aide (HHA) Home health aids are also state-licensed and must meet the same kinds of requirements as CNAs, however their health care training is very limited.
  • Personal Care Attendant (PCA) PCAs, also known as personal care assistants/aides, or homemakers, do not need any formal education, usually not even a high school degree. Many states do require that they have a certain number of supervised training hours.

What do Care Professionals do?

Designated caregiver professionals may find jobs in long-term care facilities, VA medical centers, or hospitals, but they can also be providers of emotional support, companionship and assistance for the elderly or disabled who live in their own homes. The assistance in-home caregivers provide usually revolves around the basic activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).

The Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs, refer to six specific tasks of basic self-care:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Dressing
  • Transferring
  • Toileting
  • Eating
  • Ambulating

The Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, or IADLs, are more a