What It Means to Be an Elderly Caregiver
If you are in the healthcare field already or are looking to move into an occupation focused on caring for others, then you might be wondering what it means to be a CDS caregiver.
Who do they care for and what tasks are required? Do you have to live with your clients and how does pay for caregivers work? What qualities does one need to care for the elderly and are you up for the emotional and physical tasks?
This article will cover all of that and prepare you with the information necessary to decide if this is a job for you.
What Is a Caregiver?
A caregiver is someone who cares for the health and well-being of another person who needs help with daily tasks and activities. Specifically, an elderly caregiver helps seniors, people in advanced seasons of life (usually 50 and over).
Oftentimes, people who need care are those who are sick, have disabilities that prevent them from doing their daily tasks on their own, who have trouble with memory and cognition skills as they are aging, or who are at risk of having a health scare with someone not near them.
It is estimated that up to 25% of American homes are currently providing care for an elderly family member. This is due to lifespans stretching longer with medical care, as well as hospitals choosing to release patients into homecare earlier after a sickness or incident. This can cause a great deal of stress and overwhelm on family members who need to live their own lives and care for their own children as well as their parents or grandparents.
When so many people need care for their loved ones, it creates a job market in high demand. They are performing the jobs that healthcare workers once did, without the professional training or experience, and on top of the emotional stress that they feel watching their family member age.
This might lead you to wonder, though, what the specific tasks of a caregiver might entail.
What Are Some Caregiver Tasks?
Caregiving tasks can range from daily, simple tasks to run a home, to hygiene-related help, to managing a home or life errands. It often depends on the specific person, and they or their family will help come up with a plan specific to the client’s needs.
Some common tasks are:
· Light housekeeping
· Laundry and ironing
· Shopping and/or errands
· Nutritious meal prep and/or light cooking
· Medication reminders or delivery
· Assistance with personal hygiene (bathroom, dressing, showering)
· Monitoring of vital signs or disease symptoms
· Providing emotional support and companionship
· Managing or overseeing finances
· Managing difficulties such as aggression, wandering off, or hallucinations
· Designing a care plan with other caregivers, therapists, and/or doctors
· Coordinating or dealing with family members who want (or do not want to be) involved in the care
If you work with a client long-term, many of these duties and needs might change with their situation and as their age, disability, and/or disease progress. If you are concerned about performing certain tasks, make sure that what you will and will not do is clear in your interview with the client (or their family) but remember that giving a person what they need in the moment is the most important.
If these tasks seem to require constant care, then a live-in caregiver is an option.
Why Would Someone Need Live-In Care?
An elderly client might need live-in care for a variety of reasons. Maybe they need care overnight that someone must be present to perform. Maybe they had hourly care early on, but their needs have progressed. Maybe they need someone in their home at all times for safety and an extra set of eyes and ears in case of emergency, or simply for companionship.
Some potential reasons for live-in care might require skills in certain areas:
· Personal care: bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, grooming
· Household care: cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping
· Health care: medication management, transportation to physician’s appointments, and/or physical therapy
· Emotional care: companionship, meaningful activities, conversation
Live-in care does not necessarily mean that you are on the clock 24/7, though, even if the client needs full-time assistance. Oftentimes two caregivers switch shifts or days so that your needs can be met as well.
Either way, whether you give care hourly, daily, or full-time, there are many qualities one should innately have or try to develop to become a successful caregiver.
Necessary Qualities for an Elderly Caregiver
The elderly population requires a special set of skills in a caregiver. Each client will have their own personality, needs, and preferences, so some of these might be more important than others depending on whom you are caring for; however, it is important to have a foundation of strength in all or most of these skills.
Potential important qualities are:
· Sense of humor
· Optimistic or positive attitude
· Determination and tenacity
· Initiative, self-starter
· Emotional intelligence, empathetic listener
· Good at prioritizing tasks, multi-tasker
· Generous, giving nature
Generally, elderly caregivers need a high school diploma or a GED. Some jobs in a facility will also require a caregiver to have completed a training program or come in with plenty of experience. Families might require this as well if they have high standards or want to know that the person caring for their elderly person is highly qualified.
These training programs are often offered by the Red Cross or other healthcare organizations, and they can give you a competitive edge as well as the foundational skills and training to be successful in your job. These programs or classes usually cover things such as first aid and CPR, safety, personal care, and emotional boundaries.
Elderly companion care is another form of elderly caregiving that is specifically for emotional or social care. An elderly companion caregiver does not perform medical tasks and is not responsible for those types of tasks. Oftentimes, an elderly person can take care of their own physical or medical needs but simply wants someone to be there with them to talk to, pass the time, or socialize with. This could be a good way to gain experience and references before jumping into a medically responsible position.
How Are Caregivers Paid?
Many insurance companies or elderly financial plans cover in-home care, be it hourly or full-time. Caregiving may be supplemented or subsidized by these plans, and depending on the amount or level of care a client or their family want to hire out for, they may pay out of pocket for some of the costs.
Oftentimes, elderly care is paid for out of pocket at the beginning, and then once more is needed or a person’s situation warrants it, they begin to use insurance to cover more and more of the cost.
Services that often cover in-home caregiving include:
· Long-term insurance
· Worker’s compensation plans
· Veteran’s benefits
· Social Security Disability Income
Medicaid, which should not be confused with Medicare, is a federally funded program, but Medicare does not cover ongoing in-home care, even for the elderly. Medicaid will cover some types of long-term care for people who are on fixed or limited incomes and who meet certain eligibility requirements. These requirements can vary from state to state.
Some states also offer a program called PACE, which stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. This is an offshoot of Medicare (which typically does not cover in-home care) and provides services to people who usually would need care in a nursing home. With this program, people who normally would need to live in a facility have the option and accessibility to stay at home in their comfortable environment.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) are national programs available all over the United States. They provide counseling and assistance to people who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, so they can help a person find resources to cover long-term care in their home.
It can be difficult to find ways to pay for in-home care, but the above state options should be a good start to finding compensation if you are helping a client find new ways to cover their expanding needs.
A caregiver often becomes like part of the family themselves, which is a very emotional role to fill. Make sure that caregiving is something that brings you joy and fills your cup because you can’t give from an empty one.
At the same time, it is important that boundaries are set from the beginning. Remember to care for your client first and foremost, but if you are being asked to do things that you are uncomfortable with or that you feel you are not being compensated appropriately for, have a conversation with your employers right away so that the problem doesn’t get harder to talk about.
If you think that caregiving might be something you would be good at, make sure you have certifications and qualifications that would make someone comfortable hiring you to care for their aging, vulnerable loved one. You must make the client (and their family) feel safe, secure, and listened to, as well as show that you are honest, trustworthy, and that you have the client’s best interests at heart.