There are different types of caregivers and the more common caregiving becomes, the more confusing it can be to understand what a caregiver is.
Let’s start with an important distinction: there are family caregivers and professional caregivers. This article is primarily about professional caregivers, for which there is an growing demand across the United States and elsewhere.
Break It Down
The word “caregiver” seems to have the meaning right in it: to give care. Well, that’s nice, but what does it really mean? A caregiver is someone who cares for another person who—due to age, illness, or injury—cannot currently take care of their own daily needs independently.
When someone is hired to provide care, the job can entail a variety of duties as well as require specific training and experience. Typically, people need a professional caregiver to:
- provide transportation to and from medical appointments
- prepare healthy meals
- manage medications
- be a meaningful companion to help ward off loneliness and possibly depression
- keep the living space clean, safe and comfortable
- assist with bathing and grooming
There can be additional needs, but these listed are the most common reasons that a person hires a professional caregiver either as they recover from a surgery, illness, or adapt to changing abilities as they age.
Caregivers may also be called care partners (to reflect that the relationship involves giving and receiving for both parties) and home health aides. Whatever the title, this is an hourly wage job, not a salaried position, and benefits such as health insurance will vary.
Are You Qualified?
If you were hiring a stranger to spend time with your Grandma, your elderly father, or some other loved one who was vulnerable due to circumstances beyond their control, you’d want someone trustworthy and up to the job. For this reason, many caregiver jobs are open only to Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and they work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). A CNA is not a nurse and cannot provide any type of medical care.
To become a CNA, a person needs a high school diploma or GED, plus additional CNA training from a legitimate online course or other type of school. For example, The Red Cross offers CNA training.
Other caregiver jobs may only require—or offer—CPR training in order to be qualified to work as a caregiver.
If a caregiver has the qualifications, the next step is a background check. These checks vary by state and by what responsibilities the caregiver will have. Say the client needs to be driven to the grocery store or a doctor’s office, the caregiver will have to provide a valid driver’s license and current auto insurance.
Once hired, a caregiver might work in someone’s private home, or with them in an assisted living facility, nursing home or other type of environment where care is needed for the individual. Caregivers may work a few hours per day with a single client, or live with them and be available overnight and on weekends too.
Care and Care Alike
When a caregiver is hired to help an individual, they may be helping many members of a family. At the beginning of this article, family caregivers were mentioned. A family caregiver is someone who is not usually paid to help a loved one, but they might do many of the same things a professional caregiver can do.
In many instances, a family caregiver just needs a little break from helping out so they hire a professional. This might be because an adult daughter isn’t able to help her elderly father in and out of the shower or because an adult son travels for work and can’t be there as much as he’s needed, and in other scenarios the care needs are profound and surpass the capacity of family members. Some states have created programs which allow for family members to be paid for caregiving, but each case must be approved based, in part, on financial merits.
Many people who work as caregivers say that they are natural nurturers or tend to be genuinely caring. These are the people who really succeed in this job, as their kind instincts are rewarded with appreciation from their clients who are grateful for the help.
If you’re interested in working as a caregiver, see if there is a job opening near you by going to this website.