The dictionary defines a caregiver as “a person who cares for someone who is sick or disabled.” But ask anyone who works as a caregiver and you will learn that it is much, much more:
• Knowing you are giving the best possible care
• Supporting a family during a difficult time or situation
• Helping someone to remain at home
• Treating the patient with dignity and respect
Being a paid caregiver is not for everyone. It can be demanding work, requiring physical stamina and the ability to remain calm during challenging days. But many caregivers express satisfaction with their jobs. They can become close to the patients and their families, leading to a special bond.
Most caregivers have a high school diploma or equivalent. Depending on your state, training may be done on the job by a nurse or a mentor. If your state requires formal training, you can find it at a vocational school or a home health agency.
Pay for a caregiver currently averages $10.77 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need for paid caregivers is expected to skyrocket 70% as Baby Boomers grow older. Families can provide varying degrees of care for their loved one, but many rely on outside resources, whether by using an agency or directly hiring a caregiver.
What qualities and skills do you need to be a successful caregiver?
• Compassion and Empathy: You are providing personal care for someone who is ill, frail, and unable to take care of him or herself. Families need support, as well. You should be able to put yourself in their situation and act with sensitivity and kindness.
• Good Communication: Caregivers interact with patients, families, healthcare providers, and visitors. You’ll need to be able to talk to all of them in an appropriate manner. For some jobs, you may also be asked to document your observations, as well as vital signs, medications, or other parts of care.
• Time Management: Patients are usually on schedules, including medications, treatments, and appointments. Caregivers must make sure that the patient is ready for everything.
• Following the Care Plan: All patients have some type of medical management plan which includes everything from medications to daily treatments to emergencies. The patient’s well-being depends on everyone adhering to the Care Plan.
There is one other important requirement for all caregivers, paid or unpaid. You must learn to take care of yourself. Caregiving can be satisfying, but it can also be intense and stressful. You will need to find time for yourself to do what you love: be with your own family and friends, exercise, enjoy your hobbies, eat well, and get plenty of rest. You can only help others when you’re at your best. Make self-care a priority from your first day as a caregiver.
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