As our loved ones get older and start to require more help with day to day tasks, adding a caregiver to the team can be a huge benefit, making it possible for them to live a fairly normal life while remaining in the home. Understanding the role of a caregiver will allow us to set clear and manageable expectations and help us form comprehensive and complete care plans for our loved ones.
What is a Caregiver?
A caregiver helps care for someone who can not care for themselves. Those in need of a caregiver could include older adults, those living with a disability, children, someone who is ill, or in recovery (medlineplus.gov).
Caregivers are formal or informal. A formal caregiver is a paid professional who will have the required training and education related to the position. An informal caregiver is usually a family member or a close family friend, who often works for free (hopkinsmedicine.org).
There are a few different types of formal caregivers that range in services provided and training:
- Personal Care Aides (PCAs) , or companions, help with household duties such as meal prep, light cleaning, and laundry etc. They can provide companionship and encouragement, as well as help with transportation to appointments and shopping. PCAs are generally not licensed and are unable to help with medical and physical tasks (rothkofflaw.com).
- Home Health Aides (HHAs) can monitor vitals and the patient’s condition, help with personal activities like bathing, changing, and going to the bathroom, as well as provide companionship and help with light cleaning (www.aarp.org).
- Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) can monitor patients for changes in their condition, help set up medical equipment, change bandages, clean catheters, offer walking assistance, and help with a range of motion exercises. They can also offer support for personal hygiene tasks as well as helping with meal prep and changing bedding.
- Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) can provide medical care and support that other types of caregivers are not qualified to give such as administering medications, shots, changing Ivs, tube feedings, and more. Some LPNs will have further licensing in areas such as Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy.
How Do You Find a Caregiver?
The first step towards finding a caregiver is to have a clear understanding of the needs of our loved one. The level of medical help required will have the biggest impact on what type of caregiver we need to search for. If they need help with administering medicines, IV bags, cleaning and replacing catheters, and things of that sort, a medically licensed caregiver will definitely be the way to go. If they need help with daily household activities such as cleaning, meal prep, and grocery shopping, a companion or personal care aid with less licensing would suffice.
With our needs clearly identified, we can either hire our caregiver through an agency or look for a private individual. The pros of going through an agency include:
- Background checks for all employees
- Licensed and insured
- Backup coverage available
- Easy to upgrade care when needed
Some cons of hiring through an agency are:
- The cost is usually higher going through an agency.
- Not a lot of control over the caregiver assigned to you.
- A minimum amount of hours of care is usually required
- Less flexibility with duties, overtime, and holidays.
If deciding to use an agency, contacting our loved ones insurance to find out if they cover any of the expense and if they have a list of approved agencies, is a great place to start.Here are the pros of going with a private individual:
- Flexible scheduling is easier with an individual, who is more likely to be willing and able to work a strange schedule.
- Less expense since there is no agency taking a percentage of the pay.
- The rules will be made by the loved one and their family, instead of by the agency.
- An individual is more likely to be flexible with the tasks required.
- Personality may be a better fit.
Some cons of hiring a private individual could be:
- Lack of coverage when the individual has an emergency or needs time off.
- Individuals will need to be screened and interviewed by family instead of an agency.
- Training is not standardized as in an agency and could vary greatly from person to person.
- Ultimately the family is responsible for everything, including tax paperwork and addressing complaints.
- An individual may not have the insurance coverage that an agency would.
Another great way to make this decision is to reach out to the community to ask for referrals and recommendations. Learning from the experience of the people around us is always smart. Here are some of the top things to look for in a senior caregiver.
Caregiver vs Housekeeper
A housekeeper is a paid worker whose duties include the overall cleanliness of the house. They take care of tasks such as:
- Deep Cleaning
- Take out the trash
They do not have the training required to focus care on one person, they generally focus on the house (mycareconcierge.com).
A caregiver on the other hand is focused on the care of one person. They may do light cleaning duties, but only when it is related to the hygiene of the person they are caring for. Here are some examples of tasks a caregiver may perform:
- Changing the bed linens of the care recipient
- Sweeping and mopping the floor of the room the care recipient
is staying in.
- Laundry of the the care recipient
- Making light meals and cleaning up after.
- Cleaning up any messes made while performing care.
Caregivers are there to focus on the health and personal care of our loved one. They are not a general helper we can leave lists of chores to do.
How to Manage Expectations
The best way to manage expectations is to have a clear understanding of what we need help with. Before interviewing any agencies or individuals, take the time to make an organized list of all of the tasks needed. Do most of them fall under daily housekeeping? Exactly what kind of medical support is required and how often? Having these expectations clearly set out and defined will ensure that the person we bring onboard is on the same page.
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