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How to become a caregiver – the definitive guide

Feb 25, 2022 · 5 minutes to read

Happy nurse and elderly woman sitting in wheelchair enjoying outdoor treatment session.

Caregivers are an essential part of the nation’s medical landscape. You provide much needed care and support to others, whether it’s a patient you are assigned to or your own family member who needs extra assistance. You often serve as a link between the patient and their doctors and can provide crucial insight into their health and wellbeing.

When considering caring as a job or volunteer, it’s crucial to understand that “caregiver” isn’t a catch-all phrase for all types of support. There are numerous types of caregivers, each with its own set of abilities — and, in some cases, credentials.

What Does Being a Caregiver Involve?

As people grow older, they typically require assistance with the tasks of everyday living, such as household activities. In such cases, family members may decide to enlist the help of a caregiver. Essentially, a caregiver is a paid professional, such as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or Medicare-certified home care nurse, who is recommended by a physician, neighbor or family friend.

If you aspire to become a caregiver, you would benefit from researching the types of roles that are available—volunteer, non-medical, or skilled caregivers—so you can identify which of the three types of carers is best for your specific background and skill set.

Volunteering as a caregiver

Many non-profit organizations and hospices rely on volunteer caretakers, and they frequently provide specialized training to people interested in working for them. However, if you have an older neighbor or acquaintance who needs help, you may find yourself giving your skills in a less formal manner. Volunteer caregivers are frequently invited to spend a few hours each day with a senior since this low-pressure setting can help ease the senior into the notion of having a caretaker without making them feel inferior or intimidated.

Before you commit to volunteering, it’s critical that you establish clear boundaries. Consider drafting a caregiver agreement to inform the senior and their family and loved ones about your abilities and willingness to help. If your situation or the needs of the senior change, make sure you maintain open channels of communication.

Getting a job as a non-medical caretaker

Non-medical caregiver responsibilities include providing meals, washing, grooming, issuing medicines, walking or transit help, doing errands, and providing social support to both seniors and family caregivers in need of assistance. A companion caregiver is untrained in medicine and is only concerned with the requirements of the elderly person.

Companions are individuals who keep an adult or senior company by talking to them, accompanying them during exercise, and taking them to appointments. They can also help with modest housework tasks and a number of other responsibilities. They can assist with care activities such as bathing, clothing, and eating that the patient may be unable to do on their own.

Regulations for caregiver training differ from state to state. Many states recommend but don’t mandate an eight-hour certification program, while others need an eight- or ten-hour certification, and still others do not ask for any kind of accreditation. In Vermont, non-medical caregivers must pass a state test; however, Vermont is the only state that mandates this. Some states mandate background checks, and homecare placement agencies typically provide the necessary training to meet these requirements.

Working as a non-medical caregiver can be done through an agency or on your own. When employed via an agency, non-medical caregivers typically earn $15 to $25 per hour, and the majority of them are paid more on weekends and holidays.

How to Become a Skilled Caregiver

Training is required to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), albeit the particular training varies by jurisdiction. Although there is a federal minimum, each state establishes its own criteria for training and competence assessment. Skilled caregivers often earn significantly more than non-medical caretakers; however, pay varies depending on the area.

Some states need 75 hours of training (the federal minimum), while others demand as much as 120 hours. CNAs are often evaluated on their abilities to take blood pressure measurements, apply compression stockings, and perform partial bed baths, among other skills. A GED or high school diploma is a basic requirement for all CNAs, and CNA training programs are often provided in trade schools or community colleges. Make sure that any program you’re thinking about is approved by the nursing board in your state.

Protecting yourself on the job

Once you have chosen your caregiver path, you may want to consider how you will protect yourself while you are working. Accidents can happen at any time and to anyone. Even if you are highly skilled and always work carefully, it may be better to prepare for the worst—just in case.

Working closely with a patient and their family creates potential risks for medical and non-medical caregivers. Advice that you give to the patient could be misinterpreted with bad results. Your actions could cause the patient to injure themselves. Or, you might accidentally damage one of their belongings.

These are just a few of the things that could go wrong, and if they did, you might be expected to pay to fix the situation. This is where business insurance could help. Rather than paying from your own pocket, your insurance policies would cover these expenses for you. So rather than worrying that a simple mistake might derail your career, business insurance can help caregivers work with more confidence.

Learn more about caregiver insurance, and start getting quotes now.

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