COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. The world is at war with a pandemic, and the front line heroes are our doctors, nurses and caregivers. With the world focusing on battling a virus and celebrating the brilliant work our health services are doing, there are some unsung heroes all around the globe. The in-home caregivers.
An in-home caregiver can be a nurse who visits or lives with you, or it could be a close family member. There are lots of parents and children over the world that have dedicated their lives to looking after vulnerable people.
What does a caregiver do?
This depends on a multitude of factors. From how old the patient is, to their medical condition. It’s quite challenging to cover all aspects of their job. Still, it will range from helping with usual daily routines, such as washing, dressing and eating lunch to specific medical treatments to improve quality of life. The diversity of patients and conditions means there is often a care team in place. This would be common in households where a parent is looking after a child with a complicated medical condition. While the parent can take care of the daily routines and giving medication, a paid caregiver would visit daily to help with procedures and general medical practices.
A typical day would involve waking up the person they care for, ensuring all the personal care needs are taken care of before making breakfast. They are responsible for social care, exercise and medications. They also will have tasks to run outside the home, such as collecting prescriptions. Lunch and doctors appointments throughout the afternoon and helping ensure the person they care for gets enough rest.
For patients with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, evenings can be the most challenging time. It can also be when the caregiver is at their most exhausted.
A caregiver is responsible for everything a person does or needs that most of us take for granted every single day.
How do you become a caregiver?
Caregivers looking after a family member will often become the primary carer out of choice, or circumstance. Most parents would want to take control of their child’s care, and many children desire to take care of their elderly or vulnerable parents. There isn’t any formal training or qualifications if you are a carer for a family member. However, there is a lot of support. This comes from highly qualified professional caregivers, doctors, nurses and a network of charities and benefits that offer support not just to the person in need of care, but also to the other family members.
If you want to become a professional caregiver, you will need to train. A Certified Nursing Assistant must have a high school diploma or equivalent. They must also complete state-approved training. Usually, the requirements are to complete a minimum of 75 hours of training. After their training is complete, they must pass an exam to gain their certification. They will also need to have a clean background and in most cases are required to be CPR certified.
You may choose to specialise in certain areas. For example, you might choose to care for children with complicated illnesses such as epilepsy. This can be a very rewarding job as you will not only improve the life of a child, but you will also be helping give parents precious time to spend with their other family members.
Carers such as this may need to understand some technical equipment such as an ambulatory EEG, this records the electrical activity in the brain that can be used at home to prevent stressful trips to the holiday. You would need to be confident in using equipment like this and in keeping parents relaxed.
Trust and integrity will be paramount if you are a professional caregiver. You will be working in peoples homes and with very vulnerable people. You need to develop a strong bond with both the person you care for and their family and close friends.
What steps should I take if I want to be a family caregiver?
It’s imperative to learn everything you can about the condition of your family member. While you may feel you are the best person to care for them, some medical conditions are so debilitating that you might find it too emotionally distressing to give your full-time devotion to. Research and read as much material as you can find, you should also get in touch with local groups and discuss the reality of caring for a member of your family. If you decide you want to move forward, it will be a demanding but rewarding job.
Discuss treatment options, possible complications and the future with the several different doctors.
If you find yourself in a sudden situation, such as your partner suffers from a stroke, you may not have as much time to learn about the condition and outlook, as if you are starting the journey with a parent suffering from dementia. Learning on the job is hard, but you can do it. You also won’t be alone.
Check your insurance if you are caring for children, or your partner or parents insurance, this can help you understand what treatments are covered. You may also discover there are public programs that you can access. Please speak to an insurance advisor, and they will help you break down the jargon and work out what options you have.
It will help if you remember you are not in this alone. Make sure you talk to all your family members. It’s possible they will be passionate about sharing the care or may have had other ideas. Whatever their involvement, you should discuss all the important decisions with them. This is especially important when it comes to medical care and treatment plans.
As hard as it is to talk about, you may also need to make upsetting decisions about their future care. This is something you should discuss with the person who is receiving care and providing they are of sound mind, you should always respect their choices, no matter how upsetting this could be for you.
There are lots of useful resources and you need to reach out to your community. There may be a local adult daycare centre which can give you peace of mind should you need to attend any emergency appointments yourself.
Although the person you are caring for may have changed dramatically, depending on their condition, it is really important to try and share some normality where possible. This could be as simple as listening to music or watching movies. For those who are still mobile, it could include a very gentle sport.
For children, you should try to remember that no matter how severe the condition, children love adventure and new things. Research local farms and attractions and give your child surprises to enjoy. Research says that spending time with horses or dogs can be very soothing for both the elderly and the young, so if appropriate, find out what is available to you locally.
What if I can no longer care for my family member?
There is always someone on hand to talk through options with. Everyone in the care industry is empathic and understands the incredible job you have been doing. You might discover there is extra help which can free you during the day so you can return to work but still allows you to live with the person you have been caring for.
It is crucial to take care of yourself and ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the position you are in.
Whether you are a professional carer or a family carer, you are an incredibly special person doing something extraordinary for a unique human.