What’s A Caregiver?
A caregiver or home health aide is an individual that gives personal care to patients in a large variety of settings, although their role may vary greatly from one setting to another. Caregiving often takes place in the patient’s home, but may also be available in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and even hospitals. Often the patient is elderly, but sometimes an illness necessitates the need for a paid companion in the home to assist an adult or care for a child.
What Does A Caregiver Do In The Home?
Essentially, the main purpose of a home care helper is the responsibility they shoulder for assisting their patients with their physical and cognitive health. The variety of duties performed by the caregiver depends on the needs of the patient.
Some of the more common duties in the home environment include:
- Grooming assistance for brushing teeth, bathing, shaving, nail care and toileting as required.
- Monitoring medications and reminding patients to take medications.
- Assisting the patient with exercise, which may include simply providing help with walking around the house or moving in place.
- Helping the patient maintain their memory.
- Deciding the number of meals that are required to meet the patient’s nutritional needs.
- Preparing meals, then, cleaning up the items related to the meals.
- Performing necessary grocery shopping or errands with or without the patient.
- Check foods in the patient’s pantry for expiration dates.
- Providing conversation and companionship.
- Light housekeeping duties, such as dusting and vacuuming, making beds, doing laundry, and maintaining sanitation.
- Accompanying the patient to doctor appointments as necessary.
- Notifying doctors of any significant change in the patient’s condition.
More serious home situations may be supervised by a Senior Helper RN, who should complete a customized plan of care and supervise the home health aide.
Approximately 90 percent of dependent patients use the services of a home health care service or a family member to keep the patient at home, rather than in a nursing home. Patients who have mild to moderate cognitive impairment still want to be involved in decisions concerning their care and their life. A physician will often set the boundaries to ensure the responsibility for medical decisions do not fall on the shoulders of the home companion.
When is Caregiving Needed?
There are some simple ways to assess when a loved one might need to have in-home care. Does the person:
- Have trouble with their normal movement around the house such as getting from the bedroom to bathroom?
- Need medical assistance such as cleaning wounds or administering insulin?
- Need help with normal daily activities such as bathing and getting dressed?
Obviously, a person affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease needs help in the home. Changes in eating habits, personal hygiene, social habits and any safety issues that might occur in the home all need to be evaluated.
Hiring a personal companion for your loved one can also help relieve the stress on family members, and it assures the family members that their loved one is receiving proper care. This help can be critical if the family member doesn’t live near the loved one.
Is Caregiving Available Outside the Home?
Most seniors would like to have caregiving take place in their own home. There are situations, however, when the person who is ill will receive more appropriate care in an institution.
Caregivers working in an assisted living facility or nursing home, like home caregivers, assist patients with their activities of daily living. The health aide can also play an important role in helping patients experience meaningful leisure activities, which helps keep the patient’s mind active. Demonstrating compassion for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is essential. Often the companion works with pets, particularly dogs, cats or birds, as these pets can provide a great deal of pleasure for the patient. Sometimes caregiver working hours in these facilities can be irregular and include weekends or holidays.
Caregiving can be difficult work, whether the patient is a senior citizen, a parent, a spouse or a child with special needs. Family members are often caregivers, which can be quite stressful as they are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In these cases good caregiver resources may involve support groups, which can be quite helpful.
Caregiver resources should include information on the role of Medicare for patients. Specific classes that can provide useful training are often available to empower the companion or home care helper.
Resources are available at the following sites:
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/home.jsp Family Caregiver Alliance home page
http://www.caregiving.com/ A community of family caregivers sharing stories, support and solutions
http://www.caregiverresource.net/ Caregiver Resources.
http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/home.aspx National Caregivers Library full of useful information in all areas of caregiving
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/homecareservices.html U.S. Government resources about Home Care Services
http://www.medicare.gov/campaigns/caregiver/caregiver.html Information about caregiving from Medicare
http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/caregiver-stress.cfm#c Specific information about caregiver stress