What is a Caregiver and How Can They Help You or a Loved One?
Updated on: January 2023
Everyone needs a little help from time to time and while many seniors lean on the friends and family members for support, there may be some instances in which it’s necessary to seek additional assistance or long-term care. Any senior finding themselves in need of a little extra help in their daily life might benefit from the services of a family caregiver, but they are not always available for long-term care. In this case, a private duty home senior caregiver is the next best thing. These professionals may be the perfect answer for those who need assistance in non-medical aspects of their lives, which have become challenging as a result of aging.
Ultimately, private duty home caregivers do their jobs in order to make life easier for seniors
“Caregiver” is a general term referring to anyone who provides care for a person who needs extra help. This could mean a family caregiver, a respite caregiver, a home caregiver, or a primary caregiver, to name but a few. In the context of elderly care, this job title typically refers to a private duty home caregiver or senior caregiver. As the name suggests, private duty home caregivers perform care-related activities in the home and personal care, typically related to one’s everyday life and relieve the caregiver burden of a family member. These professionals do not work under the direction of a doctor or nurse and are not typically considered healthcare professionals, though there are some exceptions. For example, a home caregiver may perform physical therapy or other healthcare services as well.
Relieving the Burden
From driving to housekeeping and even simple companionship, private duty home caregivers, also known as private duty companions or private duty home care workers, are on a mission to make day-to-day life easier, safer and more comfortable for seniors who are still medically and physically fit enough to live at home. The scope of work for these professionals is broad and will likely vary on a case-by-case basis depending on what each specific client needs. In general, caregivers focus on activities of daily life (ADL), which includes bathing, grooming, dressing, going to the toilet, eating, and bodily mobility (walking). Some caregivers may expand beyond this scope and touch on different basic self-care functions while others may stay limited to very basic ADL assistance.
Mistakenly, people assume that there are no resources available to help with these personal tasks and, as a result, find themselves struggling to keep up with tasks they used to handle on a regular basis. Family members and friends may step in where they can, but, in many cases, this kind of support isn’t enough to cover all the necessary bases, leaving seniors to go it alone with everyday tasks that may become increasingly difficult over time.
Who Can Become a Caregiver?
Caregiver licensure and education requirements vary from state to state. Some states have no specific laws on the books regarding this kind of care while others do. As elder abuse becomes more of a concern, though, these laws are becoming increasingly common and may become much more specific and restrictive with time. The ultimate goal of this kind of regulation, of course, is to keep the patient safe. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance for anyone considering hiring a caregiver to do their due diligence and perform all the adequate research, background checks, and interviews before hiring a caregiver, even one who is hired through an agency.
Caregiver Agency Standard
Agencies may have their own specific rules and regulations that govern who they will and will not hire to do this kind of work. Some may require higher education while others may simply require experience. Regardless of whether your chosen caregiver is an independent professional or an agency employee, he or she should be personally suitable for a job that requires close interaction with a population that some people see as particularly vulnerable. Ideally, the people who become professional caregivers are united by their sense of compassion for people who need help and a fondness for seniors. Caregivers should be able to perform their duties competently and patiently without making the person in their care feel scared, intimidated, ashamed, or unsafe.
Should I Hire a Caregiver?
The two major motivating factors for hiring a caregiver are
- Desire for independence
- The ability to stay in one’s own home.
While residential care facilities can be a great choice for many seniors, not all people in this age group have the desire to leave their current homes and move into a managed community setting. Caregivers often serve as a midway point between complete independence and life in a residential care facility. Seniors who need some extra help and care but still feel comfortable managing most of their own affairs tend to thrive when they’re paired with the right caregiver.
The desire for independence and the ability to stay in one’s own home are two major motivating factors for hiring a caregiver.
Question to Ask Yourself
As for whether you should hire a caregiver, there are a few different questions to consider. If you’re thinking about hiring a caregiver for yourself, ask yourself, do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of effort you have to put into managing your daily life? If the idea of bathing, getting dressed, going grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up after yourself sounds exhausting to the point that you rarely do any of those things all in the same day anymore, a caregiver might be able to help.
Similarly, do you often feel frustrated by daily tasks and are starting to let things pile up around the house? If so, a caregiver might be the right solution. Anything from the inability to carry a laundry basket down the stairs in your house to a feeling of discomfort resulting from the fact that you can no longer lift your arms to style your hair can be a sign that it’s time to bring in some outside help to make your life easier and more enjoyable.
Support of Loved Ones
The decision to hire a caregiver is usually a personal one that is governed by several different considerations. In some cases, friends or family members may suggest that a senior hire a caregiver. Alternatively, these loved ones may offer to pay for caregiver services for a senior who may not be able to afford it. Some seniors may also come to realize that they’d like a little bit of extra help around the house. Everyone comes to hire their caregiver in their own way, but the motivations are always at least a little bit similar. For loved ones who might be interested in hiring a caregiver for someone else, pay attention to changes in the overall condition of their home or personal appearance.
For example, if your mother or uncle was once a person who kept an extremely tidy house and neatly manicured lawn, it may be surprising to suddenly notice that the grass is full of weeds and the house is dusty or even looking a bit dirty. While these kinds of changes can be a sign of something more serious, for many seniors, it’s a simple indication that physical activity isn’t as easy as it used to be and that some extra help may be needed to maintain previous standards. In these situations, a caregiver can be the right person to solve the problem in the long term.
Are Caregiver Services Covered by Medicare or Other Insurance Programs?
Confirm with Caregiver Agencies
Finances are a major obstacle for some seniors and because they aren’t regarded as medical professionals, many caregiver services aren’t covered by insurance. However, this varies greatly on a case-by-case basis so it can be helpful to get in touch with an individual caregiver or a private duty home caregiver agency to find out whether they accept insurance and how payment works for them.
Family and Friends Can Help
Loved ones can be quite helpful in this area as well, performing research and making calls for seniors. Some loved ones even offer to pitch in or foot the bill themselves, hiring the caregiver to visit grandparents, parents, friends, and neighbors who need some extra help.
Charitable Caregiver Services
It may also be possible to obtain caregiver services on a charitable basis. Organizations such as Meals on Wheels may provide certain specific services that a professional private duty caregiver would provide. However, these organizations may not dispatch individual caregivers to spend the amount of time and perform the range of tasks associated with professional caregiving. Still, even a little bit of help can go a long way, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a charitable organization if you need help with a service that charity provides to seniors. Loved ones can also reach out to these organizations on seniors’ behalf, making it easy to obtain care services when they’re available. It may also be possible to obtain caregiver services on a charitable basis.
Organizations such as Meals on Wheels may provide certain specific services that a professional private duty caregiver would provide. However, these organizations may not dispatch individual caregivers to spend the amount of time and perform the range of tasks associated with professional care giving. Still, even a little bit of help can go a long way, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a charitable organization if you need help with a service that charity provides to seniors. Loved ones can also reach out to these organizations on seniors’ behalf, making it easy to obtain care services when they’re available.
What to Look for When Hiring a Caregiver
Confirming Caregiver Qualifications
As with any service provider, it’s important to do your research and go through a careful selection process before you hire a caregiver. This is especially true because caregivers don’t have a standardized licensure or certification process. You’ll want to be sure your caregiver understand the work you’re asking them to do is reasonably qualified to do that work and is the kind of person you’d like to spend time with. By “reasonably qualified,” we mean that a caregiver should have some experience working with seniors and should be demonstrably competent in the areas you or your loved one needs assistance.
For example, a private duty home caregiver who’s hired to drive a senior to religious services every week should be a legally licensed driver with a clean driving record. A private duty home caregiver who also provides physical therapy should have the proper education and licensure and they should be able to provide verifiable proof of these credentials.
Check Credentials and References
Asking for proof of credentials and looking deeper than a simple description is normal in the caregiver selection process. A caregiver is trusted with the health, safety, and privacy of the seniors in their care and they must prove that they are worthy of this trust. This means that these professionals should be used to the idea of providing detailed resumes and references in addition to going through interviews and even background checks before they’re hired. Seniors and loved ones should be extremely skeptical of any caregiver who refuses to provide references and seems hesitant to be interviewed. Good caregivers themselves usually want to interview a potential client to make sure they’d be a good fit. Agencies should be willing to provide this information not only regarding the caregivers they hire but also about their own operations as a business.
Ask for Referrals
If you aren’t sure where to start looking for a caregiver, consider asking friends and community members if they know of anyone good. Doctor’s offices and other healthcare facilities that work with seniors on a regular basis may also have some suggestions. Religious organizations and other communities can also be a good resource for finding a suitable private duty home caregiver. However, even if you get a suggestion from someone you really trust, you should still go through the same rigorous screening and interview process to make sure the individual caregiver is a good fit.
Take your Time
The bottom line is that you need to look carefully into any individual caregiver or agency before signing a contract. Don’t hesitate to consider multiple different caregivers before making your final choice. This is someone you’ll be spending time with and may need to feel comfortable getting quite personal with. If you interview someone you don’t initially like very much, you may want to move on to a different candidate. Caregivers provide companionship benefits as well as practical services so it’s perfectly sensible to want to hire someone that actually seems pleasant to spend time with.
How to Talk to Seniors About Hiring a Caregiver
Family members and friends often see the need for a caregiver before the prospective caregiver client does. This often means that the idea of hiring a caregiver is suggested to rather than by a senior. In some cases, this suggestion doesn’t necessarily go very well at first. Some seniors may initially be hesitant to accept regular help from a stranger. They may be uncomfortable with the idea of a person they’ve never met before coming into their homes and becoming familiar with the ins and outs of their everyday lives. This can be especially true for seniors who feel some embarrassment or frustration as they show signs of aging. People who’ve never been social and have always valued their privacy may also be initially unenthusiastic about the idea of working so closely with another person and feeling vulnerable in this way.
Preparing for the Talk
Doing your research ahead of time and having good information is important when the time comes to talking about hiring a caregiver. There are multiple benefits to hiring a caregiver, which include assistance with daily duties and obligations, increased personal time and freedom, as well as gaining reliable help and companionship. As a family member you’ll know what possible resistance or issues they may have with making this change, so framing the conversation around the benefits of a caregiver to them personally is very important.
Some seniors may actually jump at the chance to have regular companionship and assistance. In these cases, the conversation typically focuses logistics such as deciding who to hire, how often they should come, what tasks the caregiver should perform and how to pay for these services. Even if the loved one you’re speaking to isn’t so enthusiastic, providing specific details can help turn the conversation around. This means that you’ll want to be prepared with information about how these professionals work and you may even want to have some specific companies and caregivers in mind to show the senior in question.
Be Sensitive and Stay Positive
In addition to good information, you’ll need to have a positive attitude. Approach the caregiver topic as a good idea, focusing on benefits and the ways in which a caregiver can improve your loved one’s life. The way you introduce the topic may have a big impact on how your relative reacts to your suggestion, so you’ll want to keep it light and focused on the ways in which a caregiver can help. It is important to be sensitive, of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to act as if you’re suggesting something insulting or bad. One way to remain sensitive is to avoid making statements that sound like accusations.
For example, a statement such as “it is dangerous for someone in your condition to drive” may be true and it may even be something your loved one has heard before from doctors and other professionals, but it’s still not a productive way of framing the issue. Saying something more supportive and exciting, like “wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to worry about all that traffic on the road when you go have lunch with your friends,” can make the idea of receiving assistance seem more like a benefit than a punishment. Ultimately, private duty home caregivers do their jobs in order to make life easier for seniors. Even the most proudly independent people can recognize when things that used to be easy are getting more and more difficult with time, even if they don’t like to admit it. Approaching the topic of a caregiver in a sensitive and strategic way will give these seniors the opportunity to accept much-needed help with minimal discomfort.