As someone with years of experience, I know that becoming an in home caregiver is not a decision you should take lightly. Although it may sound like an easy and more laid back type of job, there is a lot involved in caring for elderly or disabled individuals, especially when the work is being done in their own homes.
Being an in home caregiver is not at all the same as caring for patients in a facility. It also means that you will not only be caring for seniors, but individuals that require assistance in their regular daily lives. The point of home health care (HHC) is to establish a bond with your clients, get to know them, and ensure their regular daily lives can continue to be as regular to them as possible.
These individuals usually don't want to stay in a facility. Even though they may not able to do everything they used to do, they would still rather hold to their own independence as long as possible in their own recognizable environment. This environment is usually their own personal home. So let's jump into the life of an in home caregiver, shall we?
In the life of a caregiver, the number one priority is to always ensure the safety of the individual you are assisting. Safety is, and always will be, at the top of the list of things a caregiver is responsible for while on the clock. Some people chose to grow an even larger bond with their clients by interacting with them while they are off the clock.
Being a caregiver is not like flipping burgers or stocking shelves. These are people's lives we are trying to ensure the safety of. Be proactive about safety precautions and always think ahead.
For example: If they are a fall risk, meaning they don't have good balance, keep walkways clear of anything they could trip over. This should not be done only while they are walking but all of the time. If they can't walk on their own, stand next to them and encourage them to hold your arm or if necessary, use devices such as a walker, cane, gate belt, etc.
Thinking ahead and knowing your clients medical conditions will help you along the way to ensure their safety. If you are unsure of their medical conditions or the specific care required for them, ask the office you work for before your shift begins. Doing so will mentally prepare you for the safety of your client. Their needs and safety should always be your number one priority.
The second aspect is companionship. We are not just clients and caregivers, WE ARE PEOPLE. Developing a bond with your client and getting to know them not only establishes companionship, it also develops trust. You are a stranger to them. They don't know you from Adam.
Allowing them time to get to know you, (without releasing too much personal information to your client for privacy reasons of course), can help them get used to the idea of you assisting them with their lives. These individuals had their own PERSONAL AND PRIVATE lives at one point just like everyone else. It can be a difficult transition to allow someone else to do things for you that seemed so easy to do on your own for so long.
Companionship develops that bond of trust between a client and a caregiver because as stated before, we are all people here and everyone would rather have a friend helping them than a stranger. Be that friend.
The next aspect is meal preparation. This may seem like a simple and common task in the life of an in home caregiver, as most people also cook for their own family so, no big deal right? Sorry, but it's not that simple. Each individual person is exactly that, an individual. We are all individually unique and in that aspect, enjoy different things.
I have one client who enjoys shrimp boiled in a curry and water mixed paste (yes I said paste). I have others who enjoy standard boiled shrimp in garlic butter. Others can't eat shrimp at all because they have an allergy. Each individual client will like different foods cooked in different ways.
It is ideal to assist them in their daily lives by learning what they like and how they like it prepared. It can help you resonate with your client more and make them more comfortable with you in their home knowing that you are trying your best to make their lives as recognizable and normal to them as possible. Get to know your client and their preferences so that you can assure them that what they are used to having in their lives can still remain.
Next would be housekeeping. This would also seem like a simple and common aspect, but like meal preparations, it is not as simple as you would think. Some people, like the statement above regarding foods, like their homes kept up in certain ways and others may be a little sensitive to the idea of someone else "taking over" their home keep.
I have had so many clients teach me so many different ways to fold something as simple as a towel. Trust me, there are a plethora of ways to fold a towel. Just like food, not everyone does things the same way. So again, get to know your client's preferences.
Remember that this is not your home. You are simply assisting them with their home and we should respect how they would like certain things done. Some cases are very different and must be handled very delicately. Some clients may be sensitive to the idea of someone else taking over their house cleaning, especially elderly women.
Back in the day, this was a main responsibility for a lot of women. Taking that away from them can make them feel uneasy or useless to see others doing "their job". Some people may also feel uneasy because seeing others do things they used to do often reminds them that life is not so easy for them anymore. So ease yourself into the idea of cleaning for them.
To be on the safe side, ask them first before cleaning anything. If they seem uneasy about it, ensure them that you only wish to help in any way possible. Always remember that before they get to know you, you are a stranger in their home. It may take some time for them to fully allow you to assist them with certain things. In those cases, just be there for them and assure them that you are available if they need anything at all.
The thing to remember that will assist you with all of these aspects of in home care is to get to know your client personally. These are people, not clothes you are hanging at a retail store. They have feelings, likes, dislikes, personal lives, family they want to keep close, etc. You can't just walk in cook, clean, and walk out.
It takes a strong mentality to do this kind of work. It is like adding a member to your own personal family. Not only will you need to live your own life and care for your own family, but you will have to keep up with their lives as well. Don't take an in home caregiver job lightly. Always keep in mind that your clients build a bond of trust with you to put their needs first while caring for them.
Ensuring their safety, helping them make their favorite meals, keeping their living environment clean and safe. All of these things are done so they can continue living their lives at home. Some people just need a little help to make that happen. That is where we come in. Always be the best you can be. Spread the love. Be a caregiver.
Thank you Gerry Allen for contributing this article.
These points are made based on a minimum of 4 years personal experience and the laws in the area of which I have worked. Not all aspects are placed in this order for all areas. Check you local laws and personal office you work for to ensure the care you personally provide is within your training and experience levels as well as your legal limits of care for your area or state.