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Senior Caregiver Jobs and Careers

A career in non-medical caregiving is ideal for compassionate individuals who have a strong desire to help other people live their daily lives to the fullest but who don't necessarily want to undergo extensive medical training such as nursing school or other intensive programs. The most typical charges caregivers tend to are the elderly, patients needing post-op care and individuals with acute or chronic illnesses.

Caregivers provide a meaningful service and can be rewarding for those who truly have a passion for the work. There are many environments that employ non-medical caregivers such as client's homes, assisted living communities, hospice, nursing homes, group homes, day services programs, and post-surgical rehabilitation facilities. Such workers are employed under a variety of position titles such as:

  • Live-in/Live-out Caregivers
  • Elderly Caregivers
  • Full-time/Part-time Caregivers
  • Home Health Aides (Certified and Non-certified)
  • Personal Care Assistants (Certified and Non-certified)
  • Nursing Assistants (Certified and Non-certified)

Before delving into the educational requirements, training, salary and outlook of being employed in these positions, let's explore the various responsibilities and skill sets it takes to be an effective caregiver.

Responsibilities and Duties of Caregivers

Some of the most common and essential job functions of caregivers include the following:

  • Ensuring the patient's highest level of well being at all times while under your care
  • Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs) — hygiene, dressing, eating, etc.
  • Light housekeeping such as changing linens, laundry, dusting, vacuuming and taking out garbage
  • Planning and/or preparing meals
  • Running errands and transporting patients to appointments, etc.
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Assisting with medication reminders, dispensation and documenting their use when updating health charts.
  • Helping patients participate in moderate or light exercise as recommended by their physician
  • Promoting mental engagement through companionship, brain games or memory books
  • Keeping daily care notes to inform families, agencies and medical providers of any significant changes in behavior or condition

***Please note: Assistance and actions related to medications and intensive medically related care are often only actionable by caregivers with certifications and proper training. These may include:

  • Administering certain medications or injections to patients
  • Managing IVs and catheters
  • Caring for severe wounds from injuries or surgery

Desirable Personal Skill Sets of Caregivers

Care facilities, private clients and agencies generally are looking for individuals with certain personal traits. Occasionally, these characteristics are considered more of an asset to certain employers than education and experience. Do you have these innate skills?

  • Attention to Details
  • Time Management Skills
  • Strong Problem Solving Abilities
  • Excellent Written and Verbal Communication
  • Superb Interpersonal Skills
  • Compassion for Others and a Positive Attitude

If so, read on to discover how to become a caregiver and more about training and experience within the field to boost employment opportunities and salary.

Experience and Training to Become a Caregiver

Training and experience requirements will depend on where you plan to be employed, the employer and the job position. However, some applicants only have hands-on experience and a high school diploma when getting started. Vocational training and certification are advisable for anyone seeking top opportunities as caregivers. Costs for training can range from several hundred dollars to a few thousand.

However, many employers will offer to provide on-the-job training or reimburse you for all or part of field-related educational endeavors if you agree to work for them for a set period. Many students may qualify for scholarships and government educational grants and/or loans. At bare minimum, we suggest that anyone seeking caregiving employment should take a CPR certification course for healthcare providers through the Red Cross or another reputable organization. Looking for better pay and more options? Consider getting certified in your field.

Caregiver Certifications for the Top Three Careers

While certification isn't always required, regulations vary from state to state. Furthermore non-medical caregiver positions (with exception of C.N.A's) may not require any formal education for entry level positions, but again this depends on the state and your employer. It's important to note that one must be certified in order to work for certain agencies and for any organization using government-funded programs like Medicaid or Medicare. Also, many long term care insurance policies require that caregivers be certified and/or managed by a licensed home care agency. Check your state's Department of Health website to learn more about your state's regulations.

Here's how to get certified as a personal care assistant, home health aide or a certified nursing assistant.

Personal Care Assistants — One can become a Certified Personal Care Assistant (C.P.C.A.) through reputable organizations such as the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHCH) Home Care University. Certification requires students to attend 75 classroom hours, pass a skills demonstration and a written test.

Home Health Aides — The NAHCH also offers a course to become a Certified Home Health Aide (C.H.H.A.) through Home Care University. This particular program requires 75 hours for credentialing in addition to passing a written exam and performing a skill assessment lab.

Certified Nursing Assistants — Most states require a certain amount of hour in both a classroom and clinical setting for at least 75 hours to become a C.N.A. This allows students to hone in on their skills in an active medical setting. Candidates must complete training labs, skills tests and care briefs to earn their credentials. A top course for Certified Nursing Assistants is available through The Red Cross.

Some specialized areas where one may choose to pursue education and certification within to broaden job and salary prospects include: Dementia and Memory Care, Respite, Concentrations on Specific Chronic and Acute Illnesses (Cerebral Palsy, HIV, etc.), Post-stroke Care, Mobility Issues and Post-Surgical/Accident Care.

Qualifications for Getting Into Certification and Education Programs: You'll need to be able to pass a national background check, drug test and a tuberculosis skin test. You'll generally need to have a diploma or a GED, and you may have to provide fingerprints for a national database for healthcare providers.

How Much Do Caregivers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), caregivers made a median income of 10.70 per hour according to Payscale.com. However, caregiver job salaries can pay up to $20 per hour and more for certified specialty providers and those with years of experience or who have unique skill sets.

National Averages for Caregiver Jobs:

  • Beginning Non-medical Senior Caregivers: $8 – $12
  • Experienced Non-medical Senior Caregivers: $9 – $15
  • Certified Nursing Aides (C.N.A.'s): $10 – $16
  • Certified Home Health Aides (C.H.H.A.'s) and Certified Personal Care Givers: $9 – $16

Employment Outlook for Caretakers

With an average of 8000 baby boomers retiring daily nationwide, caregiver jobs—especially those within elder care—will be in high demand in the coming years. The national census predicts that the senior population by 2050 will be over 83 million, and the Bureau of Labor and statistics estimates that caregiver positions will grow by 69% by the year 2020. For an example of the predicted surge in caretaker jobs in general, look at these Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2016 concerning just the field of Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides.

Number of Jobs: 2,927,600
Predicted Job Outlook: 2016-2026: 40% (Much faster than average)
Predicted Employment Change: 2016-2026: 1,179,500 additional caretakers

With such a bright future within the caregiver industry, now is a perfect time to give this work serious consideration to get an edge on experience and education.

Finding Caretaker Jobs

Most job applicants opt to work for an agency, which helps connect caregivers with finding clients, handling payroll and providing a structured work agreement. However, some caregivers prefer to work on a private client basis, especially those seeking stable, long term clients. Regardless of work preferences, be sure to include these skills on your resume and applications to boost your desirability.

  • Have a valid driver's license and a clean background.
  • List all experience in related fields—even if it's a relative or your children that you've cared for.
  • Include on your resume all certifications you hold such as in CPR, caregiver certifications, licenses and continuing education credits.
  • Being multilingual is considered a caregiver asset, so list all languages spoken.

Most importantly, let your resume and every communication or meeting with potential employers be a reflection of your passion and commitment to being an effective and loving caretaker.

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