Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Caregiver training essential to delivery of quality care

You need to hire a caregiver for a loved one. Perhaps you have a niece or nephew who needs a job, and who would love to help you. Maybe someone you know has recommended a good private caregiver they have used.

Hiring a private caregiver is a solution that many, many families use to assist in providing care to a loved one. Privately hired caregivers may be less expensive per hour than agency caregivers – and that makes sense when you realize that hiring an agency caregiver involves paying a portion of the wages of a supervisor and other support staff. For many families, the extra price is worthwhile because of the extra support they receive.

But for many families today, hiring a relative, neighbor, church friend or other private caregiver is simply the best solution to a challenging situation.

If this situation describes your current needs, here are some things to carefully consider:

1) Selecting a caregiver: Just because someone is available isn’t quite enough to qualify him as a good caregiver – although sometimes, out of desperation, that’s a major consideration. A good caregiver will have some personality traits that are more important than experience; traits like patience and caring, warmth and a sense of humor. The best caregivers are also creative problem-solvers – that skill allows them to provide care even when they don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing or have never done the task before. How do you know whether the person you’re considering has these traits? The best way is to look at the person’s history. If you don’t personally know this individual, talk to 2-3 people who have known the person for at least a few years. Ask about these traits, and try to determine if this is a part of the individual’s personality. Here’s the key when interviewing candidates: Past behavior is the best determinant of future behavior. This is not, unfortunately, the job to see if your nephew’s rehabilitation for anger management was successful!

2) Caregiver Training. There are no national requirements for training of in-home caregivers. There are some basic parameters for home health aides and nursing assistants, and some states that have specific requirements, but in general, for caregivers, on-the-job training is often the only training they may receive. That’s not enough for you and your loved one. Demand at least a certificate level of training – it’s now easily available, and affordable, too, through a variety of classes as well as fully online through web-based training professionals.

Caregiver training is essential for in-home, privately hired caregivers. They have no support or supervisor to call when they run into questions about best care. Unlike a nursing assistant, there is no nurse down the hall they can contact for nursing or medical questions.

They may have no one to relieve them if the stress of caregiving becomes too great on a particular day, evening or night. That, and the fact that in-home private caregivers often spend hours alone with the person in their care, makes them vulnerable to stepping over the line from caregiving to abuse or neglect. This can be unintentional, as when the caregiver simply snaps and slaps at the hands of a person who won’t stop grabbing at him. It can be refusing to answer a call for help, if it’s been one of those nights and the caregiver simply can’t go assist one more time.

Any of these scenarios can happen, and happen without your awareness. Training – high quality, thorough skills building – can help prevent abuse and neglect while it builds stronger skills for coping with caregiving tasks and with caregiver stress.

Finally, consider training that provides the caregiver with an opportunity for career advancement, or with the ability to get their services covered by long-term care insurance policies. Courses that are provided by valid training organization, especially Certificate programs, will help you and your caregiver receive additional benefits beyond improved skills.

3) Stay in touch with the caregiver. Ask the private caregiver to keep track each day with notes about what he did that day, and what the person in his care required. You can use something as basic as a spiral notebook and a pen. Review his notes at least weekly, and talk to the caregiver about events he records. Give the caregiver your cell phone number and the number of at least one or two other people he can call in case of an emergency. Let the caregiver know that you understand that caregiving can be stressful, and give him permission to call you if he ever feels overwhelmed by the job.

Private in-home caregivers work today for many families all over the U.S. With some good planning, training and support, you can make it work for your family, too.

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