Why every senior caregiver should consider professional training
If you’re a senior care provider, you help aging individuals with their activities of daily living. You keep them company during your shift, and you care for them like they’re your own family. But to provide the best care and to fully connect with families you want to work with, it’s important to invest in your caregiving skills.
Hear what other senior caregivers say ongoing education has done for them and how you can benefit from it in your career.
Education and training ensures quality of care
Without specialized training and guidance from care professionals, you may feel inexperienced and unsure of what’s best for your charges. You may be trying your best, but lack of experience and knowledge can be a huge risk — to you and your charge.
“When I first started working with seniors, I felt like I didn’t know enough to properly care for my charges,” says Jerrica Allen, a registered nurse from Thornton, Colorado. “I also worried that my CNA certification didn’t give me the skills I needed to really connect with them.”
Professional elder care providers should be trained properly to provide the best quality of care possible. Continuing education, or “refresher” training, can remind you of best care practices. Frequent training also offers an opportunity to learn more about your newest senior charge, who will likely have different needs or conditions from your previous ones.
You need to be qualified to do the work
A senior care provider is not a medical professional. If you want to provide medical services to your charges, you will need the certifications to do so.
“Caregivers that provide any quality of living attention, such as giving showers, feeding and assisting in personal care, should be a certified nursing assistant,” says Dr. Barb Norvell, a podiatrist and vice chair of Podiatry at WellStar Atlanta Medical Center. “More complex medical attention, including passing of medications and administering medications, should be performed by a certified nursing assistant.”
It may actually be illegal in your state to provide medical services without the proper training, so make sure you are qualified and up to date on certifications.
Families trust your skills and experience
Families want to know you’re prepared and trained for anything that may happen. They’re putting their trust in you as a professional caregiver. Not having enough training or being underprepared is a big risk to your charge’s health. Families may also be looking for specialized care — and your training can make you an easy hire.
For example, elder individuals are more susceptible to health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. Caring for someone with a condition like Alzheimer’s may be beyond the scope of basic daily care some families can provide, and a care provider who has knowledge in this condition would be more appealing to that family as they seek to hire someone.
Knowledge prepares you for harder times
Part of providing care for seniors is, unfortunately, watching them age. If they have a severe medical diagnosis or are advanced in age, it can be very emotional for both you and the family. However, with the right training, you can actually be more equipped to help these families.
Sandy Griffin, LPN, hospice and palliative care nurse, and quality assurance coordinator at Hospice of South Louisiana, believes caregivers should study grief counseling and alternative care methods. Learning about bedside manner and how to communicate about death and illness can be a huge help, she says, as can discovering ways to distract your charges from pain or negative emotions.
“Art classes, book clubs and other social or private events to engage your charges will do wonders for them,” Griffin says.
There are plenty of great books you can read on the subjects of aging and death, including “The Art of Aging,” “Life’s Final Season” and “Being Mortal.” Finding a local hospice facility and asking if they have courses or resources for caregivers is another great way to get support and advice from people who are the real experts in “the hard stuff.”
Education reinforces your desire to care for others
When a family hires an elder care professional to look after a loved one, they want to find someone who is properly trained and experienced — and who really cares. It’s in your blood to care for others, and incorporating ongoing education and training into your work is the best way to do just that. At the most basic level, learning something new can reaffirm your desire to help others and may even lead you to your new family.