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These senior care certifications and trainings can improve your career

Aug. 7, 2019
These senior care certifications and trainings can improve your career

You enjoy working with seniors and have plenty of experience providing companionship and assistance. Whether you work in a family home, in a skilled nursing facility or with a senior health agency, you are committed to the care of elders. So where do you take your senior care career from here?

Adding trainings and certifications can be a pivotal step in enhancing the level of care you’re able to provide. Additional training and certifications can also open doors to more niche positions, such as working in palliative care or with a senior who has dementia. If you're serious about a part-time or full-time career as a senior care provider, ramping up your training will help to set yourself apart from other care providers. 

Check with any national organizations you choose for your training, the Better Business Bureau, and local, state or federal agencies to see what the minimum requirements are for working as a senior care provider in your area. To do so, you can search “senior care requirements in (your state),” or check out compiled lists like this one from In the Know.

Ready to start looking for additional training and certifications? Here are a few caregiver courses to consider when working with seniors. Cost ranges are based on the specific programs listed in each section and are likely to vary for other courses.

1. Basic caregiver certification

Required: No. 

There are a lot of resources out there for basic caregiver certification. In these certification programs, you may learn how to assist in activities of daily living, how to handle emergencies and how to navigate caregiver-family relationships. 

Where to get certified: You can find a caregiver training program that is recognized by your state’s department of health or choose an online program like Caregiverlist’s basic training course or Care Core Certification by the Institute for Professional Care Education. Training is usually available at local colleges and vocational schools, as well as hospitals, so check your local institutions for programs.  

Cost: $50-$79, depending on the program you choose. 

2. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training

Required: Yes, if you provide medical care, including providing medications, wound cleaning, hygiene support, etc. It’s also required in many states if you work for an agency or in a long-term care facility.

As a nursing assistant, or CNA, you’ll learn valuable nurse aid-related knowledge and skills that can benefit your work as a senior care provider. If you’re looking to expand your job search, CNA training can prepare you for roles in various health care settings, like nursing facilities, hospice care, rehabilitation hospitals, etc.

Where to get certified: Nurse Assistant Training (NAT) provided by the American Red Cross teaches best practices for safety, providing basic care and handling ill patients. NAT training is great for caregivers in states that do not require the exact “Certified Nursing Assistant” designation. If your state does require the CNA title, the Red Cross also offers CNA training in some states. Your local college or nursing school also likely has a CNA certification program you can enroll in. You can find information about your state’s CNA requirements here.

Cost: $1,200-$4,500, depending on location, institution and curriculum.

3. Home Health Aide license (HHA)

Required: No.

Similar to basic caregiver certification, a Home Health Aide license is a useful certification to have under your belt. With this certification, you’ll learn basic medical care, patient care, emergency response and patient support in the home. Because home health care aides are not required to have a college degree or high school diploma, HHA certification can add credibility to your resume, as well as provide critical training. 

Where to get certified: The National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers education and credentials through Home Care University. Home Care University has video lectures, interactive learning experiences and other resources available for care providers. You may also find local training programs at vocational or nursing schools. The Red Cross also offers some HHA programs, depending on the location. 

Cost: $25 for some individual classes, up to $800 for a full certificate program.

4. First aid and emergency care

Required: No.

Many care providers are likely CPR-certified, but you can add to your toolkit with additional emergency training such as in first aid. This can prepare you for simple cuts, burns and bruises that can help with your charge, as well as teach you how to manage larger medical emergencies until EMS arrives. 

Where to get certified: The Red Cross is one of the best places to go for a wide range of emergency and medical training. They offer:

Other organizations that offer this type of semi-medical training include EMS Safety Services and the American Heart Association. You may also find some basic emergency training from your local emergency services or fire station; some hold free events for the public. If you work for an agency, this sort of training should be routinely provided.

Cost: $65-$105, depending on area and course availability. 

5. Hospice, palliative care and end-of-life care

Required: No.

Part of caring for seniors may include watching them fall ill or reach the end of their life, and there are a number of certifications and trainings that can help you navigate this emotional time

Where to get certified: Organizations like the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offer a wide range of end-of-life courses, including Being with Dying: Compassion and Presence and Care of the Actively Dying

Alicia Allen, charge nurse at a large hospital in Lafayette, Colorado, also recommends checking with inpatient hospice units for training. 

“Some facilities, whether private or inpatient, will offer training for caregivers of patients at the end of life,” she says. 

You may also find hospice care providers in this setting who can answer your questions and provide resources for what can be the hardest times in a senior care provider’s work. 

Cost: $35-$150, depending on location and program.

6. Certifications for specific conditions and needs

Required: No.

Do you have patients who have specific medical conditions or needs beyond activities of daily living? Training and certification in these areas can help you better provide for patients, as well as appeal to families struggling with the same needs. 

Where to get certified: The Institution for Professional Care Education is a great resource for this sort of training, and they offer a number of specialized courses to choose from. To name a few:

Cost: $89-$109 per course.

Education doesn’t have to be expensive — but make sure it’s legitimate 

Your continuing education in senior care doesn’t have to be formal or expensive. Your training can range from reading library books (check out ones on aging, health issues and providing care) to online classes, which are often more affordable than in-person classes and are provided at local recreation centers and colleges. 

You can also join a caregiver alliance or support group to find inexpensive learning opportunities. The Family Caregiver Alliance provides resources for online and in-person support groups, where you can learn from peers’ experiences. The Caregiver Action Network (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association) is another source of support and discussion for care providers. 

But before you choose any course or program, make sure it’s accredited and legitimate. Ensure the certification is widely recognized by agencies and families. If you’re unsure about a certificate or program, you can always call a local senior care agency and ask if they know of it. You can also search for testimonials and reviews from previous students to see if they’ve had a positive experience with the program or school.

Read next: How to write a standout senior caregiver resume

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