What is a Professional Caregiver?

Caregivers are people who provide assistance or support to people that need help taking care of themselves. There are generally four different types of caregivers. All are acting to improve the quality of life for those who receive their care, the difference lies in their relationship to their care recipient and whether they are receiving pay for the help they provide.

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Types of Caregivers

Family Caregiver

Family caregivers are individuals who are providing care for a disabled, ill or elderly family member who need help with activities of daily living. For the most part, family caregivers do not receive pay for the assistance they provide. Family caregivers are part of a general category known as "informal" caregivers because they provide care based on having a personal relationship with their care recipient. Other typically unpaid, informal caregivers are close friends or neighbors –who although not part of the family, are still providing regular care or assistance.

Volunteer Caregiver

Volunteer caregivers are individuals who voluntarily use their free time to provide free services, usually in support of an organization. Whether offering to assist a senior who is aging in place through an elder helper program or providing support to someone who is a client of a hospice organization, volunteer caregivers provide help without pay on a temporary basis. Volunteers who provide respite opportunities and companionship are very helpful to families when dealing with chronic illness and end of life transitions.

Independent Caregiver

An independent caregiver, sometimes called a private caregiver, is someone who is paid directly for the services they provide; no agency is involved. Although many families consider an independent caregiver to be a more affordable home care option, legalities such as payroll and taxes are fully the responsibility of the family. Additionally, independent caregivers typically don't have the background checks, training, nor "back-up" options that are available when working with an agency. An independent caregiver is classified as either an employee of the family or an independent contractor for federal tax purposes.

Professional Caregiver

Professional caregivers are hired by an agency –either called a Home Care or Home Health Care Company, to provide home health care, personal care, companion care and/or homemaker services. Home health agencies employ skilled caregivers such as CNAs and HHAs. Non-medical home care agencies employ non-clinical caregivers who provide socialization, companionship, transportation and assist with activities of daily living. Professional caregivers are usually paid on an hourly basis, are able to provide care on a full or part-time schedule and may be offered a choice of shifts including overnights and weekends. Each agency has its own policies and procedures defining qualifications, responsibilities and pay policies.

Qualifications of a Caregiver

Agencies are looking for the best quality caregivers, because their reputation depends on it –caregivers are the core of a home care business. Agencies desire things like a compassionate, caring personality, good communication skills and past experience as a caregiver, as well as more practical qualifications like:

  • A valid driver's license
  • Bilingual in a language spoken in your region
  • CPR certification
  • CNA certification
  • Ability to pass a background check
  • Ability to assist with ADLs (assisting with eating, toileting, bathing, dressing)

Agencies are regulated by state, so there are differences in certification and licensing requirements throughout the country. Medical "skilled" services provided by home health agencies must be ordered by a physician and carried out according to the physician’s orders; therefore, home health agencies are usually held to the same standards as other health care providers in the state. Any agency that is Medicare or Medicaid certified is held to strict federal and state regulations regarding caregiver qualifications, standards of practice and record keeping.

Some states have little to no regulation over non-medical home care providers. Agencies determine qualifications, training and specific procedures regarding the provision of services. It is important to inquire about qualifications, specialized skills and responsibilities at each agency to understand state specific differences in employment requirements.

Medicare Certification Requirements

Caregiver training and certification varies by state. Basic "non-skilled" caregiver training may be available online or through a state certified program. Some states, like Washington and New Jersey require that any caregiver who will be providing "hands-on" personal care like toileting, grooming or feeding meet training standards similar to those developed by Medicare for home health aides. Although companion or homemaker aides are not held to these standards for certification, being knowledgeable about Medicare's guidelines is good background information about the home care industry. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires that agencies maintain documentation that each of the Medicare certification standards have been met.

Medicare Certified Home Health Aide Requirements:

  • At least 75 hours of training that includes a minimum of 16 hours of classroom training followed by a minimum of 16 hours of supervised practical training
  • Passing a competency evaluation
  • Good standing in the nurse-aide registry; and
  • 12 hours of in-service training during each 12-month period

Training programs must focus on the skills necessary to provide quality care and also train caregivers in the ability to observe, communicate and report information about the patient's status to the family, the agency and fellow caregivers.

Interested in Becoming a Caregiver?

If you feel you have the qualities of a caregiver and are looking to provide private duty care, prepare a resume that highlights your compassionate nature, skills, and any relevant experience in the role of a caregiver. Be certain that your objective and any written communication not only highlights that you are capable, but also includes a statement regarding your commitment to the overall health and well-being of your clients.

Don't be deterred if you don't meet all of the criteria of a job posting. Oftentimes, qualifications such as CPR training can be achieved in a single evening of training. Consider indicating your plan to meet the requirements in your application. To further demonstrate that you are a good match, use the language used in the job posting to create a resume that aligns with the requirements of the position.

Caregiver Hiring: Preparing for Interviews with a Home Care Agency

An interview allows home care agencies to determine how well you match with the mission and principles of their organization. The interview will follow a review of your resume so, presumably, they already know that your qualifications are a match for their position. Use the interview as an opportunity to demonstrate your fit with their organization's values and commitment to care. In preparation for the interview portion of the hiring process, be prepared to talk about your previous work experience and think about your answers to the following questions.

If you needed care, what are the most important qualities you would want your caregiver to possess?

Almost all home care agencies describe their caregivers as "compassionate." Be sure to show a caring and compassionate nature and a desire to help others. Use this question or one like it to demonstrate your skills as well as your personal qualities.

Use terms like:

  • Caring, kind and compassionate
  • Physically capable of transferring, lifting
  • Understanding, patient and empathetic
  • Personable and likeable
  • Responsible and qualified
  • Timely, organized and efficient

If a client refuses to take their shower or eat their meal, how would you handle the situation?

Experienced caregivers know that not every client is eager to comply with the care plan. Use a question like this to discuss your communication and listening skills and how those, combined with your problem-solving skills, would approach a client who is refusing care. Perhaps you'll uncover that a client is fearful and needs more adaptive equipment or could talk about other ways that you, as the caregiver, would use practical application of your training to best get a client to comply with the care plan.

How would you respond to a client who refuses to let you in or is rude toward you?

Along with the practical duties of providing care, caregivers also develop interpersonal relationships with clients and their families. Caregivers need to be able to address issues and resolve differences with clients. However, it is ok to reference calling on the help of a supervisor in challenging caregiver situations. In instances like this one, let potential employers know that you are able to recognize when your personal involvement is not in the best interest of the client. If you are able, provide examples that demonstrate how you've successfully handled difficult situations in the past.

How do you gauge success as a caregiver? Any specific examples?

Caregivers are working for people who need assistance, so part of your job will be to identify ongoing challenges or issues and act to help your client maintain safety and improve quality of life. Provide specific examples of the steps you've taken to respond to your clients needs.

How would you handle needing to be excused from a shift? What if at the end of your shift, a replacement caregiver doesn't arrive?

Use this question to demonstrate that you are a reliable employee by asking what the policy and expectations are for tardiness, attendance, and substitute caregivers. All employees are expected to be at work at their scheduled arrival time, and caregivers are no different. Demonstrating a commitment to the care you provide, respect for the family as well as respect to the caregivers who work other shifts is a good way to discuss how you would handle a replacement caregiver not showing up. Of course you would never plan to leave a client unattended, so involving management before you depart from the home is an appropriate response demonstrating the balance of your concerns for the client with fairness to your scheduled shift.

How Do I Become a Caregiver?

Caregivers are in high demand; agencies are always looking to add qualified caregivers to their team. Choose this rewarding career today and have a direct impact on the lives of seniors and families in your community.

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