Most people will become caregivers at some point in their lives. Although our parents, family elders, and senior friends typically have medical professionals that they turn to for skilled medical care, it’s us (the friends and family) who usually provide the bulk of the care that happens after business hours.
Although many people who give care allow their intuition to guide their caregiving style, there are quite a few online caregiving training programs designed to help people sharpen their caregiving skills and abilities.
In this piece, I’ll explain what caregiving is, who caregivers are, what caregiving training is, and provide personal and expert feedback on caregiving training resources I found online.
What Is Caregiver Training?
My research shows that online caregiver training typically prepares family and friends to care for a senior loved one by teaching caregiving skills. These skills range from basic (preparing food, self-care skills, etc.) to advanced (toileting skills, medication preparation, etc.). These courses are typically self-paced and feature videos, worksheets, and exams to teach skills.
Who Are Caregivers?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “a caregiver is a person who tends to the needs or concerns of a person with short- or long-term limitations due to illness, injury, or disability.”
Many of you reading this may better relate to the term “family caregiver.” A family caregiver is someone who cares for a family member (or their chosen family). “This could be members of their congregation, neighbors or close friends,” Johns Hopkins Medicine adds. “Family caregivers play a significant role in health care, as they are often the main source of valuable information about the patient.”
Jeanne Leising, regional vice president of health services at Landmark Health, reiterates that her company calls relatives, neighbors, and friends who provide a senior support in the home caregivers.
“Caregivers spend many hours caring for and assisting a person with their day-to-day needs and most often do so without pay, training, or support,” Leising adds.
What Do Caregivers Do?
Caregivers provide a range of services, including but not limited to:
- Transporting a person to medical and non-medical appointments.
- Running errands, such as picking up a person’s medications and groceries.
- Assisting with daily necessities, such as helping a person dress, get out of bed, etc.
- Providing housework and preparing meals.
- Helping with finances, and communicating other important information to agencies, etc.
“Caregivers have first-hand knowledge of how a person is managing in their home,” Leising says. This “knowledge” includes knowing a senior’s eating patterns and diet, as well as knowing how a treatment or new medication is working.
“They hold critical information for the healthcare team and are a valued resource,” she adds. “The caregiver is often the first individual to identify a change in a person’s medical or behavioral health status and they often make the decision on if and when medical care is necessary.”
What Caregivers Don’t Do
At-home caregivers are often family members and friends of the person in need of care. As previously mentioned, these caregivers often help seniors with day-to-day needs, such as dressing, making food, cleaning, helping with medications, and more.
That being said, there are different types of caregivers. There are caregivers like you, the friends and family of a senior citizen who aim to make their loved one’s life easier to live. Then there are some caregivers working on behalf of a caregiving agency. For example, organizations like CareAcademy work to help keep these professional caregivers trained and in compliance according to the state they work in.
Some organizations allow you to hire nurses. For example, ComfortKeepers calls one of their specialized tiers of care “Private Duty Nursing.” These specialized caregivers are trained to give medical care. Some of this care includes:
- Non-injectable or injectable medication administration
- Insulin syringe filling
- Ostomy and catheter hygiene
- And more
So, general caregivers are typically not highly skilled medical professionals. And although online caregiving training courses are helpful for family and friend caregivers, there’s only so much these online courses can teach.
However, I should note that sometimes, caregivers have to do more than they anticipated because of unforeseen circumstances. We recommend reading this Forbes interview with Kate Washington, author of “Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America,” to learn about her experience providing care for her loved one. Washington was often required to perform medical tasks she had to teach herself.
Dr. Aaron Blight, Ed.D., founder of Caregiving Kinetics and the author of “When Caregiving Calls: Guidance as You Care for a Parent, Spouse, or Aging Relative,” adds that although caregivers don’t practice medicine, in some instances, “they may be required to assist loved ones with medical tasks at home (which can be intimidating).”
“Family caregivers are not ‘qualified’ in the same way that professional caregivers are evaluated, certified, and licensed. Family caregivers are often ill-prepared to assume the caregiver role for a loved one. Skilled medical training helps but does not fully prepare a family member to assume the family caregiver role,” Blight states.
“Being a good and ‘qualified’ family caregiver includes competently performing the physical tasks of caregiving, but it is much more than that. A good and qualified caregiver will also engage in meaningful social interaction, provide appropriate emotional support, and help the care receiver preserve human dignity.”
Leising adds that typically, family caregivers “need access to resources to help enhance their knowledge on topics such as: skin care, toileting, wound care and dressing changes, special diets (e.g. low salt), dementia, Alzheimer’s, non-verbal cues, medication management, and caregiver self-care.”
Why Would Someone Consider Caregiver Training?
Most people become caregivers because they care about the senior in need. Some people may choose to care for a loved one on their own because:
- They can’t afford a paid caregiver.
- They don’t feel a paid caregiver could give as good care as a friend or family member.
- Their senior loved one doesn’t feel comfortable receiving help from another person.
According to the study, “Benefits of Training Family Caregivers on Experiences of Closure During End-of-Life Care,” by Jung Kwak, Jennifer R. Salmon, Kimberly D. Acquaviva, Katherine Brandt, and Kathleen A. Egan; caregiving courses can help family caregivers “find meaning, increase comfort, and find positive experiences during difficult times.” Although Kwak et al. conducted research specific to one end-of-life caregiving program, this evidence is supported.
For example, another study by scholars Huei-Ling Huang, Yea-Ing Lotus Shyu, Min-Chi Chen, Sien-Tsong Chen, Li-Chan Lin discovered that “home-based caregiver training” programs helped decrease “problematic behaviors of elder people with dementia.” Training also helped improve “the caregiver’s self-efficacy for managing problematic behaviors.”
And yet another study by Kenneth W. Hepburn, Jane Tornatore, Bruce Center, and Sharon W. Ostwald found that family caregiver training benefited people providing care for loved ones with “dementing disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.” Training that focused on “knowledge, skills, and beliefs” benefited caregivers.
What Makes A Good Caregiver?
What makes a good and qualified caregiver varies.
The preliminary research I did suggests that although family and friends can provide caregiving without training, all caregivers will benefit from training. This training could be in the form of an online course, or it might come from a seasoned professional (possibly a nurse) who teaches courses independently. It could also be acquired at a senior living or medical facility.
The research above suggests that caregivers typically fare better when they know what to expect. For example, in the Forbes Q&A, Washington writes the following about caregiver stress:
“I definitely feel like I had after-effects from caregiving and lingering stress and burnout and kind of lingering anxiety as well.”
However, family caregivers sometimes don’t have a choice if they are qualified or not. A caregiver often has to teach themselves or rely on others to teach them the skills needed to care for their senior family member.
In a Forbes article, Howard Gleckman writes that when family caregivers lack the skills to care for their family members, their lives become more complex. And sometimes, the people for whom they are caring get injured or become ill. In the piece, Gleckman describes a few good programs that train family caregivers and the benefits of these programs. However, most of these training courses are state-specific. That’s where online courses and supplemental videos come into play.
Top Caregiver Training Resources
The following online caregiver courses are specifically for family and friend caregivers. The caregiver training options listed here range from online courses that cost a fee to websites that feature helpful caregiving videos, which allow the caregiver to learn as they go in a free-form way.
Remember: even family caregivers could benefit from formal training. Amy Flaster, Chief Medical Officer for ConcertoCare says that “training can provide great professional satisfaction and confidence in caregiving.”
She adds that “Training also reduces caregiver burden, stress and burnout, and it allows for even greater fulfillment in caring for a loved one. Family members are often unpaid caregivers by default, and while many relish the experience, they need the support and training to endure and thrive in the role.”
You’ll notice that the only ratings provided in this article are mine. This is because we could not view the trainings’ course material without paying the training fees. My ratings only rate what I could see and nothing more. However, Blight (a caregiving professional we quoted above) did give his general opinion on online caregiver training, which I’ve included below.
American Caregiver Association: National Caregiver Certification Course
(**Bonus: a brief review of the organization’s Advanced Course included below)
The American Caregiver Association is one of the few companies on this list geared toward educating caregivers.
The association “was founded by experienced healthcare professionals that have worked in the caregiver field for more than 40 years.”
The American Caregiver Association provides online training for caregivers of all levels. We’re focusing on the $99 course for family caregivers.
The organization says this course is for many types of caregivers but specifically notes it will work for family caregivers in its course description.
The beginner course is 120 hours long and covers a variety of essential caregiving topics.
Although some family caregivers may not need to learn about some of the course’s topics, most of the course topics are pertinent to the in-home family caregiver, most notably:
- Managing Personal Stress
- Nutrition, Hydration, and Food Services,
- Skin Integrity
- And more
If you’re interested in taking an additional course, the organization can accommodate that need. The ACA’s more advanced course, “Advanced National Caregiver Certification Course,” covers more in-depth topics such as:
- Caring for Nails
- Caring for Teeth
- Preventing bedsores
- And more
This advanced course is priced at $199 and is 200 hours long.
What I Like:
I like that the American Caregiver Association’s courses are relatively affordable, and the course topics are clearly described. I chose to look at these courses together rather than separately because, in general, I’d tend to rate a course with more in-depth subject material better. However, I understand that many caregivers may not need that type of in-depth information quite yet in their caregiving journey. I like that caregivers have course options and won’t spend too much even if they decide to take both courses.
What I Don’t Like:
I wasn’t able to preview the courses or the course material.
My rating: 8/10
Universal Class is a website that features various self-paced courses for people looking to enhance their education on different subjects. The site is not specific to senior caregivers but is a general continuing education service.
The Universal Class Online “Caring for Seniors” course has two options— a non-certificate track and CEU (continuing education) certificate track. As far as I can tell, both options are similar, but the certificate track counts toward continuing education. So, I’d suggest simply paying for the $70 non-certificate option.
This course appears to cover the types of things that are covered in the first-level NCCC course offered by the ACA, as referenced above. It also seems to be geared specifically toward family caregivers.
What I Like:
I like that it details what a person will get when they take the course. The course activities appear to be a combination of videos and exams. I also like that the course compatibility details (Mac, PC compatibility, etc.) appear in a sidebar on the course screen. Although these things are most likely included in all the courses rated in this resource review, I think more information is preferable when investing in caregiving training.
What I Don’t Like:
This course appeared to be an acceptable solution for people looking for general caregiving information. It would be a great starting point but would not cover the in-depth medical information some caregivers need to know.
My Rating: 6/10
Learn 4 Good describes itself as “an education, career and employment hub where students, parents, and jobseekers [sic] can learn about” and connect with “businesses, employers, and services.” It’s not exclusively a senior caregiving website.
This specific course is given by “Dependable Senior Home Care.” From Learn 4 Good:
“Based in Denver, Colorado, Dependable Senior Home Care takes pride in providing training for the fast growing industry of institutional and home senior care. The world of seniors is growing rapidly but unfortunately the care for seniors leaves much to be desired. We offer online home senior care courses for caregivers in personal care, specialized care, mental wellness, ethics and conduct and other areas via webinars (web seminars) which are training events with a presenter.”
Learn 4 Good’s Online Senior Care Training is similar to the other training courses listed here. However, the course does appear to be geared more toward people who plan to enter the caregiving business.
What I Like:
I like that the course subjects appear to be comprehensive and diverse. I also like that the courses are a combination of webinars and printable e-courses. In general, webinars tend to have more information than training videos. Please note that similar to all the courses listed here (at least the ones that charge a fee), I could not preview these webinars.
What I Don’t Like:
Similar to the ACA course, Learn 4 Good’s training course preview isn’t detailed. There’s no way to tell what you will or won’t learn simply by looking. Also, I could not find a course price. If you choose to take this course, I’d contact the company and ask many questions before enrolling.
My Rating: 6/10
Although CaregiverList’s caregiver training is geared toward caregiving professionals looking to find a job in the industry, I chose to include it because of its course material and price ($59).
What I Like:
The course has a combination of beginner (maintaining a safe and healthy environment) and advanced (emergency procedures) course topics for a very affordable price. However, family caregivers may not want to choose training because it is more for people looking to work in caregiving, and they would have to work through those modules.
What I Don’t Like:
The course would benefit from including a module on maintaining caregiver mental wellness. I also wish the training would detail how a person will learn during the course (videos, webinars, etc.).
My Rating: 6/10
Generations Homecare is a company that provides care for seniors in Arizona. The company appears to be run by two non-medical professionals (Cheryl Lovell and Bill McKusick) who have years of experience in the home care field.
Generations Homecare’s caregiving course is specifically made for family caregivers and is free.
What I Like:
I like that the course combines basic and advanced caregiving information. I also appreciate that all this information is free. This could prove as an excellent introductory course for a caregiver who is on a budget.
What I Don’t Like:
The course is free, so I don’t feel like there’s much to note.
My Rating: 7/10
My Top Rated Caregiver Training Program
My Rating: 8/10
Expert Caregiver Training Advice
“It appears that the ACA has the most comprehensive offering, particularly with their advanced course. I can see how these courses might be attractive to care organizations that must train employees who have responsibilities to care for a large number of people with a variety of conditions and needs.
Online, video-based training can be a good start because it can inform, demonstrate, and ‘test’ for understanding through some type of online exam.
However, online training also lacks the physical, hands-on component of caregiving that all caregivers must learn to do. Demonstration videos can only help you so much when you are trying to help your care receiver with his or her uniquely specific conditions.
As a result, you can expect that even after taking a general online caregiving course, you will find yourself in situations that are new and unfamiliar. In these instances, ‘learning by doing’ will be your only alternative.” – Aaron Blight, Ed.D
No single course can truly prepare a person to be a senior caregiver. However, some online courses can help prepare a person for what daily caregiving entails.
“While I suggest the idea of taking a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in the ‘Skills’ chapter of When Caregiving Calls: Guidance as You Care for a Parent, Spouse, or Aging Relative; it’s critical to recognize that there is no single course that will provide all the training you need to deliver appropriate care for your loved one over the long trajectory of aging, illness, disability, and end-of-life,” Blight added.
“As a result, I encourage family caregivers to adopt a learning orientation to caregiving. It’s an ongoing mindset that will enable you to be regularly taught by your loved one, by healthcare professionals, by other caregivers, by friends and family, and by experience. Your learning orientation to caregiving will facilitate progress in addressing challenges and will accelerate your growth as a caregiver.”
To successfully care for a senior you love, I’d recommend working closely with the doctors and nurses who provide your loved one with medical care. Although these professionals aren’t able to help you 24/7, building these relationships as well as reaching out to other professionals in the caregiving field (think chaplains, social workers, therapists, etc.), could help you collect the information vital to continuing to care for your loved one.
“Family caregivers assume the caregiver role because of their family relationship with a loved one who now requires caregiving assistance,” said Blight. “Love is the primary motivation. Duty is another significant motivation. A decision to receive caregiver training is based upon love, duty, a responsibility to care, and the perceived need to learn how to care.”
Looking For Additional Caregiver Resources?
Although the following resources aren’t traditional caregiver training courses, we felt they were pertinent because they are well-known and generally respected when advising on senior education and care.
Veterans and spouses of veterans should consult this link to see if they qualify for caregiving help.
A helpful resource for people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Also: Don’t forget to research in-person or online caregiving courses in your region! Many assisted living, nursing facilities, and hospice centers and hospitals often provide caregiving support.
(Special thanks to MeetCaregivers for initially finding many of these classes and senior caregiving resources.)