What does the job of a caregiver encompass? Multitudes, as you may know. Caregivers – often unpaid family members or close friends – may make meals, assist with tasks of daily living, manage finances and even perform medical tasks typically handled by professionals.
If you’re a caregiver, you’re in a growing field of good company. The National Alliance for Caregiving reports that there were 53 million unpaid caregivers in 2020, up from 43.5 million in 2015.
Older adults are the ones most in need of care. An NAC focused caregiver report estimates that 41.8 million people care for adults age 50 and older, and over half of these care for people 75 or older.
It stands to reason that the seniors receiving care will require medical procedures at some point. As the nursing shortage continues, and as older adults increasingly strive to remain in home settings rather than facilities, caregivers are taking up the medical procedure slack. The NAC caregiver report found that 59% of those caring for older adults provide medical and nursing tasks like injections, tube feedings, colostomy care and more.
A 2019 Home Alliance study found that half of America’s family caregivers provide medical tasks. The study found that nearly 82% of caregivers manage medications, 48% prepare special diets, 37% care for wounds and 30% manage incontinence. Other medical tasks included operating ventilators and oxygen equipment, managing catheters, administering intravenous substances, operating feeding tubes and ostomy care, among others.
What’s more, the Home Alliance study found that many caregivers provide multiple medical tasks. More than 30% of survey respondents said they perform three or four medical tasks, and more than 20% said they perform more than five tasks. This can be overwhelming for caregivers who may feel unqualified for medical tasks and need support.
Getting medical training
Well-trained caregivers who are comfortable with their roles are less likely to experience burnout and the negative impact of stress. Training also helps the patient remain more comfortable and avoid hospitalization.
Depending on the patient’s medical needs, caregivers may receive informal training from a doctor or visiting nurse. It doesn’t take long to learn less-complicated procedures like monitoring blood sugar and properly administering medication. However, when feeding tubes, ostomies and catheters are involved, formal training may be a better option.
At the very least, caregivers should seek out CPR training, which may also include basic first aid training for wounds, falls and other injuries. The Home Alone Alliance site also provides videos on pain management, wound care, operating specialized medical equipment, managing incontinence and more.
Home health aide training is another option. The training covers medication administration, blood pressure and pulse monitoring, healthy cooking, assistance with personal hygiene, moving patients and how to detect certain medical conditions. There are some online home health aide programs, but training is also available through local medical facilities and some community colleges.
Certification is not required for home health aides to work, but the National Association of Home Care and Hospice provides an exam and certificate.
Caregivers may also complete nurse assistant training, which equips them to handle a wider range of more advanced medical issues than home health aide training would. It involves four to 12 weeks of classroom study and clinical practice. Caregivers can take a state exam to receive a nurse assistant certificate. Find courses through the American Red Cross, a local community college or health facility, or a health care training organization. Some online courses are also available, but in-person practice is required at some point.
Payment for providing medical care
Most family caregivers provide care without compensation because of their relationship with the person in need of care. It may not occur to them to seek payment. However, especially if caregivers have the necessary training, their time and effort is worth payment. Caregivers may even have more difficulty earning a living in their chosen fields because of the time required to care for a loved one.
Some state-level programs encourage family caregivers to receive medical training and get paid for it. The Arizona Family Licensed Health Aide Program, which debuted in April 2022, provides free online and in-person health aide training through participating providers. Eligible family caregivers can receive training on medical tasks like tracheostomy care, feeding tubes and incontinence care, as well as basic tasks like bathing and transferring patients. These trained health aides can then receive pay as employees of a home health agency. Colorado and New Hampshire provide similar programs.
There are also government programs that allow certain groups of caregivers to get paid for their services, including:
- The Medicaid Self-Directed Care program, which promotes participants’ management of their own health services and lets them hire family members as caregivers in some states
- The Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services program, which offers veterans a flexible budget that can include hiring a friend or family member as a caregiver
- Aid and Attendance benefits for veterans, which helps cover the costs of a caregiver, who could be a family member
- Long-Term Care Insurance, which allows family members to be paid as caregivers. Some policies won’t pay family members who live with the person they’re caring for, so contact your insurance agent for more information.
If you’re still looking for resources to get paid as a caregiver, visit payingforseniorcare.com. The site provides a questionnaire that caregivers can fill out to find relevant paid caregiver programs.