In-home caregiver duties for older adults presents numerous benefits, the most significant of which being that the patient can remain in the comfort of their own home while receiving the care that they need. Especially if the older adult is suffering from some form of dementia, a change in the living environment can cause anxiety and distress, making the move to a residential care facility far from ideal. Maintaining a consistent, familiar living space will reduce stress and complications that can come along with aging.
Additionally, in-home care allows for flexibility in care. The caregiver can develop a routine that fits the unique needs of the patient. The care can be adapted quickly and easily if the needs of the older adult shift, ensuring that the senior is living in the right conditions for optimal health.
In-home caregivers must fulfill a variety of duties to keep an older adult healthy, comfortable, and in good spirits. Below, you’ll find a list of widely recognized responsibilities for at-home senior caregivers to consider.
Caregiver duties and responsibilities
* Cooking, managing nutrition, and promoting hydration
Proper nutrition is an essential factor in healthy aging. In-home caregivers are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that dietary needs are met. Following dietary restrictions, food-related likes and dislikes, and target caloric intake should all be noted by an in-home caregiver. Grocery shopping may be included as an in-home caregiver duty – in this situation, the set grocery budget should be closely adhered to.
Appetite wanes with older age, meaning that it may be tricky for seniors to get the nutrients and calories that they need. In fact, 15% to 30% of older adults report a significant decline in appetite with age. Age-related appetite loss can also lead to weight loss, which can lead to health complications like reduced immune function, poor wound healing, increased risk for falls, and general physical weakness. In-home caregivers are in close contact with older adults all day long and, therefore, have the greatest ability to ensure proper nutrition.
Vitamins and supplements are important for older adults who don’t receive all of the nutrients that they need from their diet. The vitamins and supplements taken by an older adult need to be strategically chosen, as taking too much of a vitamin or mineral, or taking one that’s not needed, can lead to health complications. The main vitamins and minerals recommended for older adults are vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, and potassium (NIH).
Hydration is essential during any stage of life, but it’s especially crucial for seniors. With aging comes a number of bodily changes that can easily lead to dehydration. These include the natural lowering of bodily water content between the ages of 20 and 80, reduction of muscle mass, decreased kidney function, and lowered feelings of thirst. These inevitable results of aging mean that in-home caregivers need to encourage fluid intake frequently throughout the day, especially with meals.
Often, with aging comes the loss of speed in cognitive processing that’s required to operate a car. When this time comes, an in-home caregiver will be responsible for driving or arranging transportation for the older adult. Transportation will be needed to and from medical appointments, social gatherings, errands, activities, etc.
* Keeping Track of Medications
Older adults in need of in-home care often require help in remembering to take medications. Especially when the patient is suffering from a degenerative disease or other condition, medications can stack up. An in-home caregiver can ensure not only that each medication is taken, but also that they’re taken at the right time and in the correct dose.
* Personal care
In aging adults, help with grooming, bathing, and personal care is often needed. This may include trimming toe and fingernails, providing help in the shower, shaving, shampooing hair, brushing hair, and brushing teeth. Toileting and incontinence care may also be required for some older adults. These needs require complete composure and diligence on the part of the caregiver to reduce feelings of embarrassment, as well as prevent odors, infection, and skin irritation.
* Supervising and tracking changes in health
One of the most essential responsibilities of an in-home caregiver is carefully looking out for changes in the health of the patient and reporting any concerns to the family, care agency supervisor, a medical professional, or all three. Even small shifts in mood, memory, mobility, skin condition or hygiene could make for a change in treatment. An in-home caregiver spends more time with the older adult than anyone else, meaning that any changes will be most accurately noticed by the caregiver. So, it’s their duty to inform the appropriate person and ensure that further action is taken, if necessary.
* Providing companionship
The companionship that an in-home caregiver provides to an older adult is invaluable. As we age, our risk of social isolation grows, and it can have a severe impact on our health. In fact, loneliness can contribute both mental and physical problems, including anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and immune system complications (NIH).
The companionship that caregivers can provide may take many forms, from reading aloud to watching videos, completing puzzles to taking scenic drives, and even providing emotional support. In addition to offering one-on-one companionship, caregivers can also help organize social activities. This can help seniors become active members of their community, which will create a stronger sense of support and varied social interactions. Social outings could include entertainment like performances, zoos, and museums; community events at libraries, parks, and community centers; and events planned by local senior advocacy groups.
In-home caregivers have a diverse range of duties and responsibilities to meet the daily needs of older adults. Certain caregiver duties may seem straightforward and even mundane. But, in-home caregivers must be observant, thoughtful, and patient to ensure the optimal health and comfort of the patient. Whether the care is provided by a family caregiver or a caregiver hired from an agency, all responsibilities must be managed on a daily basis to provide complete care for a senior.
More from Seasons.com:
How to Train Your Caregiver: Three Major Areas
“Home Care Duties Resource Guide.” MyCNAjobs.com, MyCNAjobs.com, www.mycnajobs.com/caregiver-duties-guide/.
Imperato, Cara. “Dehydration in Seniors.” SeniorAdvice.com, SeniorAdvice.com, 23 July 2019, www.senioradvice.com/articles/dehydration-in-seniors.
Kindly Care. “Understanding Typical Caregiver Duties.” Kindly Care, Kindly Care, 25 June 2018, www.kindlycare.com/caregiver-duties/.
Pilgrim, Anna L et al. “An overview of appetite decline in older people.” Nursing older people vol. 27,5 (2015): 29-35. doi:10.7748/nop.27.5.29.e697
“Social Isolation, Loneliness in Older People Pose Health Risks.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 23 Apr. 2019, www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks.
“Vitamins and Minerals.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nia.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals.