CAREGIVER TRAINING AND BENEFITS
Most often, in-home care is provided by family members and sometimes a caregiver is hired to support the client’s family. Spouses, family members and friends carry out many important responsibilities such as personal care, transportation, management of finances and housekeeping.
The difference between a good home caregiver and a great one often comes down to training. Well-trained caregivers are better able to handle all the different situations that might arise on the job. They can prevent falls, injuries and hospitalizations. They can also help manage medications and take vital signs, recognize red-flags and act quickly if the patient is having a medical emergency. A good caregiver should also effectively communicate with the rest of the healthcare team in order to ensure no critical information is missed. Clients and their families can feel secure in the knowledge that a well-trained caregiver is competent and trustworthy.
Many caregivers report benefits such as: an increased sense of meaning and self-worth, closer family ties, increased self-efficacy and confidence in their abilities. Unfortunately, there can also be many negative side-effects associated with being a caregiver, both physical and psychological. For example, it is very common for those caring for immobile or bed-bound patients to injure themselves by trying to move the client in ways that are ineffective and unsafe, both for the patient and caregiver. It is critical for caregivers to remember that they cannot help their loved one or their client if they themselves are not kept fit. Therefore, proper training is important in order to mitigate risks and improve the safety of the caregiver as well as their charge.
There are several valuable types of training a caregiver should undergo, whether they are a family member or a paid carer:
1. Safety Hazard / Fall Prevention
Common safety issues include tripping hazards (like throw rugs or clutter on the floor), slipping hazards (like spills), and dimly lit areas inside or outside the house. A slip and fall may seem like nothing to the average able-bodied person but for an elderly person it is the most common cause of injuries to the hip and head. Most people are surprised to learn that a broken (fractured) hip can be life changing and, in many cases, fatal. Caregivers should know the specifics of each client and what is safe for them with regards to mobility. For example, does the client need glasses to see well enough to walk safely, or are they supposed to be using a walker? Maybe the client can’t stand and needs assistance, the caregiver should know the techniques and devices needed to safely move the patient from the bed to the wheelchair, transfer into and out of the shower, etc. Another common injury is pressure sores. Caregivers should know how to prevent these from occurring as these can be severely debilitating and can take months or even years to heal after they have formed.
2. Medication Management
Medications can be dangerous if a client is prone to forgetting when they took their last dose, so home caregivers should know how to keep medicine secure and monitor daily usage. Problems can also arise when medication is under or over prescribed, or if multiple doctors are prescribing medication without the knowledge of what has been prescribed by others. These issues can cause severe reactions and very serious health consequences. It can even be fatal. Therefor a caregiver should not only manage and document medications but understand the side effects that each can have and be on the lookout for potential red flags.
3. Client Hygiene and Care
A well trained home caregiver will respect a client’s privacy and still be able to recognize when the client needs help with some activities ( i.e. toileting, bathing). Privacy is a big issue for immobile clients as the psychological effects of losing their dignity in that manner can be devastating. Having a caregiver that understands this concept and does their best to lessen the impact on a patient’s mental state is very important.
4. First Aid and CPR
A caregiver should be taught the use of a first aid box to deal with common injuries like cuts, scrapes, and sprains. Also, the content should be made known for prompt replacement if not available. Caregivers need to be able to identify and react appropriately in case of a medical emergency like dehydration, heat exhaustion, cardiac event, etc. Caregivers should specifically have an emergency action plan (EAP) in place in order to know instinctively how to act in any emergency situation.
5. Signs of Abuse
Caregivers have a special responsibility to learn about abuse (physical, emotional and financial), both for children and elders. Caregivers most often work with the disabled (of any age) and the elderly, and these are the 2 populations most likely to experience abuse. A caregiver should stay alert for the signs that it may be happening to their client directly or indirectly and they should report as necessary.
6. Monitoring Vital Signs and Other Important Measures
Caregivers should be able to assist the patient in monitoring their vital signs, whether they are diabetic and need to be checking their sugar or whether it’s blood pressure they need to be monitoring. Many patients need assistance in both checking and documenting properly as these numbers should often be shared with other members of the healthcare team as well (i.e. doctor, nurse, physiotherapist).
Attention should be drawn to the safety concerns and proper care for a care giver themselves. In the process of taking care of other people, they often totally forget they need to care for themselves. Common concerns are over-stress, not taking enough breaks, not getting enough sleep, and not keeping physically fit and addressing injuries. Most often, caregivers are known to overlook issues such as nagging low back pain due to repetitively lifting of moving their charge. Self-care shouldn’t be an afterthought. People are better able to take care of others when their own physical, mental, and emotional needs are met.
In our previous article, we have explained the traits and skills a great caregiver should possess. These are the types of training modules that can be expected from our training program for a caregiver or a potential carer at PCA. https://physiocentersofafrica.com/caregivers-overview/previous article