Wednesday, November 3, 2021

National Family Caregivers Month: So You Want to Be a Caregiver?

Welcome to National Family Caregivers Month. What is a caregiver? Basically, if you're someone with special needs necessary for living a normal life, you will need someone to help you meet those needs. That is a caregiver (also called a carer in some parts of the world).

While our blog focuses on disabilities, particularly mobility deficiencies, most of it is written by a caregiver with input by the one cared for (for the perspective of the person being cared for, you can check out Tim's series of posts called Cerebral Palsy Stories).

During this month, we'll be posting some articles about caregiving, what it is, how to do it, and how to pay for it. Our focus will be on persons needing help due to mobility issues.

Can you be a professional caregiver? You bet. It doesn't pay that much, usually starting at around minimum wage while some can command hourly rates up to $25, but it can be rewarding. 

Your duties can be wide ranging and varied...feeding, dressing, transferring, bathing, bathrooming (including wiping up afterward), cleaning, laundry, nurse, positioning, and sometimes transportation. You'll probably unofficially also become a companion, therapist, personal trainer, and more.

You must be ultra dependable and honest...calling in sick leaves a vulnerable person in an untenable position, possibly threatening life and health. Working in an official capacity, whether for an agency or via In-Home Support Services (IHSS) will require you to pass a background check. Too many vulnerable special needs people have been victimized by those hired to help them to skip this step.

That's why many prefer to have family help rather than professional...they can usually rely on family members better.

So what might your workday look like?

You would probably need to get your client out of bed and dressed. This would probably including transferring...physically picking them up and putting them in their wheelchair. If you are not strong enough, there are devices (lifts) you can use to do that.

Before that, you may need to take them to the toilet so they can eliminate their waste and be cleaned up afterward.

Next, of course, would come breakfast. You may need to administer medications. You might need to feed them if they don't have the ability to do that.

Brush their teeth and clean them up. At some point, you'll need to give them a shower. You will probably need to transfer them to a shower chair/commode. It's much easier if there is a roll-in shower you can use.

Male clients will need to be shaved.

Once they're up, fed, and cleaned, you might think you can relax a bit. Maybe but they'll also need to have their laundry done, house or room cleaned, maybe do the grocery shopping, help with mail, paying bills, help sitting up, doing dishes, setting up a tv or computer, etc.

Then there's lunch, more bathrooming, brushing teeth, cleaning.

Later, there's dinner, more bathrooming, brushing teeth, cleaning.

At the end of the day, there's one more transfer to bed after setting up in their sleeping clothes.

It really is a full-time, all-consuming job. On a professional basis, there would ideally be two or more aides so that this doesn't become a 24/7 lifestyle for you.

If it's a family member you're taking care of, it absolutely becomes a 24/7 lifestyle. That's where you have to be very creative to carve out a little time for yourself so you don't drive yourself crazy or to an early grave. Time away for family members is technically called "respite" and we'll cover that next time.

(Note: if you would like to get a job as a home health aide, find an agency in your area or get listed with your state's IHSS agency. Here's a link on how to do that in California, every state has their own way of doing it:

Darryl Musick
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