Each day, countless people go to work in occupations that receive far fewer thanks than they deserve. One of those occupations is undoubtedly caregiver.
Not all caregivers are even paid, especially those family members who assist with elderly parents or relatives.
If you’re thinking of entering into the caregiver role, you may wonder what kind of responsibilities this job encompasses.
The duties of a caregiver are as follows:
- Administering medication
- Transporting the senior
- Managing finances, including paying bills
- Providing company
- Making and serving food
- Light housekeeping
- Helping with dressing, bathing, and other hygiene
- Tracking daily health and / or vital signs
Becoming a caregiver for the very first time puts an immense amount of responsibility on your shoulders, so it’s understandably nerve-wracking. We do recommend you read this article in its entirety, as we’ll share all sorts of useful information.
From all the caregiver types to general job duties and even some daily checklist templates to follow – you won’t want to miss it.
The Types of Caregivers
Caregiver is a general term that can encompass many duties. You’ll see that throughout this article, but we thought we’d begin by going over the various types of caregivers out there.
Do you recognize yourself among this list?
- Medical caregivers, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other medical professionals
- Primary caregivers may cover personal care of basic needs for seniors. This can include providing medications, dressing the senior, grocery shopping and providing nutritious meals, bathing them, and keeping them company (read our article, Caregiver VS CNA, about their differences)
- Secondary caregivers can step in during the absence of a primary caregiver as well as for doctor’s appointments, errands, weekends, or on nights and mornings
- Community caregivers, such as someone in a neighborhood who may help with mail delivery and house maintenance
- Long-distance caregivers, who, although not there physically, do such duties as healthcare research, scheduling medical appointments, bill paying, and booking household repairs or other maintenance
- Crisis caregivers offer their help and support if the senior needs to go to the hospital due to an illness or injury
A General List of What Caregivers Do
Now that we’ve covered the types of caregivers, let’s go into more detail about the important roles, caregiving responsibilities, and daily activities a caregiver might perform on a day-to-day basis.
Keep in mind that, depending on the type of caregiver, some of these tasks are outside of the scope of their job.
Whether a medical or non-medical caretaker, if you’re around a senior every day who needs care, then you will likely give them medication.
While not all seniors require medication, many have health conditions that require medications.
Prescription meds are often taken daily or even more than once per day.
If the senior takes several types of medication, it’ll be your job to ensure they get their proper dosage on time each day.
Drive the Senior Around
Not all seniors can drive themselves anymore. Even if they still have a valid license, they may lack the vehicle to get to and from the places they wish to go.
While they can rely on ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft for this purpose, if you’re around, then you might as well transport the senior.
This way, you know for certain they get to their destination and then back home safely.
From grocery store trips to doctor’s appointments and everything in between, you’ll need a clean, working vehicle for this responsibility.
Pay Bills and Track Finances
As seniors age, they don’t always retain the clearest memory. Even those without Alzheimer’s or dementia (more on this later) can get forgetful in their older years.
They still have bills to pay with hard deadlines, though.
To keep the electricity and water on, you might opt to take care of paying a senior’s bills for them.
You may also oversee their finances in general so the senior isn’t wasting their money. You can prevent them from becoming a victim of a stolen card or fraud, as well.
Provide Company and Companionship
Sometimes, at the end of the day, what elderly individuals need more than anything is simply having someone around to spend time with them.
Whether you tell stories, watch movies, play games, or just sit in silence, companionship can go a long way toward the well-being of the senior.
Everyone’s got to eat, and making sure a senior do so two or three times a day is very important.
You might opt to hire a food service caretaker specifically or provide meal preparation yourself. Either way, this is an ongoing need.
Housekeeping and Maintenance
With the added years can come pain, and some seniors find themselves living in a house they’re unable to maintain.
Perhaps it’s basic housekeeping jobs that they need help with, in that they might not be able to mop or vacuum, clean the toilet, or do dishes.
For other seniors, their homes can fall into shambles as they fail to clean the gutters, mow the lawn, or fix that loose shingle.
Thus, your caretaking duties might entail you doing these jobs for the senior.
They could need help with the basic tasks we take for granted, such as making the bed, putting on clothes, brushing their teeth, and bathing.
You may even have to feed some seniors.
A new razor that has just been in the summer of 2019 is a razor specifically made for caregivers who have to shave the person they are caring for.
The razor is made by Proctor & Gamble and it’s called The Gillette Treo (pictured here on the right).
They are disposable razors with shaving gel built into the razor, making the shaving process easier for the caregiver.
In addition – the razor itself is designed with a safety comb which according to P&G helps “…to protect against nicks and cuts, with an open design to prevent clogging.”
Check out this video demonstrating the Gillette Treo.
Assessing Overall Health
One of the most crucial duties in your life as a caretaker involves you managing the senior’s overall health.
How are they doing physically – week to week, month to month, or year to year? Has a symptom manifested that have you worried?
Does the senior seem to struggle more with walking or with remembering than usual? You’d then schedule a doctor’s appointment to get them checked out.
Live-in Caregiver Household Duties
Caregivers live with seniors all the time.
If you’re the adult child of an aging parent or relative who needs help, then you might move into your parent’s house or bring them to live with you in your own home.
This is unpaid work, but, as we said in the intro, it’s still absolutely integral. Professional caregivers could live with a senior as well.
If you will be (or are considering) privately hiring a live-in home health aid – please consider putting a legal contract into place.
Documents such as the Live-In Caregiver Contracts lay out the specific duties the caregiver will perform.
This could include housekeeping and cooking tasks in addition to caring for the senior.
Here’s a brief overview of a live-in caregiver job description:
- Give the senior the correct prescription medications in the proper dose at the correct time of day
- Prepare their food and feed them if necessary
- Assist with activities of daily living, such as dressing the care recipient, bathing them, toileting, etc
- Transport them as needed
- Keep them company
Depending on the type of caregiver, not every live-in caregiver would maintain a senior’s finances.
If it’s an adult child we’re talking about, then they of course would work on behalf of their parent and work out money matters. A paid live-in caretaker might not, though.
The Duties of Dementia Caregivers
Those caregivers who work with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have one of the most crucial jobs of all.
The patience, dedication, and care required for such a role is not for the faint of heart.
The duties we listed two sections ago in Assessing Overall Health would still apply, at least most of them.
Here are the other responsibilities of caring for a senior with dementia:
Those with Alzheimer’s and dementia sometimes feel cut off from the rest of the world. This can result in depression as their friends and family go about their lives while the senior gets left behind.
Social interactions with the patient – even if it means hearing the same story several times – matter a lot in maintaining their quality of life.
Offering Emotional Support
In addition to the sociability a dementia caregiver can offer, emotional support is another pillar of care.
Patients with memory loss and cognitive decline may feel scared, upset, and depressed about their condition or their outlook.
By supporting them emotionally, you can ease some of these terrible feelings and make the experience that much more bearable.
Taking Care of Basic Assistance
As the disease progresses, dementia or Alzheimer’s patients may find themselves unable to do much in terms of their basic caretaking.
You may have to aid them with eating, walking, dressing, bathing, grooming, and more.
The confusion of dementia can put a senior in situations they themselves don’t recall entering or don’t realize can be dangerous.
As a caretaker for these patients, it’s incredibly important to keep a watchful eye on them and what they’re doing.
This can prevent accidents that could threaten the safety and even the life of the senior.
What a Caregiver Should Not Do
In the world of caregiving, the focus is often on what should be done.
We talk about the necessary skills, emotional strength, patience, and dedication required to provide quality care for seniors or adults in need.
However, it’s equally important to discuss the pitfalls and missteps that caregivers should avoid.
Here’s a list of some of the types of things that a caregiver should not do.
- Don’t ignore the senior’s autonomy and dignity: It’s important to respect the senior’s independence and personal space. Caregivers should avoid making decisions without consulting the senior, or doing things for them that they can do themselves.
- Don’t neglect emotional care: Emotional well-being is just as important as physical health. Caregivers should avoid dismissing the senior’s feelings, isolating them, or failing to provide emotional support.
- Don’t overstep boundaries: Caregivers should avoid getting too involved in personal matters that the senior is uncomfortable discussing unless it’s necessary for their care.
- Don’t be on your phone or otherwise distracted: Caregivers should be present and attentive, focusing their complete attention on the client rather than being distracted by technology.
- Don’t steal from the client: This may seem obvious, but it’s a big fear for many seniors. Caregivers should always respect the personal belongings of their clients.
- Don’t make them feel ashamed: Caregivers should maintain calm and respectful facial expressions and body signals, even when asked to do something they find uncomfortable or distasteful.
- Don’t keep family members in the dark: Caregivers should avoid keeping information from the senior or their family. Regular updates and open communication are key.
- Don’t ignore dietary restrictions: Caregivers should respect and adhere to any dietary restrictions or preferences the senior may have unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional.
Remember, these are general guidelines and may not apply to every situation.
Always consult with a healthcare professional for advice tailored to the specific needs of the individual being cared for.
A Caregiver’s Daily Checklist Template
With the many, many duties a caretaker’s job encompasses, you may worry about forgetting something.
A caretaking checklist can really come in handy for this. If you browse around online, you’ll find countless checklist templates you can use.
We like this one, which we saw on Pinterest.
This checklist has a list of activities for the senior, such as driving, paying bills, doing housework, walking and climbing stairs, eating, and personal hygiene.
Then, you check off how well the senior can do these activities as well as whether they’re doing them.
Other checklists, such as this one, focus more on eating and bathroom needs.
You’d mark down each time a senior goes to the bathroom, how many times they woke up at night, what times they ate, and when.
Whether you use a template like the two above or you come up with your own, a checklist not only makes your job easier, but it lets you track your senior’s health accurately.
A caretaker’s job is never done. Whether a paid professional or adult children stepping into a home caregiver role, caretakers assist with a senior’s care needs.
These can include helping with daily tasks like hygiene, health, transportation, finances, medication reminders, food preparation, eating, and the care/cleanliness of the home.
While this is one of the hardest jobs out there, a caretaker can make a huge, positive difference in the life of older people. That makes it all worth it.