What Are Caregivers and How to Become One

By Danni White on October 24, 2017

Source: Ginger London

Caregiving is a role many people take on when they least expect to do so. Illness, sickness, disability, or tragedy that causes one of these can creep up on a person at any given time and leave family members and friends with the very real responsibility of taking care of them for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, caregiving begins with a major health issue like a stroke. At other times, it begins after a tragic accident such as a car crash. And still, at other times, it is realized at the very start — a sibling is born with a disability or a grandparent has severe Alzheimer’s.

Whatever the case, life as you once knew it or as you would like to have imagined it stops and begins going down a very different path. You find yourself buying groceries, cooking meals, doing laundry, taking care of prescriptions, and even making hospital or doctor’s runs with your loved ones. It rarely happens the way we think it should. At some point, you realize that it is now a big responsibility to care for someone else in this way.

Caregivers can be almost anybody — spouses, parents, grandparents, older siblings, adult children, and even friends from church, school, or the neighborhood. If you ever find yourself in this type of role, it is critically important to make sure you own the role. Almost no one is completely ready to be a caregiver when the time calls for it, but to walk into a role of service to another human being is admirable. If you own it and identify yourself as a caregiver, you are more likely to give time and resources to make the extra effort for that person.

Without identifying as a caregiver, you won’t be able to seek out the right people for help or search for the resources to use when you need them most. Most caregivers aren’t just caregivers. They also play a host of other roles. For example, you may be a caregiver AND a full-time student, a full-time employee, a weekly volunteer at your church or community charity, and have a host of family and personal commitments. Adding a caregiver on top of all of this can make you feel exhausted. However, when you choose to own the role and take it on wholeheartedly, you will have an easier time asking the right questions, seeking out the proper kind of help, navigating social and medical systems, and advocating for the needs of that person in your care.

With that said, here are some job skills and requirements that you should be aware of if you desire to be a caregiver as a profession or if you suddenly find yourself in such a position.

Establish your motives: Caregiving is not a job for the faint of heart. Explore whether you possess the interest and the traits needed for caregiving. Then, be sure to ask yourself if you are willing to take the next step and continuously learn in order to be the best caregiver you can be.

Love and patience: It is not easy to care for another human being all the time. At times, you will feel like you want to give up and may even feel internally frustrated with the person when it comes to close contact times like feeding, changing, and keeping company. But if you keep in mind that the person you are caring for is a human being who deserves love and respect, you will cultivate patience and love in your heart and ensure it is displayed to them through your actions and attitude.

Attention to detail: The person you are caring for may have specific regulations, schedules, and rules that you must follow. For example, they may have a set schedule for taking their medication (2 blue pills at 10 a.m.; 2 red pills at 12 noon; 2 purple pills at 2 p.m.; 1 yellow and 1 orange pill just before bed, and so on and so forth). One missed medication could be the difference between life and death for that individual. You must be mindful of the client’s requirements and be sure to take care of that person the way they want to be taken care of and, more importantly, the way they should be taken care of.

Time management: Caregivers must be strict time managers and schedule keepers. If it is in the best interest of the patient, it is imperative that you are able to manage time well. For example, make sure medication is taken on time, clients get to their appointments and check-ups on time or at least ahead of time, they go to bed on time and wake up on time, eat proper meals on time, and so on.

While a degree is not always required to be a caregiver, it is helpful to intentionally get all of the training you can. Watch videos online, ask questions, shadow a caregiver or even a nurse if you can, and ask for feedback.

Danni White is a developmental psychology graduate student at Liberty University. She works in the digital publishing, media, and technology industries. After this degree, she will go on to work on a PhD in social psychology in which she hopes to do research on perception and social cognition’s impact on human behavior. She hopes to apply this research in corporate HR departments and community-based organizations. In her otherwise limited spare time, she blogs, writes and reads. She loves coffee, sports, music, cooking, meeting new people, and binge watching Netflix.

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