Most people are astonished to hear that many homecare workers do not have any formal education in caring for an elderly adult. Certified nurse aids and nurses must hold a license or a certification in all 50 states. Homemakers, sitters and companions, on the other hand, do not have to be certified or licensed.
A recent study by The Caregiving Project For Older Adults identified a common misconception that is likely to result in serious outcomes for families needing experienced caregivers. Although 78% of the people surveyed believed that all home care workers have received a recognized level of education, in fact, there is no such thing.
A licensed or certified aide (where you live determines what these caregivers are called) has completed mandatory training and has passed a standardized certification or licensing exam. If a home caregiver has a valid "certificate" or "license," this confirms that the aide successfully completed this education and has participated in any mandated regular continuing education.
An "aide," "companion," or "sitter," on the other hand, may have received no formal training at all. If a professional agency employs this home care worker, he or she might have had some rudimentary training by the agency. Not all agencies attempt to provide this kind of training, and there is no standardizedcurriculum if they do.
A caregiver who you have hired privately may or may not have had some previous experience, or "training," by learning on the job while working for someone else previously.
How important is the lack of formal caregiver training? The elderly who are becoming more frail or confused will have steadily increasing needs. The skills that a good caregiver needs will change accordingly. A care worker who manages in the beginning with a little common sense and physical strength may find herself in water completely over her head as her client's needs increase.
Does this mean you shouldn't ever hire an uncertified or unlicensed aid or companion? Not at all. There are thousands of perfectly competent, experienced employees who have never been certified or licensed because they never worked in a medical homecare agency or care facility that required it.
What it does mean is you should never take it for granted that anyone who calls him or herself an "aid" or "experienced caregiver" has had formal training unless he or she is working as a licensed or certified aid or nurse. You have to ask. If your elder has an illness or behavior that calls for a caregiver with particular experience or training, ask for evidence before you hire. You are always within your rights to ask to see the prospective employee's current certificate or license.
If you are planning to hire a caregiver through an elder care agency, be sure to ask about licensure or certification when you discuss the training their employees have had. Many agencies will have employees both with and without certification. You may have to pay a little more for a trained and certified caregiver, but it is usually well worth the additional expense if the caregiver is not fresh out of school.
Worried that you don't know what you need to know about caring for aging parents? Get your free copy of the Eldercare Planning Guide, What You Really Need to Know When You're Planning For Eldercare, and then dive into the wealth of elder care and caring for aging parents information at The ElderCare Team: http://www.eldercareteam.com
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