What Is a Caregiver?

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According to the CDC, there are roughly 12,200 at-home care agencies employing professional caregivers. However, not all caregivers are considered professional. About 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care for at least one child or adult. 

The question is, what is a caregiver? If it isn't defined strictly by a profession, what does make someone a designated caregiver?

The simple answer is that a caregiver is anyone who provides care for someone else. Read on to find out more about what a caregiver does, what qualities they must possess, and more.

What Is a Care Attendant?

Care attendants are people who provide specialized care for others. The individuals they care for may have difficulty completing certain necessary daily activities. 

Let's use the example of a parent. A parent helps their child by feeding them, taking them to school, helping them bathe, and providing for them financially. We might consider them the child's primary caregiver.

Workers at a daycare center, on the other hand, might be considered a secondary caregiver. A babysitter provides additional care intermittently when the parents are unavailable. They might be considered a respite caregiver. 

In this context, we're talking primarily about those who provide care for adults with disabilities. The level of care needed will depend on the disability in question and how it affects their ability to complete day-to-day tasks. 

Difference Between a Caregiver and a Nurse

Nurses go through rigorous academic and hands-on training in order to receive medical certification. They can perform duties such as vaccine administration, IV therapy, and so forth that caregivers cannot. Many caregivers work in tandem with nurses in order to provide optimal care. 

Caregiver Qualities

Many people find themselves in the caregiver role without prior training. They tend to learn that certain qualities make their role smoother and more effective. Let's talk about what those qualities are.

Patience

A good caregiver has patience. It's not uncommon for the individual they are caring for to have harder days than others and it's crucial that the caregiver stays calm, kind, and patient.

Communication

It is the caregiver's primary goal to understand and fill the needs of the individual in their care. The individual may not always have an easy time expressing their needs and the caregiver must learn how to meet them on a level that they are most comfortable with. 

One of the best ways to make communication easier is to establish or maintain an emotional connection with the individual. The caregiver must earn their trust and continuously show that they are there to help the individual, not make them feel lesser than.

Adaptability 

As we mentioned earlier, some days may be easier than others. Plus, the individual's abilities may change or lessen over time, depending on the nature of their disability. The caregiver must be ready for these changes and adapt their own responses and duties. 

Knowledge

Even if you are not a professional caregiver, it is still important to learn about the individual's conditions. A caregiver may try to stay up to date by performing at-home research. They may also establish a caregiving plan with the individual's doctors and nurses. 

Caregiver Responsibilities

Now that we've discussed some of the qualities caregivers often possess, let's talk about what they do and how they put those qualities to use.

Providing the Proper Equipment

If a caregiver is assisting someone with a physical disability, it is important that they make the individual's living space comfortable and safe. They also need to ensure that the mode of transportation they use for the individual is similarly comfortable and safe.

For example, if you are the primary caregiver of an individual who uses a wheelchair, a wheelchair accessible vehicle or wheelchair accessible van is the easiest form of personal transportation. Otherwise, you will not be able to perform the task of taking the individual shopping, to the doctor, and on other outings without public transportation or for-hire companies which can be expensive and/or unreliable. 

Assisting with Day-to-Day Tasks

Because caregivers are not nurses, they primarily assist with day-to-day tasks rather than monitoring health. 

This may include assisting the individual with grooming and dressing. It may also include cooking meals, enabling bathroom usage, and tidying the house. 

As we mentioned earlier, appropriate transportation may also be part of a caregiver's role. Some individuals have difficulty driving and/or accessing public transportation. Thus, they need assistance with errands, getting to appointments, and making social calls. You may have control over the finances of the person you provide care for as a caregiver. This could be as a primary spender or in a consultant-type roll. Having a conversation about personal transportation is important to consider since it affects both of your health and wellbeing. 

Providing Companionship

Finally, whether it is their primary goal or not, caregivers provide individuals with companionship. They often spend at least a few hours a day with the individual and a natural relationship develops.

This companionship can vastly improve the life of the individual. For many people who are primarily housebound, mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression can begin to set in. Plus, without mental stimulation, cognitive functioning may begin to slip at a faster rate. 

The best caregivers are those who go beyond the necessary duties they are expected to perform and express genuine care and kindness towards the individuals they work with.

We hope we've answered the question, "What is a caregiver?" or "What is a care attendant".

Now we want to help all caregivers find the mobility solutions that are right for their practice. We supply caregivers across the globe with equipment designed specifically for wheelchair users, from wheelchair accessible vehicles, lifts, and seating to wheelchair storage.

If you have questions about our products, pricing, or locations, contact us today. You can also use our dealer locater to find our locations near you. We take pride in creating solutions for caregivers so you can focus on what's most important: the individuals you care for.

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