So You Want to Be a Professional Caregiver

Female caregiver reading a book to elderly man

By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer

Working as a professional caregiver is a very rewarding role, but it’s important to be aware of the interpersonal and professional skills needed to succeed. Let’s look at eight key areas that will have an impact on your career as a professional caregiver.

Patience

One of the essential traits you will need is patience. You will be working with people who might be elderly, sick, or who have physical disabilities or mental impairments. You will need to be patient when you explain things to them, or while you wait for them to carry out physical activities. You also need to remember that some people in your care might be opposed to having a caregiver, and as such, you will need to remain calm when you come up against resistance.

Empathy

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand what someone else is going through and to share their feelings. This is important in any caregiving role. You will need to empathize, not only with the person you are caring for, but with their family members as well. It is also much easier to remain patient with someone and to show compassion if you can imagine yourself in their shoes.

Communication skills

You will need to communicate well with the people in your care, who might themselves have a reduced ability to communicate. You will also need to pass information on to family members and medical professionals. And, you’ll have to receive information and act on it properly. So being able to communicate well will be extremely important when you are providing care to others.

Observation

It’s also vital for you to be very aware of your surroundings and to have good observation skills. You will be working closely with the people in your care, and therefore, it will often be your responsibility to notice any changes in their behavior, habits, or health. You will then need to communicate these changes to family members and medical professionals, so they can be acted upon. 

Flexible and organized

A caregiver often works alone during a shift and will have a number of duties to undertake during this time. You will need to be organized, so that everything gets done in time. You will also need good timekeeping skills, so that the people in your care get their medication on time, aren’t late to any appointments, and have good meals at appropriate times. Flexibility is also important, as you might need to deal with unexpected events or medical emergencies.

Practical skills

The duties of a caregiver are varied and can differ from one person in your care to the next, depending on their needs. You will need to be willing to do light housekeeping duties, run errands, prepare meals, and offer personal care, including grooming, showering, dressing, feeding, and toilet assistance. You’ll need to have a driver’s license, to drive yourself to the client’s residence and also to drive clients to various appointments, if necessary. Many caregivers undertake further training in special areas, such as dementia care or nutrition. 

Social skills

The ability to get on with a wide variety of people — including the family and friends of the people in your care, healthcare professionals, and your colleagues, is crucial. You will be spending a lot of time with the person in your care and therefore the ability to form a good relationship with them is key, as companionship is a central element of the role.

Boundary setting

Your role as a caregiver will at times be difficult and you may have to deal with the loss of someone in your care. It’s critical therefore to have good boundaries in place between your personal and professional life. You will need to find ways to relax and switch off and having a good support system yourself is vital. Caregiving is also quite a physical role, so you will need to care for your own health. Be sure to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.

Working as a caregiver

Caregivers work in various ways: residential care environments, they can work in a self-employed capacity, or they can be employed by an agency. When you are weighing up what’s right for you; it’s important to look at the wider picture. The caregivers who work with us at Care & Comfort at Home have access to educational and professional support, are covered by our licensing, insurance, and bonding, and receive significant benefits and wages that are higher than many of our competitors. If you are interested in working for us you can find out more here.