Using Care Assistants To Help Care For Elderly Relatives
Looking after an elderly relative can be very rewarding. It is usually a challenge, and at worst, it is extremely stressful. Many people set out with good intentions, but find that they cannot cope with the challenges and stresses and have to call in the help of a care assistant or a home help.
Advantage of using a care assistant or home help
One of the big advantages of using a care assistant or home help is that they are able to maintain an air of detachment that you could never achieve. If you care for someone you love, sometimes your emotions get in the way of making sensible decisions. It is almost is impossible to detach yourself from your family role as well as providing quality care. Care assistants do not have the depth of feeling about your relative that you will have. They will not have all the emotions that go with caring for a disabled or ill relative.
What do care assistants (also known as as care workers, social care workers or home help) do?
Care assistants provide practical day to day help with the care of an elderly person. Good care assistants will also be watchful of your needs as the primary carer. Care assistants will:
- Get to know the elderly person that they are caring for and understand their needs
- Provide assistance with daily personal care such as washing, dressing, using the toilet and meal times
- Do general tasks around the house like cleaning, washing and preparing light meals
Offer help with personal interests such as letter writing
- Provide advice to the primary carer on how to look after the elderly person
* Liaise with healthcare professionals on matters concerning the elderly person's health
* Help organise outings and other recreational activities
What qualifications and experience do care assistants have?
Naturally, you need to know about the qualifications and experience of a care assistant before you let them into your home to care for your loved one. This can vary enormously, and it's sometimes important to remember that experience and empathy are more important than qualifications. However, previous experience is essential if the person who needs looking after has mental health issues.
Usually care assistants have experience in a caring role, perhaps through volunteering, working for agencies who provide nursing and caring staff, or working in a residential home home or hospice. Usually, staff who come via agencies have been checked with the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) and cleared enabling them to work with vulnerable adults.
Skills to look out for in a care assistant are:
- a warm, empathetic, friendly and caring approach
- the ability get on with all sorts of people
- tact, sensitivity and compassion
- the ability to show respect to clients
- patience and a sense of humour
- reliability and flexibility
- honesty and trustworthiness
- knowledge of caring procedures (see training below)
- the ability to stay calm under pressure.
What sort of training do care assistants receive?
Care assistants often receive on-the-job training with an employer such as a care or nursing home. Some may have attended adult social care courses, which cover subjects such as:
- principles of care
- understanding your role as a care worker
- health and safety
- lifting techniques
- communication skills
- recognising and responding to abuse and neglect
- developing as a care worker.
Qualifications to look out for in the UK are NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care.
One aspect of employing a care assistant is that will enable to not to have to deal with the more personal aspect of looking after a relative such as personal hygiene. Many primary carers, and the elderly people in their care, find the business of undressing and washing embarrassing. The detachment of a care assistant makes this process much easier all round. In fact it might be that this is the only aspect of care that you need help with. If someone else takes care of dressing and personal hygiene, you can focus on providing meals and doing jobs around the home.
How to use a care assistant
Most care assistants visit at least twice a day, usually to get the elderly person out of bed in the morning and to deal with washing, dressing and personal hygiene and then the reverse process in the evening. However, you can choose to have a care assistant come as often as you need. Some can even stay all day or all night in case help is needed if the elderly person falls out of bed. Two or three times a day is most popular, especially amongst those caring for elderly relatives who also have a full time job. Of course the other factor is money - you will need to pay for the care assistant and this may be a deciding factor in how many times a day the assistant calls.
Where do I find care assistants?
Your first port of call should be your local social services department. They will have lists of agencies who provide care assistants. The advantage of his source is that they usually will have been vetted by the social services department. Alternatively, you can search for home help services on the Internet or in the local telephone directory. Always interview the care assistants and follow up any references that they provide. You may also want to ask the opinion of your elderly relative. After all, they will have most contact and need to feel comfortable about the person you employ. If you select the care assistant and do not ask the opinion of the elderly person who requires care, you may be in for trouble if they do not get on!