Getting Trained for Family Caregiving
What do family caregivers need most? It might be training for the medical tasks they often perform. A new AP-NORC poll found that while most caregivers say their work is rewarding, fewer than half say they’ve had enough training to confidently take on tasks like catheter care, wound care and other medical needs.
If you’re a family caregiver, where can you go for more information and training? Here are some resources you can use to get more comfortable with medical tasks.
1. Begin with your parents’ doctor or hospital.
In several states (California, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oklahoma, among them), hospitals and rehab facilities are required to help family members learn how to care for a sick relative once they return home. For example, hospital social workers can show family members how to take care of wounds, demonstrate safe ways to transfer the patient, and suggest tools and supplies to make caregiving easier.
If your parents’ doctor or hospital doesn’t offer this kind of information, ask. For example, if you’re not sure how to give your dad or mom their insulin injections, ask if a nurse can show you all the steps and later watch you do it to make sure you’re doing it right. You can also ask if the hospital offers classes for family caregivers. You may also be able to get your parents’ doctor to prescribe short-term home health care from an agency (usually paid for by Medicare if it meets certain requirements) and those providers can show you how to handle daily care tasks.
2. Hire home health care to show you what to do.
What if your parents’ doctor and hospital don’t have any training resources to offer, and your parent isn’t eligible for Medicare-covered home care? One option is to contact a local home health care agency and hire a CNA for a few visits to show you how to handle your parents’ care tasks. This will cost you some money, but it may save you time going back to the doctor or to the emergency room later on. It’s also a good idea to build a relationship with a home health agency in case you ever need respite care on short notice — for example, if you get sick or have another family emergency.
3. Use your Area Agency on Aging.
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging can help you find caregiver training programs and other resources and support from the nearest AAA. For example, the Dallas Area Agency on Aging, part of the Community Council of Greater Dallas, offers workshops to help seniors with chronic health issues and their caregivers manage medication schedules, maintain mobility, manage pain, and more. In Chicago, the city’s Senior Services-Area Agency on Aging hosts regular workshops to provide medical information to caregivers.
4. Use AARP’s state caregiver resources guides.
Another resource for finding caregiver education is AARP’s series of caregiver resource guides, available for 14 states and Puerto Rico. These comprehensive guides provide contact information for everything from benefits to caregiver support hotlines to counseling services.
5. Watch these Caregiver Action Network videos.
The Caregiver Action Network has produced a series of videos that show you exactly how to perform basic healthcare tasks including
- Assisting with a shower bath
- Assisting with toileting
- Helping with range of motion exercises
- Managing medication
- Monitoring vital signs
- Turning and positioning to prevent bed sores
The Caregiver Action Network has more resources for family care providers here. You can also call SeniorAdvisor.com at 1-800-805-3621 for information on home health and respite care services near you.