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How Can Older People be in Control of Decision Making About Their Care and Support Needs?
what is care worker

One of the mainstays of human life is the ability to be independent and self-sufficient. For a person who has been independent all their lives, the realisation that the ageing process is slowly robbing them of that independence can be an unwelcome shock.

As we become older, there are a few things which may become difficult or impossible to do alone. In some cases, the individual wants to do them, feels they are able to do, but there is a worry about safety, which means the family begin to express concerns. This can cause a rift and unwelcome problems.

The answer could well be a care worker.

A care worker is a qualified and experienced individual who is assigned to work with a particular elderly person. The care worker will aid the individual in any tasks that they might not be able to do on their own, or which they might have a few difficulties with. This is done with the utmost respect for the person’s dignity and independence, and actually helps them to continue living a self-sufficient, independent life, but with a few safety nets in place. This gives the family confidence and peace of mind, and also helps the elderly person feel safer in their own home.

Not every elderly person wants to go into a care home if the need arises. Equally, not every family wants to resort to a care home for an elderly parent or loved one either. In some cases, it just isn’t feasible for their loved one to move in with them, usually because of space, and it’s usually the case that they don’t want to move out of the house which they have been in for so long. This is a perfectly understandable request, and one which should be respected and adhered to as much as possible. A care worker can make that happen.

What Does a Care Worker do?

Basically, a care worker is there to help an elderly person remain in their own home and make their life as easy and safe as possible. A few of the tasks they can help with include:

  • Helping with medication administration, and making sure it is taken at the right times of the day
  • Running day to day chores and errands
  • Cleaning the house
  • Preparing meals
  • Personal care and hygiene

A care worker is there to become a companion, someone the elderly person trusts and can speak to on a professional line, but also as a friend, and someone they can chat to about personal issues and memories they have. The more of a companion the care worker becomes, the more the elderly person will trust them, encourage them to help more, and open up about any difficulties they might be having.

It is the job of a care worker to help an elderly person maintain their independence for as long as possible, and to keep their spirits up when the inevitable life blues set in. Despite this, a care worker is not there to act as a school headteacher and become bossy or dictatorial. They are there to respect the choices and views of the elderly person, and to simply help guide, rather than give orders.

A care worker can also look out for any specific signs that something isn’t quite right with your loved one. For instance, a professionally trained care worker will be able to spot signs of possible dementia or Alzheimer’s much faster, because they know what to look out for. In this case, getting help sooner rather than later will mean that management techniques can be adopted, and the condition slowed down. If this wasn’t the case, it might go on for much longer before help is sought.

How a Care Worker Maintains The Bond Between an Elderly Person And Their Family

Whilst there is nothing in the world that can break the bond between an elderly parent and their children, when the ageing process sets in, life can become frustrating and upsetting. It isn’t pleasant for a son or daughter to watch their parent become older, and it is frustrating for the parent because they may feel they do not want to become a burden on their children. In this situation, a care worker can bridge the gap and help stop any frustrations and unspoken issues from setting in.

Relying on a family member can often lead to resentment on one side or the other, and it can cause issues which may become deep-rooted. With a care worker on hand, the small errands and jobs are taken care of, and both sides have peace of mind that the time they spend together is quality time, and time which is spent enjoying each other’s company.

It’s positive all around – the elderly person gets to remain in their home and maintain their independence, with a comfort blanket of someone there if they need them. The family are happy that they have peace of mind that their loved one’s basic needs are taken care of.

The Benefits of Hiring a Care Worker

There are many benefits of hiring a care worker, but you also need to make sure that you find the right care worker for your needs. There has to be a personality match between the care worker and the elderly person, and they have to have the right traits which allow them to fit seamlessly into the situation. We will talk a little later about what to look for in a care worker, but for now, let’s explore the main benefits of hiring a care worker for your elderly loved one.

  • Professional care taking place within the home. This gives peace of mind to not only the elderly person concerned, but also to the family. A care worker isn’t just someone who goes in and does the cleaning or errands, it is someone who is professionally trained, and in some cases, medically trained. The type of care worker you opt for depends upon the needs of your loved one, but every single one of them will be professionally trained and have undergone rigorous background checks for extra peace of mind.
  • A social element for your loved one. We all live busy lives and sometimes we cannot be there for our elderly loved ones as much as we might like to be. In this case, guilt might set in and we might start to worry that maybe they’re lonely or not getting the social life they need. A care worker can provide an element of companionship for your loved one, and they can build up a friendship. This will give them something to look forward to, e.g. the visitation of their care worker on a daily basis, or at the frequency which has been decided.
  • More affordable than you might think – Home care workers are not as expensive as most people think and whilst it depends on the type of care worker you hire, there are very affordable options for most budgets. When you compare the cost of a care worker to the high cost of a nursing or care home, the care worker options comes out far cheaper.
  • Care is personalised – A care worker will approach every single elderly person they have on their books as individuals, and that means that their care will also be individual too. One person might have needs in terms of errands and cleaning, whilst another individual might need more focus on meal preparation or medication. A care worker also knows that personalities are vastly different, and the individual one on one approach means that your loved one has that social element and companionship we just mentioned, but they also get their needs met.
  • Independence is maintained – A care worker ensures that an elderly person maintains their independence, and therefore their dignity, for as long as possible. At-home care means that they can stay in their home, the place they have probably lived in and lovingly decorated for many more years to come, rather than feeling that they need to move and live with family, and possibly become what they may perceive to be a ‘burden’. In addition, remaining at home also helps with recovery times and happiness, because the elderly person is within their own surroundings and therefore feels more comfortable.
  • Families remain close together – There are two sides to this benefit. The first is that care homes and not always close by, and if a loved one has to go and stay far away, that can make them feel too distant or ‘cut off’. Visitations can also be a problem. There is also the issue of disputes between family members, because of the inevitable frustration which sets in when a family member needs more assistance and the younger members of the family simply don’t have the time, because of work, etc. A care worker can help alleviate this pressure and frustration, and maintain family ties.
  • A care worker can spot any illnesses or problems – A care worker is a professionally trained individual and that means they can spot any potential illnesses or age-related conditions much sooner than you can. As a result, your loved one can access the help and treatment they need far faster.

Of course, the biggest benefit is peace of mind for all concerned, and that is something that money simply can’t buy.

How to Find The Ideal Care Worker

Now you know what a care worker is, what they can do, and why there are major benefits to be had when hiring one, how can you find the best care worker for the needs of your elderly loved one? What are the main traits to look for?

  • Qualifications – Always check the qualifications of any care worker you are considering hiring and check that they have the most up to date certification for the role. The type of qualification depends upon the type of care worker they are.
  • Experience – How much experience do they have? It’s best to go with someone who has years of experience over someone who is relatively new, however it’s also down to gut feeling and how they perform. At the interview, ask some probing questions, or when choosing an agency, make it very clear what you’re looking for.
  • Patience – A care worker needs to be a patient person who doesn’t become frustrated easily. Elderly people can often take longer to perform certain tasks, and they can also sometimes refuse to do things which they clearly need to do. A care worker is there to encourage and help, but they need to be as patient as possible and respect the choices and independence of the elderly person too.  
  • Someone with a personality which matches theirs – Remember, a care worker is there to provide a social element for your loved one also, so you need to choose someone who has the type of personality your loved one is going to click with. Some elderly people may not want a care worker who is quite young, whilst another might love to have a younger care worker because they will dote on them also. On the flip side, some elderly people might not respond well to a man, or a woman. It’s important to know what your loved one will prefer and go with that. Someone with a sense of humour is also very important!
  • Good listener – A care worker is there to listen and talk as well, so someone who can really listen and help your loved one feel better about any aspects of life they’re struggling with is vital.
  • Quick learner – A care worker is going to be going into your love one’s home and they need to quickly learn where things are, how to do a thing, and the basic things which your loved one requires.
  • Willingness to do whatever it takes to help – Of course, a willingness to help is a personality trait of any care worker, and one you need to be on the lookout for.
  • Medical training – This may or may not be a consideration, but it completely depends upon the type of care worker you’re employing. If you’re looking for a registered nurse, you will need to look for the specific medical training.