It’s true that just about anyone can be a caregiver. After all, some people with a health condition may enjoy having someone around in case of emergencies. They may be interested in having the independence of living in their own home and not having to relocate to an assisted living community, but they (or their family) don’t mind having someone around to help with various tasks.
At the same time, some family members may be willing to help as caregivers, even if they don’t have formal medical or nursing experience. Certainly, there are many unskilled tasks that can still help someone’s quality of life and make them feel safer, everything from housekeeping to running errands to assisting in the kitchen. Even providing companionship and conversation can be welcome.
The team at Accredited Home Care sometimes works with clients who already have in-home caregivers. This is OK since it makes them feel comfortable, especially since our staff may only visit a few times a week, while a caregiver may be available around the clock.
We welcome the observations of these personal caregivers – they can give us information about the client’s day-to-day condition, and have the advantage of being able to respond quickly in the case of emergencies and then call for help.
They can also encourage clients to take their medication regularly or perform any exercises as part of physical or occupational therapy.
Even though a client may say they’re fine with a less skilled caregiver helping, we encourage any caregivers/roommates to at least learn the basics of providing aid, so they can provide a higher level of help when needed beyond calling 911.
Someone wanting to be a caregiver or aide already in a nursing or medical program should continue their studies. They will have opportunities to learn more advanced methods.
If you just want the basics, consider seeking out a first aid class or a preparedness program, perhaps at a fire department or area college. Learning the ins and outs of these topics can literally be a life-saver if an emergency takes place. In circumstances where a quick response may be needed, someone with even basic first aid skills can help.
While most first aid classes give a good overview of basic lifesaving skills and how to stabilize someone in crisis until they can get more advanced help, they don’t necessarily focus on seniors.
Seniors may have different needs or encounter different medical emergencies than other age groups. Some areas in which caregivers can learn to offer care include:
- Falls. Falls can be serious for any age but can be devastating, even fatal, for some seniors. The World Health Organization says falls are the second highest cause of unintentional death worldwide – the first is traffic collisions. Many already have mobility challenges, which means they’re at a higher risk of falling. And they might not have the strength or reflexes to catch themselves. They could easily break bones or give themselves a concussion. A serious fall also increases the odds of another serious fall. If you’re a caregiver, it might be difficult to stop someone from falling, but you can look for ways to prevent it, including encouraging them to use a cane or walker or other ways to keep their balance. You can also learn ways to treat someone safely if a fall occurs.
- Bleeding. Bleeding can be caused by trauma, such as a fall. But making the situation more complex is that it might be difficult to stop. Many seniors have thinner skin making it more likely for their skin to break and start bleeding. Adding to this is that some seniors are on blood thinners for their heart health which can make bleeding more severe. If you’re practicing first aid, look for ways to stop or reduce the bleeding and clean the wound if possible. Then keep them hydrated and find ways to prevent them from going into shock if it’s a serious injury.
- Stomach upset/vomiting. There could be all sorts of reasons for seniors to have stomach problems. They could eat food that’s spoiled without realizing it. They could have a bad reaction to medication or perhaps have a wrong dose. The effort of vomiting could also put a strain on muscles in the body and some people are known to pass out. If you’re providing first aid, make sure the person is in a place where they can’t collapse, like a bed or floor, and also tilt their head so they don’t choke.
- Temperature-related conditions. It’s easier for seniors to be affected by heat or cold, sometimes before they realize it. If you’re a caregiver, be conscious of how they’re looking and acting. If they’re shivering look for ways to warm them up like blankets or adjusting the temperature. Or if they’re too warm, look for ways to keep them hydrated and cool them down.
- Heart attack. The best first aid in these situations is to call 911 quickly. But it helps to observe the symptoms, including someone complaining of pain in different areas. While you await help, keep the person warm. You also might need to assist with their breathing with CPR.
Want to know more? Sept. 11 was World First Aid Day, which encourages people in countries around the planet to learn these skills in the event that they can help others.