A senior caregiver is a person who assists senior citizens, when necessary, in the performance of the activities of daily living. It is not a medically skilled position, as the job consists primarily of what are considered custodial duties. Skilled medical jobs, such as the administration of medications and other medical services are usually performed by those trained in such duties. In some cases, however, it may be deemed medically appropriate that a senior caregiver have more advanced medical training in order to be able to respond properly in case of an emergency. In these cases, it may be determined to have a certified nursing assistant or even a full-fledged nurse perform the caregiving duties, although this is not common.
There are six activities of daily living (ADLs) that are considered essential for all people: eating, bathing, toileting and dressing are self explanatory; transferring refers to the senior's ability to move from bed to chair and vice-versa, and continence is the ability to control one's urinary and fecal discharge. Some authorities recognize a seventh ADL &emdash; mobility, or the ability to move about freely. “Assistance” with ADLs may be hands-on or it may be stand-by; that is, a senior caregiver may be required only to be available to render assistance in the event the patient is unable to carry it out, or it may be the case that the senior is absolutely incapable of performing the ADL alone and must be assisted.
A senior caregiver's duties are not very complex, then, but some training is required, as well as a temperament that's amenable to routinely carrying out chores that many would consider demeaning, such as helping another adult dress, or assisting an adult who is incontinent. In addition, because the loss of the ability to perform ADLs is often associated with the onset of dementia, senior caregivers must also be capable of dealing with the sometimes unreasonable nature of the demands of those afflicted by this condition. Some senior caregivers pursue additional training that leads to certification by their state because most long term care insurance policies only cover services rendered by a certified senior caregiver.
Senior caregivers may work with the elderly in their own homes, or in facilities such as adult daycare centers or nursing homes. The care they provide is usually called “long term care,” although “home health care” is a popular characterization when it's provided at home, and then the senior caregiver may be called a “home health aide.” Due both to the cost of care and also to the psychological impact, placing a senior in a nursing home is usually considered a last resort, and seniors and their families will go to great lengths to avoid it. Fortunately, the training required isn't very time-consuming or difficult, and many family members of seniors requiring care are able to provide a great deal of the care necessary. Adult daycare centers, which are sometimes considered to be “nursing homes that are open during business hours,” provide daytime ADL assistance, as well as necessary medical attention such as administering medication or changing dressings, to seniors while their adult children work.