Enjoy Caregiving? Become a Certified Nursing Aide

Do you enjoy providing caregiving services for a loved one or neighbor?  If so, you may want to become a Certified Nursing Aide and expand your employment opportunities while enjoying a fulfilling career.

Certification is managed by the department of health in each state in the U.S.A.  You may usually find training programs through community colleges and in some states, nursing homes and hospitals offer certified nursing aide classes.

Admission requirements for Certified Nursing Aides are typically:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • Reading, writing and math competency
  • English competency
  • Drug testing
  • Background checks

The cost ranges from $500 - $4,000 and usually financial aide and grant programs are available.  Classes usually can be completed inm 1 to 3 months.  Usually part-time evening programs are available.

You may learn more about caregiving job opportunities and find certified nursing aide training programs in your area on Caregiverlist.

 

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Better Healthcare for Caregivers

Ironically, senior caregivers, as the people on the front lines of providing the daily care needs, very often do not have robust health care insurance through their employers.  Caregiving can be physically and emotionally draining, much more so than many other careers.  Senior care corporations have the same challenges as other small businesses in the U.S. - difficulty providing for benefits for employees who make less than six figures a year and difficulty qualifying for group plans because of high turnover in employees and a high number of part-time employees (caregiver turnover is a necessary part of caregiving as senior clients get better or pass away).  At the same time, a little preventative care would go a very long way in helping caregivers manage a healthy lifestyle. Stress turns to distress when it is not handled positively and results in physical, mental and emotional health issues.  As stress comes with the territory of caregiving, effective health insurance to assist with combating stress should always be provided to caregivers.

Following are some of the health effects of stress on the body.   As caregivers for seniors are assisting with end-of-life issues, along with the daily activities of living, it is important they are able to effectively manage the stresses that come with caregiving.
  • Disturbed Sleep (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Appetite changes (eating too much or losing appetite)
  • Overacting to situations (easily angered or irritated)
  • Need to be alone (isolation)
  • Constant negativity
  • Moodiness and hypersensitivity
  • Loss of confidence
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Breathing problems (anxious or can't catch breath)
  • Unmotivated and feeling tired constantly
  • Muscle tension and pain (the kink in your neck that doesn't go away)
Studies show that the combination of one or more of the health effects of stress can lead to diseases such as substance abuse, heart problems, strokes, hypertension, ulcers, depression, skin problems, severe weight gain or weight loss, to name just a few.

As the need for senior caregivers continues to grow along with the aging population, it is important our country considers the health care needs of all workers.  The New York Times/CBS news poll indicates wide support for a government run health care program.  Americans said they would be willing to pay higher taxes for a universal health plan.  It seems to make sense that the health care industry should be a fan of this new plan which would help them support their frontline caregivers better.

Starbuck's founder, Howard Schultz, experienced the challenges of living without health insurance along with the economic hardships that come with it, as his father did not have a job providing health insurance.  He went down a very long and winding road to be able to provide health care coverage to Starbuck's employees and this continues to be a benefit he believes in, even when the shareholders protest because of the costs.

Let us know what your health care benefits are as a caregiver - post your comments and join the conversation. 
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Insider's Guide to Becoming a Nursing Aide

There are many different paths to becoming a caregiver.  Some senior caregivers first provided care to a friend or family member before becoming a professional caregiver.  Others may have worked in other industries which did not provide flexible schedules or personal fulfillment. 

For those caregivers seeking to become certified in their state as a certified nursing aide or home health aide, Caregiverlist provides an Insider's Guide with tips and interviews from nursing aide schools, including the 6 Success Tips for Becoming a Certified Nursing AIde:

1) Be proactive during the application process

2) Prepare before the first day of class

3) Be aware of the duties involved for Certified Nursing Aides

4) Set aside time to focus on the program

5) Apply early for financial aid

6) Research job opportunities ahead of graduation

Senior Caregiver Pay: How Much Should Caregivers Be Paid?

This past weekend the Washington Post magazine published an in-depth story about senior caregiving, profiling a 63-year-old caregiver, Marilyn Daniel, who cares for multiple senior clients as a home health aide.  The story mentions the turnover rate of 40 to 60% for direct-care workers and the low pay.  Although the article says caregiving does not pay much more than minimum wage, which is actually inaccurate, as the federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour and Marilyn Daniel is paid $12.40 per hour, nearly double the federal minimum wage.

Caregiving actually does pay much more than the minimum wage in every state and Caregiverlist provides the minimum wage information in every state to help caregivers negotiate their pay rate.  The highest minimum wage is in Washington state, at $8.55 per hour, followed by Oregon state at $8.40 per hour and then by California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, all paying $8.00 per hour.  Most state minimum wages are somewhere between $6.55 and $7.25 per hour.

As is often noted, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the occupation of senior home care aides as the second-fastest-growing occupation in the U.S.A. with projections for a more than 50 percent increase in caregivers during the next decade.

Payroll taxes are typically another 25% of a caregiver's pay (Social Security, Unemployment, Worker's Compensation Insurance), although a caregiver does not see this money as take-home pay, but rather as payments direct to these benefits.

How much do you think caregivers should be paid?  Should there be set increases according to advanced training completed and skills tests?

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Caregiver Job Application

What information should potential caregivers expect to be asked on a senior care job application?

Individuals interested in working as senior caregivers should be able to demonstrate they are dependable and trustworthy throughout the caregiving job application process.

You will be asked about your previous caregiving experience, work experience and your caregiving skills.  Names and addresses of past employers will be needed.  You will be asked to provide the start and end dates for your previous jobs and the reason for leaving.

You will also need to provide copies of any certifications and completed training programs.

Be sure all of your information is accurate, including the previous addresses where you have lived, in order for this information to match your background check.

As the most important aspect for success in caregiving is a caring personality and an interest in providing care and assistance to someone, think about how you can communicate your reasons for seeking this type of work.  If you can share stories about experiences you have had with family members or friends or through volunteering, you will be able to provide evidence that you truly are a caring individual.

You may view a sample senior home care agency job application on Caregiverlist.

Caregiver Reference Checks

Caregivers hired for seniors have a more rigorous screening and hiring process that most employees, including nannies.  This is because senior caregivers become a friend and confidant to their clients and many times are working with a senior who may have memory loss.  It is very important to make sure the caregiver not only has the skills and experience required for caregiving but is also dependable and trustworthy.

Professional caregivers also want to be sure that hiring senior home care agencies have policies in place to both guide and protect them from anything inappropriate as they want to continue to work in the senior care field.

How do agencies screen caregivers?

The first step is a multi-state criminal background check.  Caregiverlist provides information on background check laws by state and advocates that you should run fast if a company is offering a "free" background check - lots of websites, including nanny websites, offer free checks and a good background check is going to cost at least $15.00.  Most free checks are simply a name and social security number match and perhaps a sex offender search as these are computerized and regularly updated (mandated by law).  But there are many, many counties in the U.S.A. who do not have computerized criminal records or who do not update these records daily and for this reason, to adequately do a criminal record check, you need a human to have access to the courthouse and pay the fee for accessing these records.

Caregivers then must pass a telephone screening to be invited for an interview.  Caregivers invited for an interview must fill out an application and then meet with usually a few of the company executives (Case Managers, Staffing Coordinators, Field Supervisors) and then attend a training session and successfully complete a training test.

Reference checks are conducted on only the caregivers the agency chooses to hire.  Reference checks include personal and professional references to learn about the caregiver's dependability and character.

Information verified in reference checks include:

  • Dates of employment at former jobs
  • Attendance record
  • Reason for leaving job
  • Strengths of the employee
  • Weaknesses of the employee
  • Asking if the former managers would hire the individual to take care of their own parent or grandparent

Most agencies require 3 personal and 3 business references from caregiver job applicants.  There are many kind and caring caregivers seeking to share their skills with seniors in need of care and the hiring process, including checking references, helps validate the caregiver's qualifications.

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Caregiver Positions

Senior care positions for caregivers include part-time, full-time and live-in companion care positions and 24-hour live-in positions for both companion caregivers, Certified Nursing Aides and Home Health Aides.

As the senior population continues to increase as America's largest generation, the Baby Boomers, grow older and live longer due to medical advancements, the need for senior caregivers will continue to increase.

Who hires senior caregivers?  Senior home care agencies, nursing homes and assisted living communities.

What are the typical duties for caregivers?  Duties include assisting with meal planning and preparation and cleaning the kitchen after a meal, assisting with personal care which may include helping with eating, bathing and toileting, assisting with light housekeeping, laundry, changing bed linens, monitoring medications, coaching exercises, running errands, organizing the weekly calendar and escorting the senior to appointments (especially if they are experiencing memory loss).  In addition, activities for socializing and exercising the memory may be included in the caregiving schedule.  Examples would be outings to community events, visiting a museum, attending a music or sporting event, creating a scrapbook or writing correspondence to friends and family members.

Seniors who are coping with an age-related disease such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's disease, or battling cancer may require more hands-on care.  In addition, seniors who have chosen hospice for their end-of-life care, may also require more assistance which may need to be provided by a Certified Nursing Aide or Home Health Aide.

You may learn more about training for these certifications and caregiving job descriptions on our website, and you may apply for a caregiving position in your area.

 

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Caregiver Training

Caregivers often email us to ask about caregiver training programs.  Most senior home care agencies offer training programs to all of their newly hired caregivers through orientation and continuing education seminars.  Special training programs for caring for seniors with memory loss and providing hospice care are usually offered.

Family members are often pleasantly surprised to find a caregiver is successful in interacting with their parent when family members have not been.  Often this is simply because the caregiver has been properly trained in providing senior care.  Non-medical senior caregivers may now receive online caregiver training through a 10-hour course created by aQuire training solutions which will meet the requirements that have been created by the departements of health in some states.

Many hospitals and community programs offer training and support groups for senior caregivers.  The department of health in each state regulates caregiver certification programs which are required by the laws in that state.  All states administer certification for Certified Nursing Aides.  Some states also provide certifications for training as a Certified Home Health Aide and Certified Personal Care Assistant.  Many of these certification programs are offered through community colleges and hospitals.  Sometimes an employer will cover the cost of the program or offer reimbursement after the caregiver certification training has been successfully completed.

Each state maintains a registry of those caregivers who have active certifications and requires continuing education or ongoing employment in order for the certification to remain active.  Renewals of certifications usually are required every 2 years.  All certification programs require caregivers to successfully complete criminal background checks and drug tests in order to be admitted.  Senior home care agencies, nursing homes and hospitals often require caregivers to be certified as this provides an additional guarantee that the caregiver has completed a background check, drug test, written exam, skills exam and has maintained all qualifications to remain active in the state registry (which includes not having formal complaints or disciplinary actions taken against them while employed as an aide).

Senior caregivers can also contact their local department on aging to find out about senior care training programs they may offer. 

Certified Nursing Aides are the hands-on caregivers in nursing homes and for senior home care agencies - they are often referred to as a nurse by seniors as they provide the care many people assume nurses provide.  Registered nurses do learn all of the certified nursing aide skills as part of their registered nurse education and are qualified to perform the care and many times do when hospitals and nursing homes are short-staffed.

Personal Care Assistants usually have at least 40 hours of training.

The CHHHA program is designed to provide a learning experience where students will be able to successfully obtain the entry-level skills necessary to obtain employment in the healthcare industry.

Some typical duties of a homemaker-home health aide include helping the patient take a bath, use the toilet or bedpan, and dress the patient. They also may prepare patient meals, do light laundering, straighten the patient’s room, run errands, and assist with exercise regimens.

The 76 hour curriculum mandated by the New Jersey Board of Nursing includes all components necessary (speech, occupational, physical therapy, CPR, dietary skills, etc.) to train participants to provide home care to the ill and elderly. . Students enrolled in this course will spend their time in classroom work, hands-on clinical practice, multimedia, lab skills practice and individualized student centered instruction.

The course is designed so that students will meet all requirements necessary to take the New Jersey Board of Nursing approved examination and become Certified Homemaker-Home Health Aide (CHHHA) upon the successful completion of this course

Certified Personal Care Assistant (CPCA):  Trained to assist the elderly and disabled with meals, toileting and items needed for daily living.  Usually around 40 hours of training, often this level of care is referred to as companion care.

Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA):  Entry-level training to begin working in the healthcare field and prepares individuals for training as a Certified Nursing Aide.  Training includes:  assisting patients with bathing, toileting, dressing, nutrition education and meal preparation and exercise regimens. Usually around 75 hours of training.

Certified Nursing Aide (C.N.A.):  Training to assist a registered nurse in a nursing home or hospital to administer the hands-on care, including both the emotional and physical aspects of care.  Training includes proper transfers, bathing, dressing, vital signs, catheter care, feeding tube care, hospice care and how to maintain cleanliness for all care procedures.  Usually 150 hours of training both in a classroom and clinical setting.

Caregiverlist provides tutorials for certified nursing aide training and home health aide training and lab skills, along with senior care briefs for specific care items.

 You may also join the Professional Association of Caregivers to receive 10-hours of online training for free with a certificate of completion when you pass at the 80% pass rate.

 

 

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Caregiver Qualifications

What are the qualifications to be a senior caregiver?

Senior caregiving involves assisting seniors with their activities of daily living, or "ADL's".  What are these activities?  Anything required to function throughout the day as a healthy adult:  eating, bathing, toileting, shopping, cooking, household cleaning and managing scheduled appointments.  Socializing and exercising are also considered important activities for healthy aging.

Learn about the skills required for non-medical caregivers and take an 10-hour online training caregiver certification program created by the leader in online training, aQuire Training Solutions.  You may join the Professional Association of Caregivers for ongoing support as a caregiver.

Some seniors who are recovering from a stroke, heart attack, or coping with cancer or an age-related disease such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease may require more hands-on care by a Certified Nursing Aide or Home Health Aide.  Each state manages the licensing requirements for health care workers through their department of health.  Senior home care agencies, hospitals and nursing homes must follow the state regulations for hiring senior caregivers.

The United States has 1.8 million certified nursing aides (each state also requires nursing aides to update their certification, similar to a driver's license renewal, to maintain an active certification).  As the population ages, the need for senior caregivers will continue to grow, making caregiving a career where you will always find employment (even in a slow economy).

The basic qualifications for a companion caregiver are:

  • 18-years-of age
  • Caring personality
  • Interest in senior care demonstrated through volunteering or personal experience providing care
  • Communication skills:  able to speak English clearly and record care plan updates
  • Cooking skills:  able to prepare meals including oatmeal, soup, meat and vegetables
  • Dependability:  able to arrive to assignments on time and be easily reachable by phone
  • References:  must provide business and personal references - usually 3 references are required
  • Background Check:  must pass a criminal background check
  • Driving Skills:  sometimes required, if driving a senior in their car or in your car

Senior home care agencies will provide training for each assignment.  In addition, most senior home care agencies provide training through their new caregiver orientation along with ongoing training sessions for hospice care, memory loss care and labs for testing nursing aide skills.

Caregiverlist provides you with a Caregiver Quiz and Home Health Aide and Certified Nursing Aide lab skill worksheets.  If you are interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Aide, look for programs offered through your local community colleges and hospitals.

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