Caregiver and Nursing Aide Testing

Senior caregivers assisting seniors in their homes may be companion caregivers or may be certified home health aides or certified nursing aides, depending upon the state where they are working and the licensing requirements for that state's department of health.  If there is no hands-on care required, the majority of states do not require formal certification or training for a senior caregiver.  However, most professional senior home care agencies do require new employees to complete their training program and provide ongoing training in caring for seniors with memory loss, for hospice care and for other age-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease.

Caregivers interested in pursuing a career as a professional caregiver working for a senior home care agency or assisted living community or nursing home may further their skills by taking nursing aide practice tests and regularly reviewing the nursing aide exam questions.

Caregiverlist offers a free question of the day and 10-question certified nursing aide sample test, provided by Headmaster, a leader in administering state nursing aide test exams.  You may also find certified nursing aide training programs in your area.

 

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Caregiver Training Programs

Caregivers interested in obtaining additional training in caring for seniors can obtain certification as a nursing aide or home health aide and attend customized training programs in hospice care and memory loss care.

Nursing Aide training involves learning hands-on care techniques, such as how to safely transfer someone from a bed to a walker or wheelchair and back to a chair or toilet.  Nursing aide training also includes learning how to assist with all aspects of personal care including feeding, toileting, bathing and managing the emotional demands of caregiving.  Nursing aide programs are available through local community colleges, community programs and some hospitals and nursing homes.  You may find Certified Nursing Aide and Certified Home Health Aide programs in your area on Caregiverlist, along with their costs and admission requirements.

You may also purchase an online 10-hour caregiver training program for non-medical caregivers and receive a certificate of completion.

Many senior centers and associations for age-related illnesses, such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease provide seminars and mini-training programs for both professional caregivers and family caregivers.

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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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