National Nursing Assistant's Week

Many caregivers are certified nursing assistants or certified home health assistants and have chosen a career in caregiving that pays more in fulfillment than in dollars.  These assistants have attended a professionally certified training program and passed a state exam to become a certified nursing assistant or certified home health aide (each state regulates the certification in their states, along with the titles).

To recognize the ongoing need for quality caregivers and to help support the needs of nursing aides, the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants has created the Nursing Assistants and Direct Care Workers week for June 11th - June 18th.

Take time this week to say thank you to a caregiver and to learn more about the profession you may visit the nursing association's website.

You may also learn about the training for nursing assistants and find a training program in your area on Caregiverlist.

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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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Swine Flu Symptoms: Keep Seniors Safe

What should seniors and their caregivers be aware of with the recent announcement of the swine flu virus?

Seniors are always impacted more by illnesses because their natural defenses are no longer as strong to fight diseases and their bodies may already be weakened by age-related illnesses.  A geriatric doctor once told me that pneumonia is an old man's best friend as he had so often seen it be the cause of death when a senior was successful in fighting every other age-related disease.  Seniors and their Caregivers should be extra careful to be aware of the symptoms of the swine flu virus in order to take quick action if they occur.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued the declaration of public emergency as a routine step to make sure we stay aware and take precautions.  If a senior develops any signs of illness, as always, you should call their doctor and follow their advice.  The health alert was issued to assist Americans to learn about the illness in order to prevent further spread of the virus in the U.S.A.  The good news is you do not get the swine flu from eating pork. 

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Can humans catch swine flu?
Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans which is why this outbreak has caused some alarm.  The causes of human infections in the past have been extremely rare but have occurred when a person had direct contact with pigs with the disease, which happened in Wisconsin in 1988.  People who interact with pigs as farm workers usually are the ones who first contract the swine flu illness and then spread it to other humans.

How common is swine flu infection in humans?
The Center for Disease Control reports approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza were reported.

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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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Nursing Home Shootings

Yesterday, a Certified Nursing Aide's estranged husband entered a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina, where she was employed, and killed 7 residents and a nurse during his shooting rampage. 

Usually the nursing home deaths which make the news are related to mistreatment of residents or improper care procedures which lead to death.  This is one of the reasons more people are opting for care in the home, instead of a nursing home, especially for short-term care needs, as a one-on-one caregiver can often deliver better care.

Nursing home incidents which result in inferior care are usually connected to staffing issues.  Sometimes nursing homes staff only 1 nursing aide to as many as 15 residents.  This is why many times experienced Certified Nursing Aides will move into home care positions where they know they can provide quality care to just one client,.

Earlier this year, an Itasca, Illinois nursing home employee watched television for more than an hour and ignored the alarm that indicated a woman with Alzheimer's disease was wandering.  The elderly resident went outside in freezing temperatures and her frozen body was later found in the facility's courtyard.

The employee was charged with criminal neglect.

Senior Home Care Agencies provide professionally managed caregivers for seniors and these caregivers are usually highly qualified and experienced.  Home care agencies perform background checks on all caregivers and also train and actively manage the caregivers for each assignment.

You can learn about the background check laws in each state on Caregiverlist's "by state" information section (because as in the situation above, it is also important that companies do not hire someone who has demonstrated poor judgement in the past.  Most career caregivers want to receive high recommendations from their managers as they know they will need to be reassigned after a current client's condition improves or after the senior passes. And, as they have invested in training to become a professional caregiver, they want to continue to be employed).
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Senior Care Daily Care Notes

A healthy daily routine assists seniors (and the rest of us) to enjoy a healthy lifestyle with physical and mental exercise and socialization.  But how do you keep everything on track when there is so much to do as a caregiver?  Each day often brings surprises for a caregiver and it can be a challenge to keep the care routine on track

Maintaining a daily log to document the care provided is one way to make sure medications are taken properly and activities are included in the senior's daily care routine.

Caregiverlist provides a daily care log which you may print out and use as a guide for tracking care services for a family member or a client.

Doctors and Geriatric Care Managers who are supervising care appreciate having documentation of the senior's daily routine.  This information can assist with managing side effects to medications, determining depression and monitoring diet.

 

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Economic Stimulus Addresses Nursing Shortage

Reportedly, President Obama was shocked to learn that one of the barriers for delivering quality healthcare in the U.S.A. is the shortage of trained nurses.  Lawmakers agreed that meaningful healthcare reform must address ways to solve the nursing shortage.  The economic stimulus bill includes $500 million to address the shortages of health care workers.  About $100 million of this will be targeting the nursing shortage.  One of the issues is not just the shortage of nurses for jobs a hospitals and nursing homes, but the shortage of nursing faculty to teach at college programs.

If you are considering a career in nursing, considering obtaining more education as a Certified Nursing Aide, Licensed Practical Nurse or Registerd Nurse, contact nursing programs in your area to find out if scholarship or grant programs are available.  Many community colleges will assist you in obtaining reimbursement for your education through employment at local hospitals who will agree to pay for your tuition as long as you agree to work for them for a certain amount of time. 

If you are a senior caregiver, you may want to explore becoming a Certified Nursing Aide, especially if you are able to have a community program foot the bill for your tuition.  Your additional caregiver training will assist you to be at the top of the list for job applications and receive higher pay.

 

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Caregiver Taxes

With a few of President Obama's cabinet nominations running into some tax issues (issues such as sort of not paying them), questions about tax requirements for household help are being asked.

Basically, just as companies must provide for payroll taxes for employees (the company chips in for part of the taxes along with the employee) to pay for Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes and Unemployment insurance taxes, the same requirement holds true for household employees.  This is often referred to as the "nanny tax" but if you have hired a senior caregiver or even an ongoing gardener, you must provide for these taxes.

Keep in mind that this is also a benefit for the worker, as when they go to retire, they will be able to collect a Social Security check and if they are out of work, they will be able to collect an Unemployment benefit check.  All of these laws were set-up to protect employees.

Another advantage of hiring a Senior Home Care Agency is that the agency takes care of all of these taxes (and you have the added bonus of Worker's Compensation Insurance to cover any caregiver injuries - if you were hiring the caregiver directly and an injury occurred, the senior would be liable and the Caregiver could ask the senior to pay for all medical expenses and ongoing care needs - all of the senior's personal assets would be fair game to cover these costs - you know, yummy stuff for the ambulance chasing lawyers.  Worker's Compensation protects senior's assets if an injury occurs).

Failing to pay these taxes is considered tax fraud.  It is also important to make sure the Caregiver is legal to work and in instances where senior's may have memory loss, it is vital to make sure the Caregiver has passed a multi-state criminal background check and has active management in place. Senior Home Care Agencies go the extra mile to take care of all of these issues to provide a quality caregiver.

Not paying taxes for a caregiver will also cause the caregiver hardship, including being unable to build a credit history because they cannot verify their employment and pay.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a case regarding illegal workers who use fake identity's because they do not have a social security card of their own and this issue has spiraled into a case of identity theft.

What is the old saying:  penny-wise but pound-foolish?  Truly, the few dollars someone thinks they are saving by not providing for a Caregiver's taxes really are a huge loss - a loss in insurance protection, and social security, Medicare and unemployment insurance for the Caregiver.

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New Laser Treatment Assists with Stroke Recovery

An experimental stroke treatment that sends laser beams into the brain may help patients with milder strokes lessen their crippling effects, based on the results of a recent clinical trial.  Seniors who suffer strokes usually always require a senior caregiver to assist them during the first year of recovery as they participate in therapy to regain their abilities.

Patients with moderate to moderately severe strokes improved after receiving the laser treatment called the NeuroThera Laser System administered in Carlsbad, California.

Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of disability.  Usually seniors who suffer a stroke will have paralysis on either the right or left side of the body, depending on the type of stroke.  Movement can return if the senior participates in intense physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy the first year following the storke.

There is one effective treatment for stroke which involves a clot-busting drug and must be administered within 3 hours of the stroke.  "We need something for patients who come in later than that," says Dr. Justin Zivin of the University of California San Diego, who led the study funded by PhotoThera.

The results of the study were presented at the American Stroke Association meeting. 

Caregivers and seniors interested in learning more can contact the American Stroke Association.

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