Dec 6, 2022 | 6 min read

A guide to the most common caregiver duties

From meal planning to medication monitoring, caregivers dedicate themselves to helping clients with various personal and health needs.

If you’re new to caregiving, interested in the field, or expanding your home care business, this guide shares the basic roles and responsibilities of this rewarding career path listing the most common caregiver duties. 

1. Meal planning and nutrition

One popular caregiver duty is fulfilling your patient’s nutritional needs on a daily or weekly basis. You may be expected to provide pre-made meals or prepare food based on your patient’s dietary plan.

As a caregiver, you may encounter patients with low appetites or patients who require specialized meals to assist with certain health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or dental problems.

For at-home caregivers, meal preparation may also require trips to the grocery store. To ensure patients’ nutritional and medical needs are met, it’s important to keep the following factors in mind:

  • Medication interactions – Medications can have unintended side effects related to diet. Keep a detailed report on any medications and consider evaluating the best times for administering medication to minimize their impact on mealtime.
  • Allergies and sensitivities – All caregivers should have a full list of any food allergies or sensitivities that could impact their patient’s diet. If you have any questions or concerns about a potential allergic reaction, immediately contact your patient’s medical provider.

2. Hygiene and personal care

Depending on your patient’s level of independence, you may be required to assist with daily hygiene and grooming. Frequently, aging and infirmed adults cannot fully meet their personal care needs, while others may only need minor help with certain tasks.

Caregiver hygiene duties may include any of the following:

  • Bathing 
  • Using the bathroom
  • Shaving or haircuts
  • Nail trimming
  • Diaper changing
  • Dressing
  • Dental care

Bedridden patients might need additional services, including sponge baths and turning to avoid bedsores. Caregivers performing these tasks work to make all hygiene services as comfortable as possible, utilizing tools like pads and shower chairs to make the process easier.

3. Administering medications

Most patients will have a strict medical regimen to adhere to. As a caregiver, it’s essential to create a consistent schedule and follow all medical recommendations for administering medications.

For patients capable of self-administering, caregivers ensure medications are taken at the proper times. Duties may include administering or supervising the use of:

  • Pills, capsules, and health supplements  
  • Injections
  • Feeding tubes
  • Oxygen tanks

You may also need to assist in scheduling doctors' appointments and educating patients about their medications. Be an advocate for your patient's health; ask questions and get to know your patient's medications and treatment programs to ensure you’re helping them get the proper at-home care.

4. Exercise and physical fitness

For able patients, exercise is a key way to support overall health. To avoid injury or overexertion, consult your patient’s health provider for a clear picture of their physical abilities. Doctors can provide simple exercise programs that are safe.

Common exercises for senior patients include:

  • Walking
  • Stretching
  • Light yoga
  • Seated-exercises
  • Water aerobics 
  • Physical therapy exercises

Exercise can do more than bolster physical health. According to a recent study, fitness may reduce dementia risk by 33 percent. Help your patients stay in shape, mentally and physically, helping them adhere to a regular exercise plan. 

5. Domestic chores

Caring for patients at home sometimes means offering extra help around the house to keep their space safe and clean. Caregivers frequently assist with chores like laundry, home cleaning, and organizing.

A caregiver’s help at home can be the difference between patients being able to live at home without risk of injury and having to consider other care options. As Andrea Maroto, an employee of Connecticut-based caregiving company, FCP Live-In, says, “I often think about how wonderful it is for seniors to stay home and get the care they deserve and need while not losing what is most important to them: family, friends, and the special place they call home.”

6. Transportation and errand-running

For patients with limited mobility or restricted driving, caregivers will provide transportation to appointments, family visits, and casual errands. 

Additionally, some caregivers may work with transportation services to provide patients with an opportunity to run errands or take day trips to the mall, restaurants, or neighborhood centers.

Caregiving isn’t solely about health needs, it’s also about improving the overall quality of life for your patients. Look to opportunities and events they may like to find ways for them to enjoy time outside of their home or care center.

7. Supervision and health monitoring

General wellness checks are the primary responsibility of caregivers. To mitigate risk and provide preventative care, many monitor any changes in patients' mood, behavior, and visible health.

For caregivers, supervision should include the following:

  • Monitoring chronic conditions – In addition to providing medication, you may also need to monitor your patient’s blood sugar levels or blood pressure. 
  • Crisis planning – In the event of a medical emergency, it’s crucial to have a plan of action. Stay up to date on your patient’s current health risks and ensure that you know what symptoms to watch out for and who to call for clarification. Additionally, keep all medical provider information in an accessible location, and ensure you have an emergency contact.

With the expansion of telehealth services over recent years, it’s now possible to supervise patients remotely. While remote care can’t replace direct monitoring, it’s an additional tool for caregivers to provide quality support for patients when they can’t be physically available.

8. Emotional support and companionship

Patients who are ill or aging may experience loneliness and isolation. Caregivers can provide emotional support to keep patients mentally engaged. Empathy and communication are vital qualities for all caregivers. 

Finding the best way to engage with patients requires a personalized approach. Consider the following ways to spend quality time together:

  • Board games and puzzles
  • Reading aloud
  • Looking through photo albums
  • Watching television together

Making emotional connections can be rewarding for caregivers too. Take Louise Temple-Rosebrook, who works with The Caregivers Community Network in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When describing her experience assisting an elderly patient, Louise says, “Asking him about his life, sharing their stories with him, I think has been the most fun.”

9. Family communication 

Caregivers are often the intermediary between a patient and their families. Family members may request updates about a patient’s health, and it’s up to you to provide accurate details and keep them informed of any new health concerns.

In addition to reporting on your patient’s health, you may need to consult with family members on new medication or care opportunities. Open and direct communication with a patient’s family is integral to quality care. Ideally, caregivers work side-by-side with the family to create the best possible outcome for the patient.

Become a caregiver for your community on Nextdoor

While these are general caregiver duties, the specificity of the tasks varies depending on which field of caregiving you specialize in: hospice care, home health aide, senior living, or assisted living. Caregiving jobs can align with your goals and interests, whether you want to work with families, the elderly, or in a non-medical capacity. Understanding the duties and responsibilities of a caregiver is step one. Learning how to become a caregiver involves education, certification, training, and credentials. 

The rewards can’t be understated: caregivers provide support for individuals and families in their community. You can even start working for yourself or learn how to start a home care business of your own. As you create your home care business plan, use Nextdoor to introduce your services to your entire community.

With nearly 1 in 3 households on Nextdoor, your free business account will help you connect to your most important clients, neighbors. Gain the trust and confidence of your community as you grow your local caregiver business on Nextdoor.

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