Carer Job Description: Skills, Duties and Responsibilities
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What Does a Carer Do?
A carer is a person whose job is to provide care and assistance to others who are unable or partly unable to look after themselves (care recipients) and to help them carry out their normal daily routines.
Usually, a carer’s duties include helping elderly, sick and disabled people to carry out their normal everyday activities, such as getting up in the morning, washing, getting dressed and eating, as well as simply providing the care recipient with a comforting presence.
The main responsibilities of a carer include cleaning the home of the care recipient and keeping it tidy, doing the shopping and preparing meals, helping to transfer and mobilize care recipients who are confined to a bed or who use a wheelchair, providing support during ambulation, attending to the personal hygiene, grooming and general health of the care recipient and ensuring they take any medicine and follow any treatment that has been prescribed. A carer also provides the care recipient with companionship and accompanies them on trips outside the house, e.g. for a walk, a visit to see friends or family, a doctor’s appointment etc.
Working as a carer involves establishing a personal relationship with the care recipient based on empathy and trust, and providing them with emotional and psychological support to help reduce the sense of loneliness and isolation a person confined to their home or bed due to age or illness might feel. For this reason, listening and communication skills are essential. The job is also physically and mentally demanding, involving long periods of time spent in the company of the care recipient, so physical and emotional strength and stamina are also key qualities for the role.
A carer also needs to know how to deal with emergency situations and so, in addition to being familiar with the rules of home safety, should also possess the first aid skills required to be able to act in the event of a medical emergency.
In most cases, carers work at the home of the care recipient. However, they may also be required to support elderly, sick or disabled persons in a hospital, nursing home or rehabilitation centre, where their duties may involve helping the care recipient to eat, watching over them at night or providing companionship during the day.
The working hours of a carer vary according to the requirements of the care recipient. The less a care recipient is independent and autonomous, the greater the time the carer will be required to spend looking after them. Some positions will therefore be part-time, requiring the presence of the carer for just a few hours at a time, e.g. to do the cleaning or prepare meals, while others will involve continuous night and day care, with very little time off. In such cases, carers often live with their care recipients (live-in carers), receiving food and accommodation as part of their salary. In cases where constant, round-the-clock, 24-hour care is required, daytime and nighttime carers work in shifts, taking turns to look after the care recipient.
Carer Duties and Responsibilities
The main duties of a carer are:
- Providing care and assistance to a care recipient (an elderly, sick or disabled person)
- Preparing meals
- Cleaning the home of the care recipient and keeping it tidy (making beds, washing dishes, ironing etc.)
- Attending to the personal hygiene of the care recipient
- Assisting care recipients who have mobility difficulties with mobilization and ambulation
- Providing companionship to the care recipient and accompanying them in their daily activities
- Monitoring the general physical and emotional condition of the care recipient
How to Become a Carer - Education, Requirements and Qualifications
There are no set training requirements to work as a carer. However, experience providing assistance to elderly, sick or disabled persons and carrying out housekeeping tasks may be required. Carers do not need medical training, because the job of a carer is not a medical role. Nevertheless, a knowledge of first aid will allow carers to assist their clients in the event of an accident or emergency.
Often, job adverts for carers require candidates to have their own vehicle, while additional requirements may include strong interpersonal skills and references from previous employers.
Carers wishing to obtain professional training to improve their employment prospects can attend a course for personal care assistants. Here they can learn the skills a personal carer needs in order to be able to provide a care recipient with care and assistance, including hygiene and personal care (e.g. mobilization of the care recipient, attending to personal hygiene, dietary advice) and housekeeping (preparing meals, cleaning and tidying the house). Such courses usually also deal with issues related to communication and psychology.
What Skills Are Needed to Be a Carer?
Job adverts for carers usually include the following requirements:
- Caregiving skills (i.e. for elderly, sick or disabled people)
- Housekeeping skills
- Interpersonal skills and empathy
- Organizational skills
- Physical strength and stamina
Carer Career Path and What to Expect
What's the career goal of a carer?
Experienced carers may improve their employment prospects by attending training courses in personal care and assistance. For example, gaining a health and social care qualification may be a route into a large number of different healthcare roles. Alternatively, a carer may decide to specialize in providing assistance to people with disabilities, dedicating their time and energy to improving the well-being of special needs and helping them to become increasingly independent.
Top Reasons to Work as a Carer
There are a variety of reasons that may lead a person to consider a career as a carer. These include a desire to help and look after others or to do a job that brings them into contact with other people. Working as a carer meets both of the above criteria, with the ability to listen, empathy and patience all essential requirements of the job. Providing home-based care and assistance means playing an important role in the life of a care recipient, particularly in the case of a live-in carer. A unique personal relationship forms between the caregiver and care recipient that stands somewhere between a professional relationship and a friendship.
An additional aspect of the role to be considered is the fact that carers do not have a manager or supervisor telling them what to do or how to work. Rather, it is up to the carer to use their own intelligence and sensitivity to understand what the best course of action might be in a given situation to improve the well-being of the care recipient.