If you are a compassionate and caring person, caregiving is one of the most rewarding careers you can pursue. As a caregiver, you help vulnerable people manage their daily lives. For example, you might work with a senior who can no longer stand, and your job would be to help with meals, changing, and bathing.
Caregiving isn’t a career for just anybody – there are skills that you will need and situations you must be able to deal with. If you have ever considered a role as a caregiver, then here is what you should know before you jump into it.
Education is Not Required, But it Helps
Many caregivers enter their careers with just a high school diploma. While this is the minimum requirement, that doesn’t mean your education must end once you have graduated high school. Pursuing a human services degree at a higher level will help provide you with the additional skills you need to help your patients to the best of your ability.
If you are concerned about finding the time for your studies, then consider finding an online degree. You will then be able to work your studies around your day job, so you don’t need to miss out on any experience while you attain a degree.
You Will Witness a Lot of Death
As a caregiver, the amount of death you witness will be dramatically more than the average person. This is because many of the people you will provide care for will be nearing the end of their life, and you will be around for that. Everybody deals with death in different ways, and if you are someone who cannot handle it, then caregiving may not be the role for you. This isn’t necessarily something you will learn in a human services degree, so it’s better to be prepared beforehand.
Most caregivers learn how to deal with death the more years they spend in the role. While nobody becomes completely comfortable with it, it does eventually become easier. It can also give you a completely new outlook on life and inspire you to live your life to the full.
Some Patients Will be Difficult
While most patients you work with will be kind, some will be extremely difficult to work with. Difficult patients are something that you will have to learn to deal with if you plan on a career in caregiving. Just because you are helping them doesn’t mean that they will understand that or even appreciate it, so you will need to grow a thick skin.
As well as not taking anything to heart, you must also know how to calm down patients who are particularly tricky to deal with. This means speaking calmly, knowing how to act quickly, and noticing when a situation is turning sour. These are skills you will naturally learn over the years, but the sooner you develop them, the better.
Some Patients Will be Amazing
The chances are that the amazing patients will far outweigh the difficult ones, so don’t let the idea of hard to deal with patients deter you from starting your caregiving career! On the days where you feel overwhelmed, it will be the wonderful patients who will help push you through.
Learning Never Ends
Just because caregiving doesn’t require a high level of education doesn’t mean that you won’t learn a lot. Even if you decide to pursue a human services degree, your learning will carry on far past that!
With all the new developments in medicine and technology coming out, you will consistently learn about new ways of providing care. If you look at the difference in caregiving from 20 years ago to now, you will see just how much new knowledge caregivers have had to adopt.
Not only will you learn from new research, but you will also learn from your patients. Many of them will have interesting stories to tell, meaning you will have a never-ending source of knowledge!
Empathy and Compassion are Mandatory
While many people go into caregiving because it doesn’t require a degree, many also leave because they do not have what it takes. The main qualities needed in a caregiver are empathy and compassion, and if you do not have those, then you will not last long. The reason for this is because to be able to provide the right amount of care that the patients need, you must be understanding of their position and genuinely care about them. Without that, the quality of care is compromised.
If you are considering pursuing a human services degree and going on to become a caregiver, then first ensure that you are an empathetic and compassionate person. The chances are if you are thinking about entering a career that benefits the most vulnerable people in society, that you already have these qualities.
There Will be Tough Decisions
Caregiving is not a role devoid of difficulties. Each day, there will be something that tests you, and you must prepare for it. One part of the job that some people struggle with is the need to make difficult decisions.
Sometimes, you might go to work one day and need to make a medical decision without the help of someone else. This takes both confidence and skill, which are two traits that will help you succeed as a caregiver and ones that you will work on when studying for a human services degree.
You Must Focus on Your Health
When working with vulnerable people, it can be easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your health, but you must do your best to avoid this. Your health is just as important as anyone else’s and needs the right amount of attention to keep it in check. If you are ever feeling burned out, don’t push the feeling away, as it will only grow. Talking to people can help you get the weight off your shoulders, so give your friends or family a ring when you can. If you are overwhelmed, then consider seeing a counselor.
It is no secret that healthcare workers are pushed to the max. This means that you are responsible for your health, and you must make sure you pay attention to it just as much as your patients. Don’t go into a caregiving career without first considering how you will look after yourself. Some ways you can do this include:
- A healthy diet and exercise
- Spending time with those you love
- Getting regular check-ups
- Taking frequent breaks
- Knowing the signs of poor health
Caregivers who look after their health better are more likely to succeed in giving their patients the best healthcare possible. If you are just starting a human services degree, then get into the habit of taking time for yourself.
You will Need Excellent Communication Skills
When people think of caregiving, many imagine the skills needed are purely medical, but this is not true. A large part of the job is simply talking to the patients, and this requires great conversational skills.
If you are a shy person who doesn’t like chatting with others, then a career in caregiving might not be for you. The people you will work with might want to chat all day! If you love conversation, then you are just the right kind of person to give patients the company that they need.
Passion Will Not Always Drive You
Think about why you want to start your career in caregiving. Is it the money? The love of caring? Your interest in medicine? Whatever it is, you must understand that this will not always drive you. There will be days when you feel overwhelmed in any healthcare career, and your passion fizzles away. This doesn’t mean it won’t come back, but it does mean that you cannot rely on it.
Unless you can commit and motivate yourself even when you don’t feel passion, then caregiving isn’t for you. The amount of responsibility that is placed on you means you must be on form at all times, no matter how you are feeling. If you are an organized, determined individual who doesn’t fall under pressure, then you are more likely to thrive as a caregiver, even on the hardest days.
You will Become Attached
As a caregiver, you will become attached to your patients, no matter how much you do not mean to! It won’t be on purpose, but after spending hours and days helping them get better and hearing their riveting stories, you will become invested in their lives. On the one hand, this can be a bad thing because you’ll be sadder when you have to leave, but on the other, it means that you will be more motivated to give excellent care.
You Might Get Lonely
Some caregivers end up feeling isolated within their roles, so that is something to think about before starting your human services degree. While your daily work will involve working with patients, they won’t always give you the company you need. With no other co-workers around you, it’s easy to end up feeling lonely.
Some people enjoy a more isolated career, while others do their best to avoid it. Whether you think you can handle a role where you mainly come into contact with your patients is up to you, but it is something to consider before you start applying for jobs or pursuing a human services degree.
You will Have Freedom
One of the greatest perks of working as a caregiver is the amount of freedom you have. Working with patients in their homes means you won’t have a strict 9 until 5 job, so you can fit your other responsibilities around your work. This means that if you decide to pursue a human services degree while working as a caregiver, it will be easier to fit your studies around your working hours.
While you will have more freedom than most careers, you will also be moving around a lot more than someone who works in a hospital. If you are a carer for multiple patients, then you could be traveling from house to house in one day, so it would be handy to own a driver’s license.
You Will Not Always be Thanked
People who work in healthcare deserve endless praise, but that doesn’t mean you will always receive it. As a caregiver, there will be days where you feel like your work is not appreciated. It will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that the work you do isn’t important – it just means it might take a while to hear someone say ‘thank you.’
You will Hear Endless Stories
One thing many people fail to mention when talking about a career in caregiving is the sheer number of stories you will hear. You will hear it all! From stories about past wars to tales of old lovers, you will find yourself engrossed in your patient’s stories and find that you end up knowing them better than you know some of your friends! Sometimes, those stories will get you through the day, so make sure you listen intently.
You Won’t Regret Becoming a Caregiver
No matter how many hardships you face as a caregiver, if you are a caring person, then there won’t be a moment where you think you made the wrong decision. Not many jobs allow you to work one on one with a wide range of vulnerable people, providing them with care and helping them improve their lives overall.
While there will be days where you feel like you aren’t appreciated, where you are overwhelmed, and where you feel lonely, one thing is for sure – you won’t regret starting the exciting journey of becoming a caregiver.
Caregiving is a fulfilling career that allows you to work in the comfort of multiple homes. If you are a caring, motivated, and patient individual who genuinely wants to help others, then it could be the career of your dreams.