4 minute read


Education and Training No specific education required; trained on-the-job
Average Salary $9.84 per hour
Job Outlook Good

A caregiver is a person who provides support to: an ageing family member, infant, or a person with a medical condition or chronic illness. A caregiver can provide emotional support, physical assistance, or monetary assistance. Other forms of support provided by caregivers include: running errands and doing household chores, house cleaning, cooking, bathing, dressing, going to the toilet, eating, giving medicines, etc. Caregivers can also provide emotional support by providing company to the person needing care.
Caregiving can be stressful and emotionally and physically draining, especially when dealing with terminally ill people or those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As caregiving can be an overwhelming experience, it is important that the caregivers take good care of themselves.
Good caregivers need to have an extremely caring attitude towards others. They need to be patient and empathetic. A good caregiver needs to communicate effectively and should also be a good listener. At times, a caregiver might need to help with decision-making. Therefore, good decision-making skills also come in handy for a caregiver.

Education and Training Requirements

A caregiver does not need any specific educational qualifications. A caregiver can attend caregiving workshops and classes conducted from time-to-time by organizations such as the Family Caregiver Alliance, Administration on Ageing, and the National Family Caregivers Association. Caregivers are also trained on-the-job by registered nurses and experienced aides. The training involves cooking special diets, basic housekeeping tasks and hygiene basics. Caregivers are also taught to respond to emergencies.
Some professional caregivers need to have formal certifications as listed below:

  • Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) certification

  • Home Health Aide

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

  • Registered Nurse

Professional caregivers, who receive reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid, need to complete 75 hours of training conducted by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. This is followed by a competency evaluation. The trainings cover various aspects of personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, safe transfer techniques, and basic nutrition.

Getting the Job

Professional caregiving organizations require caregivers to be formally certified. They also check for education records and professional and personal references. The personality traits desirable for a caregiver are eagerness to help people, cheerful attitude, tactfulness, and honesty. A caregiver should also be physically fit as caregiving can be an arduous task.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The job prospects for a caregiver are excellent as there has been a steady increase in the demand for caregivers. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment for caregivers and home health aides is expected to grow by 50% between 2008 to 2018. This is typically due to the increase in the number of elderly people who need assistance with their day-to-day activities.
Since this is a low skill and low paying job, people are reluctant to seek employment as a caregiver. This has resulted in a scarcity for trained personnel and therefore people having the required experience and skills have excellent job prospects.

Working Conditions and Environment

The work environment for caregivers varies depending on the kind of client they are tending to. However, in most cases it can be physically demanding. They are prone to back injuries, typically when providing support to the elderly. In certain cases, when tending to people with infectious diseases, caregivers run the risk of picking up the infection. Moreover, the attitude of the people, for whom care is being provided, varies. Some people are extremely courteous whereas others, because of their medical condition, could be abusive and extremely difficult to handle. At times, caregivers need to provide help with tasks that might be considered as unpleasant, for instance, changing soiled bed linen, and emptying bed pans.
Due to the nature of their work, caregivers need to take good care of themselves. Caregivers should exercise regularly as it helps reduce stress, and increases stamina and energy.
Caregiving might sound intimidating but the moral satisfaction achieved by lending a helping hand to someone needy is, in itself, the biggest reward.

Salary and Benefits

Even though a caregiver’s job is quite strenuous, the salaries offered are not very high. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wages of home health aides were $9.84 in May 2008. Caregivers are only paid for the time spent at the client’s home and are supposed to pay for the travel cost from their earnings.
With experience, there is a slight increase in the pay (median hourly wages might go up to $14) coupled with additional responsibilities.

Where to Go for More Information

Family Caregiver Alliance
180 Montgomery St., Ste. 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 434-3388

National Association for Home Care & Hospice
228 Seventh St., SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 547-7424

National Caregivers Library
901 Moorefield Park Dr., Ste. 100
Richmond, VA 23236
(804) 327-1111

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine