Being a caregiver is probably one of the most challenging professions. Not many other professions have that much focus on humanity, love and concern. Caregiving is an occupation founded on the basis of compassion. It is a voluntary job where the primary focus is not your growth or development, but the betterment and recovery of your patient. For these reasons, it can obviously get tiring.
Caregivers generally offer 24/7 support and care to their patients. It is vitally important, then, that they are aware of the laws and regulations that come as a part of the job.
Maintain the Integrity and Confidentiality of Your Patient
A caregiver is deeply involved with a patient and, in turn, his or her family. This can lead to the caregiver becoming privy to the most personal information about an individual. This might include legal and financial documents, as well as income, bank accounts, wills, and insurance policies. The law forbids you to reveal any of these details under the ‘privacy’ act.
As a caregiver, you must never disclose the personal details and records of your patient. Confidentiality is key in the profession of a caregiver. You cannot indulge in any idle gossip about your patients – not only is this extremely unethical, but it can also make you come across as a careless and unprofessional caregiver.
Moreover, think about what it would do to your patient, if he or she were to learn that you have been discussing his or her personal life with others. It will not only lead to a breach of trust, but can hurt your patient emotionally, and tarnish the caregiving process completely. In all circumstances, caregivers must protect the confidentiality of their patients.
Obtain a Comprehensive History of the Patient’s Condition
As a caregiver, you have to take care of your patient’s medical and personal needs. To make that possible, you will need to find out as much as you can about your patient. Talking to the person who is closest to your patient is a good start.
Find out which activities he or she likes, and what the client’s attitude, beliefs, and principles are – this will ease the process of getting to know your client.
Also, find out about the initial onset of the condition in your patient. This will help you to understand your patient better, empathize with his or her situation, and provide him or her with better care.
At the same time, knowledge of an individual’s past also enables the caregiver to use certain techniques and methods to care better and receive more positive responses from the patient, while refraining from things that bother the patient and can impact him or her negatively.
Keep Record of the Client’s Progress Regularly
Keeping record is an important part of the caregiver’s duty. The ultimate goal of caregiving is to improve the condition of the patient. Improvement, however, can be a subjective matter. Therefore, it is ideal – and recommended – that the caregiver records the details of the patient’s condition, so that one can assess the medical improvement in the patient’s condition.
Consider the following example: In the first week of caregiving, the patient did not eat or drink any healthy foods prescribed to him or her; but, in the second week, you see the patient taking an active interest in food, eating without complaining, or even without asking for something else. This is a sign of progression, and must be recorded.
Similarly, when you are a caregiver outside of the family, you need to closely observe the interactions of your patient with the other family members. Watch your client’s behavior prior to, during and after these interactions. These will help you gain better insights into your client and treat him or her accordingly.
Also, it’s necessary to mention that, for new caregivers, the family members may appear a little edgy or rude initially. Don’t mull over that too much. It’s got little to do with your services, and more with their internal demons. They probably feel helpless, as they don’t know much about their loved one’s condition or how to make it better. They might also be experiencing guilt that they could not take care of their loved one, and are employing the services of an outsider for that purpose.
Give it time, and chances are, your good work will soon ease the position.
Establish a Clean and Credible Position for Yourself
A drive to help others is the primary requirement or qualification to be a caregiver. However, your personal record is taken into account when you want to be a professional caregiver. As a caregiver, you must be at least 21 years of age, have no drug or violence charges, nor any felony or misdemeanor in the last year.
Being a profession that requires high levels of commitment and ethics, the above standards are important. Along with those, you must possess five key traits: Empathy, patience, flexibility, strength, and dependability, to become a caregiver.
Know the Regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
Caregivers, also referred to as elder sitters or personal attendants, sometimes were not covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) till 2013. In 2013, however, the regulations were amended, and from 2015 they have been in effect. This resulted in a new rule that stated that, if you are a caregiver employed by your client by a third-party employer, you must be paid one- and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Those employed directly by the family are exempt from FLSA’s overtime requirement.
The regulations also provide a guideline to caregivers regarding what exactly constitutes ‘companion’ services. It basically includes the provision of fellowship, protection, and care to an elderly person or someone with illness, injury, or disability who cannot care for himself or herself.
The term protection basically constitutes monitoring the patient’s activity and interactions at home or outside, and ensuring his or her well-being and safety.
The Most Important Rule: Take Care of Yourself
We can sum up by saying that these are the important rules, rights, and requirements that every caregiver needs to know. However, the unsaid rules apply, too. First and foremost, a caregiver should be a happy and healthy individual himself or herself to provide care and protection to someone else. Be sure to eat well and get enough sleep and exercise, as only then you will be able to take care of others properly.
Matt Conner is an associate attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown Law Firm. Matt has undergraduate degree from from Willamette University in Salem in mathematics and economics. Matt likes playing soccer, fishing, skiing and camping.