Caregiving is a noble profession but one that can be plagued by low pay and high turnover. However, if you find a good company to work for, the rewards can be significant. Becoming a certified caregiver may give you better pay and opportunities. Caregivers report that they love their clients, appreciate the flexibility, and enjoy helping others.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Reasons Why You Might Want to Be a Caregiver for Older Adults
- Reasons Why You Might Want to Be a Caregiver for a Child
The caregiving profession is much broader and complex than just performing personal care tasks for clients. It also involves interpersonal relationships where success is built on mutual trust and appreciation for someone’s differences and values. People usually gravitate towards working with either older adults or children and hone their skills in those areas.
The caregiving tasks may be very different for each age group or demographic depending on the type of caregiver, but the gratification and rewards are similar.
Reasons Why You Might Want to Be a Caregiver for Older Adults
Caregivers gravitate towards working with older adults for a variety of reasons. Many caregivers have had a positive experience working with an older relative, like a grandparent. For them, it is like a calling. Working with older adults has its challenges, as the complexity of medical and cognitive impairments is demanding and requires patience and commitment.
Let’s look at some of the reasons people want to be caregivers for older adults.
1. It encourages independence
If an older adult needs a caregiver, they are in need of assistance in some area of their lives. One of the most powerful abilities of a caregiver is to encourage independence and self-reliance. No one likes to be dependent on others, but in some cases, caregivers can help promote independence.
Here are some of the following ways:
- Highlight and focus on what their clients can do.
- Gently encourage clients to try to do things on their own to improve function.
- Help focus on safe movement by reinforcing daily activities.
- Provide positive cheer by celebrating small steps and achievements.
- Facilitate activities that are important and have value to the client.
- Encourage clients to try new activities.
2. Caregiving decreases loneliness
Social isolation and loneliness can have devastating effects on the mental health and well-being of an older adult. Lonely aging adults may be more likely to experience depression and anxiety. They are often unable to drive and have no way to leave their house. Physical or cognitive problems make it difficult to access social events, whether in person or virtually. Caregivers can have a tremendously positive influence on feelings of loneliness, as they help companionship and conversation.
Caregivers can also help older adults get to social events or assist with virtual connections through computer or phone contact, and especially by bridging the technological divide. There are some older adults that are not comfortable with technology, but desperately need some way to connect with the rest of the world. In this way, caregivers can help teach older adults how to use the internet and set up and use social media accounts to stay in touch with family and friends.
As the caregiver for an older adult, you will learn about their work, children, and accomplishments. People have rich histories to tell, which restores their sense of dignity and purpose.
3. Caregivers help provide improvement to cognition
Multiple studies have shown a positive relationship between games, social interaction, exercise, and improved cognition. We need more studies in this area, but the evidence indicates that stimulating activities improve memory and feelings of well-being. Word and video games, in particular, can keep the mind sharp and focused.
Caregivers can offer and teach older adults games to keep them mentally engaged. Even the act of regular conversation can have beneficial effects.
4. It reinforces positive health habits
Showing aging adults how to develop healthy habits has positive effects on the caregiver as well. Healthy habits like hydration, good nutrition, and activity aid in the healing and recovery process. Physician or therapy directives are useful guides to healthy habits that educate caregivers as well.
Memory or mobility problems can make it hard for older adults to stay in a consistent routine. As a caregiver, you have the opportunity to set a schedule and give reminders to drink water throughout the day or eat a healthy meal and get moving. A caregiver is like a personal coach who keeps the client moving towards health and well-being.
5. You learn about medical and age-related conditions
Older people in general tend to have more medical and age-related conditions. Some of these conditions can include things such as the following:
- Hearing loss
- Eyesight problems
- Weight loss
- Sleep problems
- Cardiovascular disease
As a caregiver, you are not a medical professional, but you will learn a lot about these conditions and how they are treated. You may even come to appreciate how age-related diseases influence a person’s perspective and motivation.
6. You become the eyes and ears for other family members
One of caregiving’s values is in having the ability to notice any big or small changes in the person being cared for. Providing intimate and personal care for someone allows you to notice when things aren’t quite right. Perhaps you may see that your client’s thinking becomes confused or that their balance is off.
Older adults at times may not notice medical changes that can have serious consequences if left unchecked. As a caregiver, you can report what you see and hear so that family members and healthcare providers can intervene appropriately.
7. You will expand your skillset
As a caregiver, you may decide to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to perform more medically oriented tasks — depending on your state of residence — or a personal care aide. In either case, you will learn how to interact with various cultures, safely perform tasks, and respond with calm in an emergency.
The agency you work for will offer regular classes to build your repertoire of skills. Many caregivers tend to go on to nursing school or some other medically oriented profession.
8. You can feel good about yourself and your work
Helping others helps us feel good about ourselves. Your caregiving work is all about assisting others, consistent with who they are and what they need. The work that you do helps clients improve their functioning and well-being.
You can feel good about yourself and your job because you help people strengthen their resolve and become more independent. Caregiving can be exhausting, but it can also be immensely rewarding.
Reasons Why You Might Want to Be a Caregiver for a Child
Being a caregiver for a child takes a person of especially strong fiber, especially if that child has special needs. Children’s special needs might be physical, intellectual, or both. In any case, to be a child’s caregiver is to take a journey of discovery, challenge, and change.
9. You can be a positive influence
The opportunities to be a positive influence on a child’s life are endless. Children with special needs can sometimes struggle with self-esteem and loneliness, but there are plenty of ways to be a reassuring and motivating presence in a child’s life as a caregiver.
You can provide positive reinforcement for what a child can do, taking the focus off of what they struggle to do. Everyone has strengths, and being a caregiver for a child allows you to offer words of encouragement. In addition, you can offer mentorship for a child by building trust and modeling positive behavior.
Children often express their frustrations through anger and acting out. As a mentor, you are a trusted caregiver who listens without judgment and suggests more appropriate ways to display that anger. Help them reframe negative thinking and self-talk by offering alternatives that increase self-esteem.
10. Caregivers can help children achieve goals
Setting and achieving goals is essential for everyone. For a child who may feel left behind or unable to do what their peers can, setting goals that can be reached builds self-confidence.
Playing games, making crafts, and working to achieve physical tasks offer some ways to increase their self-esteem and help a child feel successful.
11. You will learn a different perspective
Teaching also leads to learning. Seeing things from a child’s perspective can help you grow and appreciate your own life.
With anything, seeing the world from another culture, experience, or journey widens your world view. Sometimes it takes being in another person’s experience to make us more tolerant and compassionate towards other people.
12. Caregivers can help families in need
When you are a caregiver for a child, you are helping a family in need. This can be applicable to almost any caregiving situation as well.
In particular, families can become overwhelmed with caregiver duties that affect their lives in profound ways. Having a caregiver for a child allows parents to work, take time off, and have the confidence that their child is receiving good, safe care.
Why Do You Want to Be a Caregiver?
Whether you decide to work with older adults or children, caregiving offers an experience that few other jobs do. The compassion and caring that you bring to each caregiving situation lasts a lifetime.
Every caregiving experience can teach you something valuable, and in that sense, being a caregiver can offer you lessons that you can hold onto forever.