7 Skills All Home Caregivers Should Know

Whether you are a professional home health caregiver or assisting a friend or loved one, one thing will become clear very quickly: providing safe, respectful assistance to another adult calls on a very wide range of skills. In fact, just a few hours of home care experience can help you see the incredible work of professional home caregivers with renewed appreciation.

With this in mind, we at SelectCare decided to identify seven critical skills all caregivers should know.

By reviewing the procedures required to perform these tasks correctly, we hope to remind our community of the great work being done by home health caregivers every day and provide some useful tips to families who want to provide their loved ones with the best possible care.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on two categories of caregiver skills: assisting those with mobility limitations and hygiene/infection control. If this article proves popular, we will create similar posts covering different types of caregiver skills in the weeks to come.  Let us know in the comments!

Assisting Someone with Limited Mobility

Limited mobility can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to care for themselves.  As a result, professional home caregivers are given extensive training in how to help their clients overcome these challenges and lower the risk of falls – an all-too-common hazard faced by many older adults.

Note that this list focuses on wheelchair techniques. There are many other assistive devices used in home care settings.  

Wheelchairs are a great way to help someone with limited mobility remain active in their community, but skill is required to handle a wheelchair safely. Photo by conejoaureo via Morguefile.com

Wheelchairs are a great way to help someone with limited mobility remain active in their community, but skill is required to handle a wheelchair safely. Photo by conejoaureo via Morguefile.com

Wheelchair Handling

Wheelchairs are a great way to help those with limited mobility get out of their homes and remain active in their communities.  At the same time, great care must be taken to ensure the wheelchair user is well secured in their chair and hazards like steep curbs and uneven surfaces are avoided.  The webpage linked above offers some great tips on how to make wheelchair excursions smooth and safe.

Bed to Wheelchair Transfers

In home care, a “transfer” is the act of assisting a client move from one position (lying in bed, sitting in a chair, etc.) to another.  Transfers require home caregivers to work at their absolute best – communicating with the client, observing proper body mechanics to avoid injuries, and thoroughly planning the transfer before it begins.

To get just a taste of the skill required to safely transfer a patient from a bed to a wheelchair, watch the above linked video, which explains how to use a weight-bearing “transfer belt” to safely move a client with limited mobility.

Fall Prevention

Household falls are one of the most common causes for hospitalization among older adults, and a single fall incident can carry countless long-term impacts on a client’s overall health and ability to live independently.

To prevent falls, home caregivers are responsible for identifying household fall hazards and removing these risk factors from their client’s home.  The above linked information from the Mayo Clinic offers a great overview of fall prevention strategies all caregivers should use.

Preventing Bed Sores

Bed sores are the result of a client sitting or lying in one position for an extended period of time.  The resulting pressure can degrade a client’s skin and, if left untreated, result in more serious medical conditions.  As a result, bed-bound clients or clients that spend most of their time in a wheelchair require regular assistance to shift their weight and reposition, alleviating the pressure and preventing bed sore outbreaks.

The above linked information from the Mayo Clinic gives caregivers useful tips about the need for frequent, gentle repositioning of a client and the skin care steps that can be taken to further avoid bed sores.

Hygiene/Infection Control

As we age, our immune systems gradually weaken, making it harder to stave off illnesses and oftentimes resulting in more serious bouts of illness.  To counter this change, home caregivers receive extensive training to combat the spread of germs, as well as how to assist clients in their personal hygiene while maintaining a respectful, dignified relationship for caregiver and the recipient of care.

Bathing Assistance

Much like transfers, providing bathing assistance is an extremely important, yet extremely challenging task for home caregivers.  Regular bathing helps preserve a client’s health and, if performed in a way that protects the client’s independence and self-respect, can help preserve the client’s overall peace of mind.

The above video offers rundown of everything a caregiver should consider while bathing.  Most notably, pay attention to the communication encouraged by the instructor.  By moving at a client’s pace and only proceeding when they are comfortable, a home caregiver can vastly improve the bathing experience for all parties involved.

Hand Washing

Odds are, you have been washing your hands since you were old enough to walk.  For day-to-day activities, a quick scrub is oftentimes enough, but when working in a home caregiver setting, proper hand washing technique can play a massive role in the long-term wellbeing of a client.

As a result, home caregivers must wash their hands thoroughly to avoid the transfer of germs, using specific steps to cleanse the entire surface of their hands.  The linked video above shows the most up-to-date hand washing techniques recommended by the World Health Organization, maximizing the elimination of the most germs in the shortest period of time.

Cleaning Kitchen Surfaces

Meal preparation and creating nutritious menus that match a client’s Plan of Care are critical tasks for a home caregiver and the long-term health of a home care recipient.  One of the most important aspects of meal preparation is keeping all work surfaces clean to avoid the transfer of food-borne illnesses to a client. Unfortunately, many untrained home caregivers fail to thoroughly clean these areas, leaving the door open for serious illness.

The video linked above might not win an Emmy, but gives new home caregivers an excellent crash course in how to quickly clean kitchen surfaces before and after a meal, as well as advice on how to more thoroughly sanitize surfaces.  Complete sanitization of surfaces should be performed as often as possible.

We at SelectCare hope you found this post interesting, enlightening, informative, or all three.  If nothing else, we hope that by reviewing these important skills, you have a better understanding of just how dedicated home caregivers must be in order to provide the best possible care.

SelectCare has been providing incredible home health care services to New Yorkers since 1985.  To learn more about our team and how we help older adults remain healthy and safe in the comfort of their own home, call us today!