Caregivers help older adults, terminally or chronically ill patients and people with mental or physical disabilities in their daily chores and routines. Also referred to as home health aides or personal and home care aides, caregivers assist clients in residential facilities, homes, hospices and community centers. Caregivers also report to the health facilities on a client's medical condition. According to the 2010-11 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, caregivers on average make close to $10 an hour.
Apply for employment and training. A high school diploma, while desirable, is not an essential requirement to begin a career as a caregiver. However, supervised training and skill assessments are required before being assigned to work for clients. For training and subsequent employment opportunities, contact certified home health or hospice agencies that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
Complete two to three weeks of training. Caregivers are trained by agency nurses and nursing assistants. Training focuses on how to provide personal care, assist clients in their daily chores and maintain safe, sanitary living conditions. You learn to prepare nutritious meals, make beds, run errands and perform other chores, like laundry or grocery shopping. You are also trained in basic nursing procedures, such as taking and recording vital signs, infection control, recognition of emergencies and administering basic body motion exercises. Home care aides are instructed to maintain personal hygiene and conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner.
Pass the competency test. At the end of the training period, you are required to take an hour-long competency test of multiple-choice questions. The test contains questions about an aide's role in caring for his clients. The test examines a caregiver's skill in communication, observation and reporting, client rights and safety, diet and nutrition, elements of body functioning, physical, emotional and developmental needs, and emergency response.
Clear the physical exam and background check. Home care aides are required to be in good health. A physical examination, including state-mandated tests, such as those for tuberculosis, may be required. Maintain a good driving record and be prepared for a criminal background check, as these are often a requirement for employment.
Acquire license and certification. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice, or NAHC offers national certification for caregivers. Federal guidelines require an aide to have at least 75 hours of on-the-job training before certification. A supervising nurse will also have to approve you for a total of 17 skills you must possess, including body temperature reading, pulse reading, blood pressure reading, bathing procedures, nail care, skin care, safe transport and ambulation procedures. To obtain certification, you also have to pass the NAHC-administered written exam. You can take the test either at the hospice, the health aide center that trained you or a regional test facility near you. Contact your state's department of health or the NAHC to learn more about the exam centers and the certification fee.