Caregivers protect the rights and freedoms of the individual they care for, and provide essential services and care that honors an individual’s values and choices. The need for a caregiver can occur unexpectedly, after an accident, a major life event, or illness that leaves a person in clear need of assistance. The need for a caregiver can also occur more slowly, over time, and can be harder to recognize. When an individual’s ability to take care of him/herself gradually decreases, individuals can find themselves wondering how they can remain independent. A caregiver can make a significant difference in the quality of life for people in need of assistance.


Things to Know About Caregivers


Here is a question & answer article contributed by Laurie Herndon, Director, Clinical Program Innovation, Caregiver Homes of Massachusetts, which offers useful information about the role of a caregiver.


Who can be a caregiver?

Caregivers can be family members, partners or friends caring for an elder or a person with a disability. Caregivers can also be professionals you hire to provide skilled care, home care, companionship and other services, wherever the elder or person with a disability lives.


What does a caregiver do?

Caregivers provide assistance with personal care such as bathing and dressing; help with things like cooking, shopping, laundry, housekeeping, transportation; companionship; social support; and managing schedules and appointments.


What’s the difference between a family caregiver and a professional caregiver?

Family caregivers often take on the role of caregiver because of a desire to keep a loved one at home who may not otherwise be able to live at home independently. Family caregivers provide care based on love and respect for their loved one. They learn about their loved one’s care needs as they go. Family caregivers may or may not be paid depending on the program eligibility. Professional caregivers are trained in how to provide care to someone who needs assistance and are paid for their services. Professional caregivers can and do also develop loving and respectful relationships with the person they care for.


When should a person or family consider a professional caregiver?

A family member may not always be available to provide care to someone who needs it. Or the person receiving care may not want to receive care from family due to a desire to maintain privacy or independence, or feeling like they don’t want to burden family. Additionally, sometimes a person’s care needs are greater than a family member can manage. In these instances, a professional caregiver might be the right choice.


Do caregivers make health care decisions about the person they care for?

A caregiver has decision making authority if named as the person’s Health Care Agent AND the attending physician makes a medical determination that the person does not have the ability to make health care decisions and enters that finding into the medical record. A caregiver may also have decision making authority for the person they are caring for when appointed as the Guardian by a judge in a court hearing. Otherwise the individual retains his/her rights to make all health care decisions.


Where can I find a professional caregiver?

There are various public and private agencies in every community in Massachusetts that provide professional caregiving services. While this is good news because there are many resources available, knowing where to start or how to find the right service can be overwhelming. A good place to start is to ask your health care provider. The social worker or case manager in your doctor’s office or clinic may be able to recommend good organizations in your area. MassOptions is a free resource for Massachusetts residents designed to link elders, individuals with disabilities, caregivers, and family members to services that help support independent living in all settings. Assistance is targeted at helping people in need of a caregiver to find the right service and agency without having to make numerous phone calls.


To read more, you can download and print the full article,  “What Does A Caregiver Do?” here.

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