What is it like to work as a care worker?
August 17, 2012 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: What's it like to work as an in-home, community care worker for the elderly?

A friend is interested in being a care worker, providing aged people who still live in own homes with help in showering, dressing, meals, cleaning, etc. What are the positive/negative aspects of this job? Is it satisfying? Any experiences or anecdotes would be helpful.
posted by peter1982peter to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My friend's father is in his 90s and terminal. His elderly mother was not physically able to do what needed to be done - keeping him clean, helping up when he fell (often), the complicated care of his feeding tube, changing bandages that were rank and infected..... The family hired a caretaker who came highly recommended, and he is there at the house from 9 am to 7 pm, 6 days a week. I'm not positive, but I think they pay him around $150-200 / day. Perhaps under the table. They would pay him more if they could. This gentleman is a godsend, kind, compassionate, allowing the mother to spend her precious energy on keeping her last days with her husband of 60+ years as positive as possible. She can concentrate on keeping her husband smiling during his few lucid moments, instead of cleaning up his bodily fluids.

He does a good enough job that he has no problems finding work. As soon as his time with one patient is over, he usually has another job waiting.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:46 PM on August 17, 2012

This can be the most rewarding thing in the world. The main thing that pops into mind is that people who need carers "can" be very demanding and unreasonable. The reason for this is that they have no control over certain aspects of their lives and exert it on the carer (who often becomes the person closest).

Some examples of this could be: you don't wash the cups right, so and so always washed the cups better, made a better cup of tea, you make one dinner and even though they chose it they decide they want a different one etc. The carer thinks "stuff you, I'm working really hard and trying my best"

Its frustrating to have to give personal care to someone when you feel benignly manipulated. That's when you remember that you're doing it for money- which as cold as it sounds, you need to remember... you're there in employment and personal boundaries are key.

The other difficulty is growing close to someone that nearing the end of their life, its different in that capacity.

Being a carer helped me grow in ways I never could have otherwise. I always recommend it as work... and it grew into a totally different career for me (in the care and support sector, but not frontline anymore)

Side note: my client has called me up later saying that his new carer never does xyz like I did- its cute.
posted by misspony at 11:25 PM on August 17, 2012

I did this in college...I worked both with elderly clients, and clients my age with disabilities (our college was known for being accessible). I really liked it, but agree with the post above about setting boundaries. Also, make sure that if you work for an agency you're clear on what you're allowed to do and not allowed to do. Some agencies have rules about whether you're allowed to accompany the client outside the home, or take their money to do grocery shopping, or other things. The client may try to get you to do these things anyway - just make sure you understand the parameters of your job.

Like I said, though, I really liked it.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:58 AM on August 18, 2012

The thing about this kind of job is that you can't know if it's for you unless you do it. You have to try it on. It takes a certain personality to thrive in this job.

I'm a nurse who does home health. I have seen people who take to it really well and people who last half a shift.
posted by syncope at 4:56 PM on August 19, 2012

I am an occasional status Home Health care Nurse. A person who works in this kind of situation needs an incredible amount of patience and compassion for your fellow human being. Depending on the mental state of the resident, you can be spit on, hair pulled, slapped, etc and must go go on with a smile and words of encouragement. It really does take a special person to handle this job.
posted by sybarite09 at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2012

My grandmother lives in her own home and has a live-in carer. The last carer developed depression, likely linked to the difficulties of constantly being with someone who has dementia (and who is confused and angry). Although the carer gets three hours off a day, during which there are other carers in the house, this didn't work well as my grandmother frequently came into her room when she was trying to rest and shouted at her. You mention showering - this is a source of conflict between my grandmother and her carers (we encourage them to downplay it and not insist on her showering, but at times it becomes fairly essential).

Although the above emphasises the negative, the carers who have worked with my grandmother previously have not all wanted to leave, and the agency we use says that they have no problems recruiting staff as the pay rates are seen as relatively generous (we pay the carer £100 a day, plus a separate fee to the agency) - the agency says that they have a lot of people who work for a few months then go on a cruise.
posted by paduasoy at 6:00 PM on September 23, 2012

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