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Working In Elderly Care: What You Should Know

There are hundreds of jobs out there that span across so many industries that it can often be difficult to know where to begin. While it is completely possible to step into some roles with ease and little guidance, there are some positions that require a certain level of knowledge going in. Working with the elderly is one such role that requires not only certain training and knowledge but largely relies on personal attributes for the role to be carried out to the best level.

If you have found yourself here you may be considering a job that relates to working with old people. Many individuals begin careers in care for the elderly without perhaps having a full understanding of exactly what is involved. Whilst it may sound easy on the surface, care work can encompass a wide range of duties that can be both physically and emotionally demanding. That being said, it can also be one of the most personally rewarding career paths that you could take, with so much to gain from the work and even more importantly, so much to offer to others.

We have put together a comprehensive look into what you can expect from a career working with elderly people, whether that be out in the community or in residential care homes. So whether you are just starting out on your career path, or just want to advance in your role, here is what you should know about working with old people.

So you want to work with the elderly, but don’t know your options . . .

Elderly care falls under a range of job roles, it could be voluntary work supporting elderly to get out into the community, or it could be one to one care at home or even in a residential care home. Depending on the job role can determine how hands on you are expected to be, and what sort of tasks you will be carrying out to support the individuals under your care.

With over 15.3 million individuals over the age of 60 in the UK alone, it is no wonder that there is such high demand for more individuals to enter into the adult social care sector. Unfortunately there is a national shortage in staff for this type of work, which is largely due to the demanding nature of the job.

To give you a clearer idea of the kinds of tasks expected across the different areas of elderly care, we have put together a look at some of the most common jobs in the adult social care industry.

Home Care Assistant

It is very common that elderly people in need of extra support will opt to have this delivered in their own homes where possible. This may be because they prefer to be in a familiar and safe surrounding, and it also maintains a feeling of control and independence that can often feel lost when they are in a care home or hospital.

The general duty of a home care assistant can vary massively depending on the needs of the individual, however here are the most common tasks that are expected of a home care assistant:

  • Personal Care – this could include helping the service user use the toilet, washing and bathing, intimate care and dressing.
  • Preparing and eating meals – You may often be expected to prepare meals for the person under your care. In some cases you may also need to assist with the eating of food.
  • Medication – In most cases you will be responsible for ensuring medication has been taken safely and as prescribed.
  • Housework – You may be required to assist in the cleaning and tidying of the home setting.

Support Worker

Support workers are a vital part of the Adult Social Care sector, and while there a variety of areas a support worker may be involved in, from elderly care to young people, learning disabilities and mental health, the overall driver behind the position remains the same; to provide support both emotionally and practically to those who are vulnerable.

In terms of support workers for the elderly, there are a variety of tasks that may be expected of you, which do differ from that of a home care assistant. Most of which can be found below:

  • Housework – From doing the food shop and running errands to cleaning and tidying around the home, depending on the needs of the service user you could be expected to play a large part in these areas.
  • Moving and Handling – Depending on the mobility of the individual you are supporting, you may be expected to be able to safely assist in moving and handling.
  • Getting out into the community – Many support workers for the elderly will assist in days out, trips and social gatherings.

Care Home Assistant

Care home assistants do a lot of the work that is involved in both support work and home care, however it can often be much more challenging as many individuals who are in a care home tend to be at a more advanced stage in their lives and often need extra care and support.

Many care home assistants will be trained to provide palliative care, support for disabled, and mentally ill individuals alongside their regular duties of general care. It can be both a rewarding and also extremely challenging job. Some of the typical duties to expect if you become a care home worker include:

  • To provide companionship – It may not seem like an obvious one, but you may often be asked to provide company and join in activities such as card games or puzzles.
  • To provide dignity and support – For many moving into a care home can be extremely scary, and so first and foremost you will be expected to provide support and respect to those struggling with the change.
  • Personal Care – Much like the other roles we have looked at, you will be expected to provide a level of personal care. In cases of care home residents it is likely that the level of requirement will be much higher than those living at home.
  • Medication and medical appointments – You will be expected to ensure that all medication is administered and taken safely and as prescribed. It may also at times be asked that you escort individuals under your care to medical appointments either at the GP’s or the hospital.

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What will be expected of you?

Arguably the most important aspect of any caring role, whether it is with the elderly or any other vulnerable individual, is the genuine passion and care that the worker has.

Working with old people is not a glamorous job and it can be incredibly difficult at times, so the need for a real enthusiasm and caring nature is absolutely necessary in order to do your job well. Due to the importance of the roles you will be undertaking, during any application and interview process you will be expected to explain; WHY YOU. You could have all the best qualifications in the world, but if you have little interest in helping others, or lack empathy you are unlikely to get a long lasting career working with the elderly.

So what sorts of traits should you have if you are hoping to work with old people? Let’s take a look at some of the most important personal attributes any carer should have:

  • Respect and understanding – Statistics show that only around one third (30%) of people over 50 are confident that older people who receive care services such as help with getting dressed or washing, either at home or in a care home, are treated with dignity and respect. When we consider statistics such as these, it only drives home that any person considering this type of work must be respectful and understanding at all times. This is a basic requirement of any kind of job where you are caring for another life.
  • Empathy – While it can be at times very difficult to understand what someone may be going through, it is incredibly important that you are able to show empathy. Allowing them to know that you are there and offer your professional support can go a very long way.
  • Patience – Many individuals may not consider the types of elderly people they may be caring for. While many may be of a very capable level, there will be others who may not have capacity of their situation. This can lead to confusion, aggression and even violence; so again, understanding and patience are absolutely paramount.
  • Reliable – It may not seem like it, but for many older people, having that interaction with their carer, regardless of the situation may be the highlight of their day. Statistics show that a massive 3.64 million people in the UK aged over 65 live alone, and with many elderly having no family it can often be very isolating. With this in mind, it is so important to be remain consistent and reliable, as you could be making such a huge difference to that person just by visiting when you say you will.
  • Kind and Caring – It may seem obvious, but the need for genuinely caring and kind natured workers is so important for this industry. It is not the sort of career you can do half-heartedly, and really requires a genuine passion to look after others.

The list of important traits could go on, and it is important to consider those types of scenarios that you could find yourself in if you where to do this kind of job. If you feel you would be uncomfortable and out of your depth then perhaps consider if you have what it takes to enter into the elderly care sector.

Should you work with the elderly

Do you need qualifications in order to get a career working with the elderly?

The very short answer to this question would be no, you often won’t require specific qualifications in order to begin a career working with old people. Many positions require GCSE’s in the core subjects and perhaps may ask for some kind of work experience. However, that being said you will greatly improve your chances of obtaining a job in this industry if you possess specific qualification.

For many individuals, aspects such as qualifications can create a huge barrier that may even serve as a deterrent to even applying for a job in the first place. The truth is it really doesn’t need to be so daunting, especially when we consider that there are actually a number of different routes you can take in order to land a career working with the elderly.

If you have already found yourself a job working with old people, and have found yourself here you may not have any current experience or qualifications just yet. Often you will be required to partake in a 12-week induction, which will then bring you up to the national standard of basic skills required to work in this sector. These inductions will cover aspects of the job such as confidentiality, moving and handling, medicine administration, and personal care and should include a number of opportunities for you to shadow more advanced members of staff.

However, if you are wanting to gain all the knowledge and skills you possibly can, you may opt for another route that will help you to progress in your career further down the line. This is where qualifications can really set you apart from the competition, as well as improve your overall knowledge, confidence and skillset.

Here we offer a range of qualifications in the health and social care industry which would enable you to build on your knowledge and gain vital skills to enable you to not only be the best at your job, but also help you progress up the ladder.

We offer both level 2 and 3 CACHE awards, which is a formal qualification with one of the world’s most recognisable awarding bodies in the care sector. Whether you go for health and social care, work in Adult Social Care or one of our others that could really benefit you in your role such as Awareness of Dementia and End of Life Care Certificate, we have an assortment of affordable qualifications that could really boost your employability along with your confidence and abilities.

Let’s take a quick look at what you can expect from our recommended CACHE award for those looking to start or progress in a career working with old people.

CACHE Level 3 Award in Health & Social Care: This 12 month course is done completely online, and will cover the following areas in great detail:

  • Equality, diversity and rights in health and social care
  • Human growth and development
  • Safeguarding in health and social care

You will have a tutor for the duration of your learning, and will be required to pass 6 assignments in order to complete the award.

This award is perfect for anyone looking to work in the following elderly care areas:

  • Residential care homes
  • Nursing homes
  • Day centres
  • Supported accommodation
  • Respite care

As you can see, the online courses go in-depth into some of the most important aspects of elderly care, and will provide you with the most relevant and advanced skills to be able to excel in your role.

Should you work with the elderly?

Hopefully you will have a clearer picture of exactly what is to be expected of you if you enter into a career caring for old people. While it may not always be an easy job to do, and can at times be very emotionally draining, it is without a doubt one of the most rewarding and beneficial careers to go into.

The benefits of working with the elderly extend above and beyond career satisfaction and income. You will gain perspective on your own way of life, and learn more than you ever deemed possible from the relationships you forge with the older people under your care.

Along with mutual respect you will often find that the individuals you support have huge amounts of gratitude for the work you do, which at times can be more rewarding than anything else.  The impact you can have on another persons quality of life can be such an incredible and rewarding feeling, and makes those more difficult times so worth it.

If you are asking yourself whether a job in elderly care is for you, consider the amazing impact you would be having on another person’s life. Could you be adaptable and encourage independence whilst supporting someone’s needs? If you feel the answer is yes then we feel one of our CACHE awards would be the perfect accompaniment to your career choice, to help prepare you for those harder times and encourage you to be the best you can be at your job.

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