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How to Be Part of an Elder Caregiver Team

This is a multi-part series to help in-home professional non-medical caregivers learn practical non-clinical skills on approaching their day to day professional life. In Part IV, we will discuss your rights as a professional caregiver and your role as a team player.

Your Rights As a Professional Caregiver

Now that you know about your responsibilities and what you should expect on the job, we will now discuss your rights.  There are several rights that you have that are protected federally and no matter what state that you live in.  As a professional caregiver, you have the right to:
  • Provide input for changes to a client’s care plan
  • Receive timely payment for services, including salary and mileage compensation (of course, where appropriate)
  • Take care of yourself
  • Work in a safe environment without workplace violence
  • File a complaint without the fear of retaliation
  • Not to be abused emotionally, sexually, financially, or physically
  • Be informed when a client files a complaint against you
  • Be entitled to a confidential investigation and a fair hearing, in addition to being told what the outcome will be, when addressing the complaints against you
 

Team Work

Caregivers are often part of a team that help to make the home run smoothly and make sure that clients receive the best care. Each caregiver needs to fulfill their responsibilities. When you begin working, it will be important to know what your responsibilities are and how to carry them out.  What’s equally important is getting to know the other workers who make up your shift or team. Professional caregivers are extremely important to the day-to-day operation of the home, in addition to being important to the clients themselves. When you are scheduled to work, the entire team is depending on you to be there, including the clients who depend on you for their basic care. When staff calls off, it slows the whole team down, and often makes it harder to get the job done. The members of the care team will vary, depending on the size and organizational structure of your agency. A likely team will consist of your direct supervisor, who may be a nurse, specialists and nutrition staff, as well as other shifts of caregiving staff.  At the center of the care team is the client, surrounded by their needs and preferences. When a team works well together, it can provide better and more comprehensive care to a client than staff members working separately. Good teams have the following traits.  They are:
  • Able to work together toward a common goal of providing the best care possible for clients
  • Communicate well with the team with each other and their clients.
  • Support of one another in caring for the client and each other.
  • Able to share responsibility and do what needs to be done attitude.
  • Striving to improve through continual learning and growth.
Working as a professional caregiver means that you are working as part of a team. The rest of the team includes the older adult, their families (spouse, adult children), supervisor, agency, and also probably others including a nurse, therapists, and your client’s physician. It is important to know when to call these other team members for help, and it’s important to have excellent communication skills.  

Being A Team Player:

As a professional caregiver you play a key role on the care team because you provide the day-to-day care for clients. You see more than anyone else about what is going on with your client. You are responsible for contacting your supervisor or others on the care team to get the help any client  needs. You need good observation skills and good communication skills to relay the information you observe about your client to other members of your team. You need to follow these steps: Watch for changes: Notice changes that may signal the need for special attention or additional care. Report all changes, including changes in a client’s needs: Reporting is when you verbally communicate observations and actions to your supervisor. This helps other members of the team keep up with your client. If you are in doubt, it is always better to report something, and always better to check if something is within your scope of your role. It’s always better to ask for help, than not ask and risk putting you, yourself, and your agency in danger. Document carefully: Documenting is the written record of what happened, what you did, and how the patient reacted. The other word for “documenting” is “charting.” If it isn’t written down or documented, it is like it wasn’t done. It can be very important to protect you legally, so make sure you write down everything. Use ink to neatly write everything that you did, as well any changes in the older adult’s condition, and whether you informed anyone (like your supervisor) or the older adult’s family. Write down what you did or didn’t do as it is written in the care plan. Sign and date all your documentation. Make sure you communicate regularly with your supervisor and the caregivers on the shifts before and after yours, so that care transitions can be made smoothly. Want to boost your entire team? Become a Certified Professional Elder Caregiver.

Dr. Reddy is a specialist in Internal Medicine & Geriatric Medicine. She holds appointments at Harvard Medical School & Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA. She has seen the struggles that families and caregivers go through when caring for adults. Through CareAcademy, she intends to improve people's lives. Dr. Reddy's research is published as journal articles and book chapters. She has also authored a book for family caregivers.

Madhuri ReddyHow to Be Part of an Elder Caregiver Team

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