As the population increases and lives longer due to medical advancements, the need to care for the elderly and the disabled becomes ever more necessary. As such, the opportunities for caring work at all levels is increasing exponentially. Career options in this industry are currently sound and stable, and ongoing into the foreseeable future.

People may consider caring as simply the rote work of a home nurse aid, but this is only the tip of the iceberg – work in the retirement sphere is varied and, in many instances, requires certain qualifications and experience. When evaluating this route as a career, it is best to review all the job possibilities and accompanying requirements before making your choice. Certainly, if you are a caring person who enjoys people and helping people, then caregiving offers a wonderful opportunity to engage and uplift in so many ways.

The origins of Caregiving

  • Caring for each other is a very human thing. And there is evidence that we have been doing it for thousands of years. Indeed, it forms part of our civilised face. In the early days of medical attention, many people were unable to attend a hospital, and those with chronic illnesses – especially those of old age or disability – were left to manage as best as they could at home.
  • Initially, people treated their maladies with medicinal plants and other natural substances. Family members and neighbours were roped in to assist where things were a little more serious.
  • These caretakers performed treatments of broken bones, cuts, and other injuries based on primitive techniques handed down from generation to generation. The origin of the word “patient” stems from the English word meaning “one who suffers”, and there is little doubt that those who performed care of the sick and infirm did so in a very human attempt to relieve suffering through compassion and a broadening knowledge of which treatments were best.
  • Formalised caring as we understand it today began in England in the mid-1800s when businessman and philanthropist William Rathbone, with the help of none other than Florence Nightingale, established a school to train women as nurses to help the sickly and the poor in their homes. And home caring was born.
  • Today, home health agencies offer a variety of services to meet the needs of those who are unable to care for themselves, or who just need some assistance with daily routines such as housekeeping, preparing meals, or getting to appointments.
  • Professional home health agencies can adjust levels of care to meet the needs of their clients and their families, and may additionally provide counsellors to assist with financial and insurance processes. High quality companion services can also be provided, either during the day or overnight.

Caregivers in modern society

Many caregivers are still family members, or persons with no professional training but who can help with the various activities of daily living. People in the industry are usually individuals who seek job satisfaction above all else, knowing that they are making a difference in other people’s lives, living a life of duty and care and empathy. Very often a caregiver is able to expand their medical knowledge as they work.

In South Africa, there are skills and qualifications that are best to obtain to ensure you are eligible for the most rewarding jobs.
Compassion: This is probably your most important attribute – the ability to remain attuned to another’s pain or distress, and empathetic in all situations.
Communication: Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, are another must. You need to understand your patient as best you can, and you need to be able to liaise with medical professionals and family members.
Observation: It’s not enough to just talk and listen to your patients. Sometimes, they may not be able to articulate what’s going on with their health. You’ll need to keep a sharp eye out for any changes in your patient’s condition and note these in daily reports.
Education: The minimum educational requirement for a caregiver should be matric followed by a nursing diploma and some nursing experience, and preferably specific training in caring for elderly people.

A variety of job options in the caregiving industry

Carer: This is your basic, hands-on role, delivering services such as personal care, companionship, and support with daily living within the patient’s own home. Working with the same clients on an ongoing basis, you’ll form relationships and keep track of any changes that you notice in their wellbeing.
Senior Caregiver: In addition to performing the duties of a carer, senior caregivers are also responsible for leading a small team. Drawing upon your experience, you’ll train and shadow new carers, offering guidance and performing quality checks to ensure maintenance of the highest standards.

Care Co-ordinator: A care co-ordinator works both in the office and out in the field. Working closely with the junior and senior carers in your team, you’ll make sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time. By scheduling appointments and handing client liaison, this role centres on high customer service and impeccable organisational skills.
Compliance Officer: This is a key role where you ensure the safety, competence and lawful behaviour of carers in their client engagements. You will make sure the company complies with all the regulations, laws, quality standards and policies to ensure a safe environment for clients and staff alike. This role requires the ability to review and improve internal processes effectively and consistently.

Training Co-ordinator: All carers must be effectively trained in order to build on their skills. A trainer must be able to motivate others and drive their performance through the use of creative and engaging teaching methods.
Registered Manager: As the leader of your team, you will need to implement and manage business plans and communications strategies to provide top-quality services and ongoing improvements. Focus involves managing budgets, ensuring quality and compliance, and leading business growth.