What do you do when you or a loved one can’t get through a day without help? It’s a problem most families face sooner or later, and it’s a thorny one. One option is to have an adult child move in with the care recipient or vice versa so that there’s always someone on hand to run errands and provide companionship. But sometimes a move isn’t feasible. Another choice is a retirement home that provides services on-site, but moving out of one’s own home and into an institution can be a hard sell.

In-home caregiving can be a perfect middle ground. For an average of $21 per hour, you can hire a caregiver to provide aid in the care recipient’s own home. But caregivers can provide a wide range of services. Some people only need help with errands that require heavy lifting, while others need help with daily activities, such as bathing and dressing, or need medical care. What are the types of caregivers, and how do you find one who is qualified?

Skilled care and custodial care

If you need caretakers to change an IV or a catheter, you will have to hire someone with a medical license. Look for the words “skilled care” or “home health care.” If you don’t need any assistance that requires medical training, you need “custodial care,” “home care,” “personal care” or “attendant care.” These attendants will help the individual with activities of daily living, known in the trade as ADLs, like cooking, cleaning, bathing, and dressing.

Types of licenses

In some states, caregivers need a license to operate. However, even if you live in a state where that isn’t the case, it’s best to find a licensed caregiver. A Home Health Aide license is a qualification for a custodial caregiver; HHAs cannot perform clinical tasks but can manage a patient’s medication and help with ADLs. A Certified Nursing Assistant, who reports to a nurse, is qualified to care for a patient who is ill even if the patient needs to go to a hospital or other medical facility; CNAs are qualified to change wound dressings and help patients by bathing them or changing sheets.

Companion care

Most caregivers, whether medical or custodial, are purely professional with their patients. However, a companion’s duties include socializing with the care recipient. For some elderly people who feel isolated in the home, a few hours a week spent chatting or playing cards with a companion can feel essential.
When it comes to choosing a caregiver, there are plenty of decisions to make. However, knowing the right terminology can make the choice as painless as possible.

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