A caregiver or carer is an unpaid or paid member of a person's social network who helps them with activities of daily living. Caregiving is most commonly used to address impairments related to old age, disability, a disease, or a mental disorder.
With an increasingly aging population in all developed societies, the role of caregiver has been increasingly recognized as an important one, both functionally and economically. Many organizations which provide support for persons with disabilities have developed various forms of support for carers as well.
A fundamental part of giving care is being a good communicator with the person getting care. Care is given with respect for the dignity of the person receiving care. The carer remains in contact with the primary health care provider, often a doctor or nurse, and helps the person receiving care make decisions about their health and matters affecting their daily life.
Some people receiving care require that the caregiver monitor their body temperature. If this needs to be done, a doctor will advise the caregiver on how to use a thermometer. For people who need blood pressure monitoring, blood glucose monitoring, or other specific health monitoring, then a doctor will advise the care giver on how to do this. The caregiver should watch for changes in a person's mental condition, including becoming unhappy, withdrawn, less interested, confused, or otherwise not as healthy as they have been. In all monitoring, the caregiver's duty is to take notes of anything unusual and share it with the doctor.
Caregivers encourage people to leave their homes for the health benefits of the resulting physical and mental activity. Depending on a person's situation, a walk through their own neighborhood or a visit to a park may require planning or have risks, but it is good to do when possible.
Caregivers have a vital role in supporting people with managing their medications at home. A person living with chronic illness may have a complex medication regime with multiple medications and doses at different times of the day. Caregivers may assist in managing medications in many ways. This may range from attending the pharmacy to collect medications, support with devices such as webster or dosette medication boxes, or actually administering the medications at home. These medications might include tablet, but also cremes, injections or liquid medications. It is important that the healthcare providers help educate caregivers in the clinic as they will often be the people that manage medications for an individual at home over the long term, living with a chronic condition.
Persons who need care are also frequently people who need homes that are accessible in a way that matches their needs. If the caregiving plan calls for a check on the home, then typically this includes checking that the floor is free from hazards which could cause a falling, has temperature control which suits the person getting care, and has faucets and knobs which suit the users. To reduce risk of any major problem, smoke detectors should be put in place and appropriate physical security measures taken for home safety.
Advance care planning should note if a patient is using a implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) and give instructions about the circumstances in which leaving it activated would be contrary to the patient's goals. An ICD is a device designed to prevent cardiac arrhythmia in heart patients. This is a life saving device for people who have a goal to live for a long time, but at the end of life it is recommended that the caregiver discuss deactivating this device with the patient and health care provider. For patients at the end of life, the device rarely prevents death as intended. Using the device at the end of life can cause pain to the patient and distress to anyone who sees the patient experience this. Likewise, ICDs should not be implanted in anyone who is unlikely to live for more than a year.
People with dementia are likely to have difficulty eating and swallowing. Sometimes feeding tubes are used to give food to people with dementia, especially when they are in the hospital or a nursing home. While feeding tubes can help people gain weight, they carry risks including bleeding, infection, pressure ulcers, and nausea. Whenever possible, use assisted feeding in preference. Besides being a safer alternative to the feeding tube, it creates an opportunity for social interaction which can also be comforting to the person being fed.