Caregiving 101: Do’s and Don’ts for Caregivers

Caregiving is not just a job, nor is it just a task. For many, caregiving is a responsibility of care for another life, one that is totally dependent on you. It is unlike other jobs because you are taking care of vulnerable humans, not just pushing paper on a desk or counting someone else’s wealth. It can be a rewarding job but only if you appreciate being needed and wanted by another human being. Their safety and even their very own life could depend on how you do your job. That said, not everyone got what it takes to be a caregiver. You need to have both the skills and mindset of one.

You need both skills and attitude, not just one of the other. You can learn the skills easily, but it would take a whole lot of you to change your outlook. If you think you can do it, here are a few guidelines on what you are expected to have, what you need to do, how you should do them, and what you should never do.

Skills and Traits a Caregiver Must Possess

Sharp Observation Skills

There are patients who don’t have the ability to communicate what they are physically feeling, while some don’t notice what is wrong themselves. You should be aware of even the slightest changes your client goes through. A minor deviation from their usual temperament or habit may not seem much at first, but it could be a clue to what they are actually feeling or a warning of an impending condition. Keep a keen eye on your clients always.

Ability to Respond and Communicate Effectively

Sometimes, your client cannot express or understand what they need, and it’s up to you to help them communicate their thoughts and the doctors’ instructions clearly. Because you are with the client for the most part of the day, you are the only one who can understand what they are going through, and you also need to communicate that to their loved ones. You also need to be a good written communicator because you are required to report and document your client’s health.

Problem-Solving Skills

Plans often changed, no matter how meticulously they were created. There will be emergencies, new routines, appointment cancellations and more that will take place. The most important thing that you can do is to never panic when changes like these happen. According to The Caregiver Space, it is crucial that you can think quickly of an alternative plan. Your ability to solve problems at the blink of an eye can prevent detrimental or impractical consequences.

Organizational Skills

You are basically organizing another person’s life for them, and therefore it’s just expected of you to do it very well.


A non-negotiable trait that you should have as a caregiver is patience. You will not be running on your usual phase, but rather you will be waiting on your client’s time. They may act stubbornly and refuse to follow instructions. They may even act belligerently sometimes. You need to stay calm and exhibit patience all the time. Otherwise, you will just make things more difficult for both you and your client.


Another trait that you must have in this profession is compassion. It’s a selfless job because even though you are getting paid, you are devoting not just time, but also essentially yourself to your client. You will be privy to their prayers and fears, their achievements and setbacks. It’s possible to stay aloof when doing your job, but it won’t be an effective way to do it. Compassion and empathy would improve your relationship with your client.

Stickler for Rules

At the end of the day, you are still doing a job. You can be as involved as you want to, but don’t forget the reason you are hired in the first place: to give care for your patient. You cannot do that if you neglect to follow your client’s physician’s instructions or just neglect the rules and protocols set for the patient. It’s not just irresponsible, it’s dangerous, too. You may be putting your patient’s life at risk. You must be a stickler for rules, following all instructions for the care of your patient consistently.

Duties of a Caregiver

For vulnerable patients, a caregiver can help them perform even the simplest task in their daily lives. It’s exactly why they need to hire one, because they have difficulties functioning on their own. Even doing bathing and toiletry functions could be a taxing experience for them. That is why a hiring a caregiver is crucial.

Here are some of the duties of a caregiver. The list can be modified, depending on the needs of the patient and the instructions of the physician.

Medicine Administration

You don’t prescribe medicines; you just administer your client taking them. Patients, especially elder ones suffering from dementia or other similar conditions, often rely on others when they need to take their medications. The task falls on you to make sure that they have indeed taken their prescriptions correctly and on time.

Pressure Sores Care

For patients who need long-term care, pressure sores or bedsores are a serious concern. These are usually suffered by those who are bedridden or who spend much of their time stationary in one place. This calls for more than an ordinary massage. Caregivers are normally trained how to relieve patients’ pressure sores or prevent them altogether.


It may be too basic a task, but hygiene could be one of the most overlooked things by patients simply because they find it too difficult to take care of that themselves. Grooming and personal hygiene often take a back seat to other tasks. Nevertheless, they are still important and should not be neglected. Not only does lack of hygiene can contribute to exacerbated physical health, it can also contribute to a patient’s worsening mental state. Caregivers should make sure that their hygiene isn’t neglected.

Toilet Needs

One of the most basic duties of a caregiver is to assist patients with their toilet needs. Going to the bathroom could already be a monumental task for them, and so taking care of the basics themselves, such as toileting, would be near impossible to do. One of your primary tasks as a caregiver is to help them with their toilet needs.


Many patients needing caregiving cannot get in and out of bed themselves, that’s why caregivers can aid in transferring them. Although perhaps not as imperative as transferring a patient in and out of bed, bed-making is also included in a caregiver’s duties. An unkempt bed would bring down the disposition of the patient.

Eliminating Boredom

It’s not unusual for people with health and mobility restrictions to feel bored most of the time. They cannot do the things that they had previously enjoyed before they were diagnosed with their condition. As such, they are usually left with nothing to do to while away their time. As their caregiver, you must think of various fun but safe things that they can do instead.  Boredom is a depressing state, and so you must help them avoid it.

House Organization

More often than not, a caregiver’s duties also include organizing and cleaning their patient’s home. It could be not part of the job description, but in many cases, it is. Your patient likely does not have the strength or ability to take care of their own home anymore, which is why you are needed to do that for them.


As A Place for Mom’s Caitlin Burm says, it is easy to forget that the most important task of a caregiver is to provide companionship. It may not be a strict rule that you should provide it, but it is inevitable as you are spending most of your time with your patient. Make it count and provide companionship instead of just your presence.

Things That Caregivers Should Never Do

As overwhelming being a caregiver is, you should never lose track of the reasons you have gone into the profession in the first place. Remind yourself always why you pursued this career. Committing mistakes can be costly, and so you should retain focus all the time.

And even though you have a lot of duties and responsibilities as a caregiver, there are also things that you should not overlook and neglect. Here are the don’ts of caregiving:

Don’t Steal

It is a simple and obvious rule, but Mimi Lewis, a senior service social worker, told that it is a great fear for a lot of seniors who depend on their caregivers. They have little recourse should that happen because they are dependent on someone whom they suspect of robbing them.

Don’t Judge

Your client has a life outside of being a patient. Whatever it is, it’s not your place to judge them for it. They have a right not to feel ashamed of their life, and you should respect that regardless if you agree with them or not.

Don’t Make Them Feel Ashamed

Speaking of feeling ashamed, you should mind your reactions to your tasks because even the most discreet flinch could humiliate them. Lewis said avoid gagging or making a shocked face when you are doing something uncomfortable, such as assisting them in the toilet. People hire caregivers to help them do intimate tasks. If you show that you find your duties abhorrent, they will feel ashamed.

Don’t Forget To Do Paperwork

Documentations help make sure your client’s condition is properly addressed. If you forget to document even just a seemingly mundane development, their physician wouldn’t be aware of their true condition, and therefore they might miss something that could help your patient get better. Neglecting to do paperwork may even result in your client getting worse.

Don’t Make Decisions Without Consulting Your Client

The decisions referred to here are those everyday choices that don’t affect their health whatsoever. These simple decisions include what they want to wear, what they want to eat etc. Simple decisions like that can make them feel involved with their own lives.

Janette Foley, an administrator of dementia services at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Servicers, says you should respect whatever choice the patient has made. Don’t force them to do something, unless it’s a matter of life and death.

Don’t Focus On Your Phone

Just like in any other job, your primary focus should be on the task at hand. Donna Moyer, co-founder and CEO of Preferred HealthStaff, says it’s easy to become detached from social interaction. However, you should always be present and attentive with a client.

Don’t Disrespect Your Patient’s Privacy

Your job may include doing intimate tasks for your patient, but everything has a boundary. As long as the patient isn’t in any danger, give them space. They have a right to their thoughts, a right to do whatever they want. They don’t owe your all their secrets. If they want to do something on their own, let them do it themselves unless that would be dangerous for their person or detrimental to their health.

In addition, if your patient is not comfortable with having their picture and name plastered on social media or shown and told to other people, respect their wishes. If you don’t have their consent, don’t post anything online or tell someone else in real life.

Don’t Provide Additional Services If It’s Not Written

Put everything in writing. Your employment contract must detail your tasks and responsibilities. If it’s not there, don’t offer services without an amendment to your contract. It is a legal requirement, as well as an ethical one. This also prevents predicaments when a legal confrontation must happen.

Don’t Forget to Set Your Own Boundaries

You have a right to your own privacy as well. If you don’t feel comfortable in sharing your life with someone, even if they are your patient, then don’t. Set your boundaries. Let your patient know your limits. Stick to that and don’t violate it yourself. You need to be your own person as well.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Finally, don’t feel guilty about taking breaks. You need to take a breather and take care of yourself as well. Don’t ignore the signs that you are about to be burned out. If you are having trouble concentrating and making good decisions, or if you aren’t enjoying what you are doing anymore, then maybe it’s time to take a break. If you get burned out, you are putting your patient and yourself at risk. So stop every once in a while and breathe.

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