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Also Known As
- Elderly People's Care Assistant
- Residential Care Assistant, Elderly People
- Social Work Care Assistant, Elderly People
Care assistants provide basic personal care, social care and emotional support to elderly people who need help with day-to-day tasks. The care assistant's role is to enable elderly people to keep as much independence as possible and to be as socially and physically active as they can. Care assistants may work in hospitals, day centres and residential homes for the elderly.
The exact type of care that assistants provide depends on the age, ability, health and level of self-sufficiency of the elderly people they work with. They help the elderly who need help and support with everyday tasks. A care worker is there to help these people to get on with life by doing the chores for them and basic day-to-day tasks.
For example, in day centres, the main part of a care assistant's role may be to plan and supervise social activities. In residential homes for the elderly, some residents can be very frail, ill or confused. Here, basic care could mean enabling someone to wash or have a bath, dress, eat, take medication, go the toilet and get around generally. Care assistants may be responsible for routine medical tasks like applying cream or changing dressings under the supervision of a qualified nurse
Wherever they work, care assistants try to help people to keep as much independence and quality of life as they can. As far as possible, this means they enable people to do personal and social tasks, rather than doing the tasks for them. Care assistants therefore help many people to keep their self-sufficiency and sense of dignity.
Social care is very important, and it is essential that care assistants develop friendly, caring and trusting relationships with the people they work with. They talk to elderly people, listen to their memories, and reassure them if they are anxious or confused. They may help people to make friends or keep in touch with their families. Planning and supervising social and recreational activities and trips is an important part of some assistants' work.
Care assistants must be aware of any changes in an individual's physical or mental health, such as pain, loss of mobility, depression or anxiety. They must see illness as something that needs investigation, rather than a natural consequence of old age. In a residential home or day centre, care assistants report their observations to a care officer, warden or duty officer in charge.
In hospitals, homes and day centres, care assistants are responsible for the health and safety of staff and residents. They look out for, prevent or report hazards including slippery floors, poor lighting, loose carpets and handrails, and unsafe electrical appliances.
A care assistant may work alongside professionals such as doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists. They can be found in nursing homes, day care centres and hospitals and may do house visits.
Personal Qualities and Skills
You must have an understanding of the needs of elderly people, including their social and emotional needs. Patience, compassion, tact and a sense of humour are vital qualities, especially if you work with people who do not like to admit that they need your help.
You will need strong communication and interpersonal skills to develop caring, trusting relationships with elderly people. You must be able to respect each individual's right to keep as much independence and privacy as they can.
Care assistants must be prepared to learn and develop new knowledge. Government legislation on the care of elderly people may change to increase their protection from neglect or abuse, so assistants may need training to keep up-to-date. It demands a lot of stamina as shifts can be long working both at night and over weekends. Hours can also be flexible.
The ability to work as part of a team is very important. You are likely to work with professionals such as doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries will vary with the job description, experience and qualifications. Those working in the health service will be on a salary scale (see www.publicjobs.ie). Those working in private care facilities can expect salaries starting from around EUR20k a year for a trainee and increasing with experience and the acquisition of qualifications.
Entry Routes and Training
Care assistants are usually over 18 years old. While qualifications are not always needed for entry, many employers prefer applicants with relevant experience and training in a care environment.
It is a good idea to undertake voluntary or paid work in any caring capacity to assess one's suitability before applying.
There is a very wide range of courses available throughout the country. Candidates should consult the prospectuses of their local institutions for course information and entry requirements. Training can last for up to two years as most employers demand experience and maturity.
There is no formal entry requirement, although some employers prefer applicants to have academic or relevant vocational qualifications. Many employers will look for evidence of relevant work experience in a care environment, on either a paid or voluntary basis.
There is no formal upper age limit for entry to this occupation. Employers usually see experience, and a mature and responsible approach, as an advantage.
Mature entrants, normally defined as people aged 23 years or over, can find that educational institutions will relax normal academic entrance requirements for higher education courses especially if their previous work experience is relevant and if they show a genuine aptitude for this type of work.
Contact your local Intreo Centre or Employment Services office for Career Guidance, planning and support that will help you make informed decisions about the best career direction for you
Labour Market Information
Qualifax: Ireland’s National Learners’ Database
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