An overview of the role

The role of a carer, or care worker, involves providing physical assistance and emotional support to someone in need of care. This could be anyone from a young child to an elderly person, or someone with learning difficulties.

Carers may work on shift at hospitals or other healthcare facilities, or at residential care homes. They may also undertake home visits and provide hourly (also known as domiciliary) care to patients who need partial support.

Some carers even provide live-in care for clients who need constant support and supervision wish to remain in their own homes. Live-in care can refer to anything between 6 hours of care per day to round the clock care, depending on the needs of the patient. Often two live-in carers may share a single client.

The role of a carer is extremely varied due to the varied nature of clients’ complaints and the many different types of people who require care. It is usual, however, for care workers to specialise in treating various types of people or afflictions and gradually build up experience working in a particular context.

What are the responsibilities of a carer?

The basic responsibilities of a carer include:

  • Helping a client with personal care tasks, such as:
    • Dressing and undressing
    • Shaving/makeup
    • Hair styling
    • Washing
    • Using the toilet
  • Helping a client with other everyday tasks, such as:
    • Getting in and out of bed
    • Doing housework
    • Doing laundry
    • Preparing and cooking meals
    • Taking medication
    • Answering the door and phone
    • Shopping or attending appointments
  • Ensuring that their clients are comfortable and happy at all times
  • Providing companionship and alleviating loneliness
  • Designing care plans to help fulfil a specific client’s needs
  • Emotionally supporting clients and their families and providing reassurance to them during what may be a very difficult times in their lives

Carers to clients with more severe medical needs or disabilities may have additional responsibilities, such as:

  • Continence care
  • Peg feeding
  • Insulin management
  • Tracheostomy care
  • Ventilated care
  • Changing dressings
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What are the key skills required by a carer?

Key skills required by a carer include:

  • An outgoing, friendly and personable demeanour
  • Empathy, compassion and a caring nature
  • Patience
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • The ability to remain calm in difficult or distressing situations
  • Specialist knowledge of the type of patient they are treating

What qualifications does a carer require?

It is perfectly possible to become a carer without any formal qualifications. Nonetheless aspiring carers will find it much easier to get a job if they have a foundation course or diploma in care. 

Many care diplomas require only basic grades (a GCSE grade C in English and mathematics or less). They also generally incorporate practical work alongside academic study to ensure that students have hands-on experience in care. The RQF Level 2 in Health and Social Care is a good example of an introductory course that has this structure. As you will be working with vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and those with special needs, you will need to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) check prior to beginning work as a carer. This will need to be maintained throughout your professional career.

Do I need relevant work experience to become a carer?

Work experience in a care-related role is always useful due to the fact that it demonstrates a candidate’s commitment to employers. However, often it isn’t strictly necessary.

Working as a carer is a demanding role physically, mentally and emotionally and it is not for everyone. Gaining work experience in a related area will help potential carers to decide if they are cut out for it before committing themselves any further.

What are the prospects and salary of a carer?

The estimated salary of a junior carer is roughly £14,000 a year. Eventually this will rise to around £18,000. More established and experienced carers, or those who act as live-in care workers for more disabled clients can earn more. Some specialists can earn as much as £24,000.

A means of progressing your career and increasing your salary as a carer is to undertake basic nursing training. This will give you extra skills and increase your responsibility and the complexity of your role.

You could also move into a related field, such as carer counselling. Although this requires three years of training, your experience will prove invaluable and it is a training that  If you wish to change your 

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Is the role of a carer right for me?

There are both pros and cons involved in the role of a carer. Pros of being a carer include:

  • A rewarding job that allows you to directly improve the quality of other people’s lives
  • The role is a highly social one that will allow you to develop personal relationships with all the clients in your care
  • The role of a carer offers plenty of variety – every day will be different for you
  • Plenty of scope for progression – this role is a good first step into healthcare and experience as a carer will stand you in good stead for future roles

Cons of being a carer include:

  • There have been widespread complaints about the unfair wages paid to carers in recent years. Practices such as refusing to pay workers for travel time are still widespread, meaning that in practice carers can work for eight hours and be paid for four
  • Even if travel and other expenses are taken into account, carers often earn little more than minimum wage
  • The role can place considerable stress and emotional strain on carers day to day. Carers of those with mental disabilities such as dementia may be face verbal or physical aggression or be sexually propositioned – this is a job for the emotionally resilient
  • This is not a job for the squeamish – you will have to feed and wash people as well as helping them to use the toilet
  • The role can be a physically demanding one – you may need to help lift people in and out of beds, baths and so on

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