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Special Needs Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities

Private citizens and many types of healthcare providers hire special needs caregivers to provide ongoing assistance and care to patients who are unable to manage their own needs. No matter who employs them, special needs caregivers are required to perform the following job tasks:

Manage Meals Special needs caregivers prepare, cook, and feed meals to their patients. The special needs caregiver may also perform the grocery shopping for their clients and clean up patients and food preparation areas after every meal.

Daily Grooming Special needs caregivers assist their patients with all daily grooming needs, including brushing their teeth, bathing, and dressing.

Bathroom Assistance Some patients may require assistance using the bathroom and cleaning up after themselves in the bathroom.

Housekeeping Tasks Special needs caregivers also tend to tasks like the laundry, making up the bed, doing dishes, and performing other housekeeping chores.

Entertainment Activities Special needs caregivers keep their patients' minds active by planning and managing learning and entertainment activities. This may include playing games, reading books, and talking to patients.

Monitor Patients Special needs caregivers are responsible for monitoring their patients. This includes reporting any changes in patient mood, behavior, physical health, and home environment to family members and supervisors. They also create daily written or verbal reports regarding their patients' overall state of health and mind.

Administer Medications Special needs caregivers must stay aware of medication schedules for patients and administer medicine as prescribed.

Assist with Mobility Special needs patients may have limited mobility, so the caregivers must physically assist patients with getting around. They may also take patients to medical appointments.


Special Needs Caregiver Skills and Qualifications

Special needs caregivers are nurturing people who treat their clients with respect and dignity, while maintaining a professional attitude and protecting patient privacy. Individuals who wish to pursue this professional path must acquire several skills:
  • Communication - Special needs caregivers talk with their patients throughout the course of their working hours and offer detailed reports to family members and employers regarding patient progress and state of well-being. These professionals have strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Patience - Caring for patients requires special needs caregivers to remain patient at all times, and the job may require caregivers to perform tasks repeatedly until they are completed to satisfaction
  • Compassion - Special needs caregivers must maintain a compassionate and kind demeanor, even when patients are irritable, demanding, angry, or otherwise suffering from extreme emotional states
  • Time Management - It's important for special needs caregivers to keep patients on regular bathing, feeding, and medication schedules, which requires good time management and organization
  • Physical Ability - Special needs caregivers must lift and carry patients, household items, groceries, and laundry. They also have the ability to care for patients by bending, squatting, stooping, and standing for hours at a time, which requires good physical strength

Special Needs Caregiver Education and Training

Special needs caregivers must have a high school diploma or GED. Most employers will also require employees to have previous experience working with people who have disabilities, or a college degree in behavioral studies, social work, counseling, or a related field. Special needs caregivers must pass a physical exam to prove they are in good health as well as a complete background check. They must be able to provide professional references highlighting their ability to perform necessary job tasks. In addition, special needs caregivers must obtain first aid certification and a CPR card showing they know how to perform this life-saving skill. Some employers may also seek candidates who have DSP certification. The Direct Support Professionals exam is administered by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. Individuals seeking to obtain this certification must complete an application detailing their qualifications, relevant work history, and other required information.

Special Needs Caregiver Salary and Outlook

"Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides" of all types earned a median annual income of $22,170 and an hourly rate of $10.66 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost three million jobs for home health aides and personal care aides were available in 2016. This number is expected to grow by 41 percent through 2026, a rate that is much faster than the national job growth average. PayScale data shows that special needs caregivers, a specific branch of the home health aide profession, earn a median hourly salary of $10. Special needs caregivers are employed by individuals as well as businesses, and benefits packages are offered on a limited basis. Special needs caregivers do not typically receive health care insurance benefits, though tuition reimbursement, travel reimbursement, and work expense reimbursements are commonly offered.

Helpful Resources

Discover career and education opportunities, find tips and helpful information, and learn how to excel as a special needs caregiver with these resources:

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals Vision - Get training and technical assistance resources, certification information, conference schedules, and ethics guides at the NADSP website.

It Takes Courage To Be A Caregiver: Answers & Tips for Caregivers of Parents, Special Needs and Others (Courage To Overcome) (Volume 1) - This book by Cheryl Novak Ginnings offers answers to common caregiver questions as well as tips for managing the daily demands of a professional caregiving job.

Professional Association of Caregivers - PAC offers a large community support system for professional caregivers, along with certification training information and a regular newsletter.

7 Caregiver Landmines and How You Can Avoid Them - Learn how to avoid the common problems faced by caregivers and get tips that special needs caregivers can use to help guide themselves and their patients to a healthier, happier life with this book by Peter W. Rosenberger.

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