There’s no doubt about it, the UK has an ageing population. In Britain, there are more than 15m individuals over the age of 60, so it’s no surprise there’s an ever-growing demand for quality elderly care.

If you’re interested in providing care for the elderly, the good news is that you’ll rarely struggle to find work. However, you may be wondering what qualifications you’ll need, what sort of roles are available to you and what a typical day might be like.

There are hundreds of different elderly care roles out there, in a variety of different industries, each requiring different levels of knowledge and skills to get the job done. While the options available offer some fantastic career opportunities, picking the right field can seem a little overwhelming at first. Working with elderly people is one such specialist role that not only requires a level of technical skill, but certain personal attributes, too.

Whatever your reasons for considering a career in elderly care, it is vital to understand what’s involved before taking on such a position. Many individuals begin careers in elderly care without knowing exactly what’s involved. While it may seem easy from the outside looking in, the work itself can cover a wide range of physically and emotionally demanding duties that can take their toll. That said, providing care to the one of society’s most vulnerable groups of people can be an incredibly rewarding experience, with much to gain from not only the work, but colleagues and clients too.

In the below article, we provide a comprehensive guide on what you can expect from a career in care, from in-home roles to those in care homes and even hospitals. So, whether you’re new to the role or are a seasoned professional, here’s everything you need to know about working with the elderly.

Choosing the right role

Like most industries, there are a wide variety of roles to choose from when considering a career in elderly care. It could be voluntary work supporting vulnerable individuals, or perhaps providing care within a residential home.

Each role requires a certain level of skill, and will have varying levels of ‘hands on’ activities depending on the area in which you specialise.

To give you a better idea of the types of tasks associated with each role, we’ve put together a quick guide below.

Home care assistant

There are hundreds of thousands of elderly people in the UK who require a little extra help with day-to-day tasks, like getting ready, washing and cooking. Home care assistants do just that – they offer in-home help with a variety of daily tasks, for those who may not feel ready for live-in care or moving to a care home. Home care assistants play a key part in helping thousands of people stay in their homes for longer, boosting mental health, independence and happiness.

The general duties required of a home care assistant can vary hugely depending on the needs of the individual. Some example tasks are:

Personal care: things like using the toilet, dressing, washing and bathing fall into this category.

Mealtimes: you’ll likely be expected to help elderly individuals prepare meals, and perhaps cook and serve up for them. Some frailer people may expect help with eating, too.

Medication: it is likely you’ll need to help with the planning and administering of any medication, ensuring medication is taken safely and to schedule.

Support worker

Support workers provide general support to a wide variety of individuals, not just the elderly. You may find as a support worker you’ll be working with young people, those with mental health issues and even learning difficulties. Much like the home care assistant, a support worker’s role is to provide day to day support to those who need a little extra help, both emotionally and physically.

In regards to support work for the elderly, typical tasks may involve:

Housework: supporting the elderly by performing basic housework duties like cleaning, laundry and cooking. This may extend to doing a food shop and running errands depending on the needs of the individual.

Mobility: getting out and about can be a real challenge for older people. You may be required to assist in trips out and social events.

Care home worker

Many of the duties performed by a care home worker are similar to that of a support worker and home care assistant – as a care home worker, you’ll be assisting the elderly with basic tasks like getting ready, washing and eating. However, with care home work, you’ll likely be expected to carry out more demanding work, as those who are in care homes tend to be individuals requiring extra care. Care home workers are often trained to offer palliative care to the disabled.

Typical duties include:

Support with personal care: care home residents will need additional support with personal care, so expect more demanding work.

Managing medication: you’ll be expected to administer medication as well as manage medical appointments – some GP surgeries and hospitals require an escort to accompany the elderly.

Emotional support: making the transition from home to residential care can be a scary and unsettling time. As part of your role as care home worker, you’ll be expected to provide emotional support and respect for those struggling to adapt to their new surroundings.

Am I a good fit?

While many of the day to day duties required of care workers can be learned on the job, one of the biggest questions to ask yourself when considering a job in care is whether you’d be a good fit. Caring for an elderly person can be stressful and demanding, so it’s important to consider every aspect of the role before taking the plunge. One of the most important aspects of any caring role is to have a genuine passion for others’ wellbeing.

Working with old people, while rewarding, can be very tough. Having a genuine enthusiasm for care and an interest in the wellbeing of the elderly are a must to do well in any care role.

When interviewing for any care job, qualifications may be discussed. One thing you can expect, however, is to be asked ‘why you?’. Before attending the interview write down all the reasons that make you a fantastic candidate to care for the elderly.

What sorts of traits do you need to work with the elderly?

Empathy. While you may struggle to truly understand what someone is going through, it is really important that you’re able to show you care. Sometimes just listening and being there to provide emotional support can go a long way.

Patience. As a carer, you’ll be looking after all kinds of elderly individuals. Some may be needing an extra pair of hands to help with the housework they can no longer do themselves, while others may have late stage dementia, and require round the clock care with every aspect of daily life. Individuals requiring an intensive level of support may not fully understand the situation they’re in, which can cause confusion, anger and even violence in some instances. Approaching every situation with total patience and an open mind is the key to a successful career as a carer.

Reliability. Long hours spent in isolation and with little opportunity to go out can lead to loneliness and depression in older people. Recent statistics uncovered that almost 4m people aged 65 and over live alone, and with many elderly individuals with little to no family members close by, it’s no wonder so many feel isolated. For many, a visit from a carer can be the highlight of their day. With that in mind, it really is very important to be reliable, punctual and true to your word, as visiting when you say you will can have a big impact on someone’s day.

Caring. This one goes without saying, but the need to be genuinely kind and caring must be second nature in order to do this job well. It isn’t the type of career you can do half-heartedly, and requires a true passion for the role and for others.

Are there any benefits to working in elderly care?

Caring for the elderly is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. While the feeling of helping others is without doubt the best part of being a carer, there are some other benefits to consider.

Flexibility: if you’re looking for an alternative to the 9 to 5 grind, a job in care might be the perfect answer. Elderly people need care round the clock, so choosing a career caring for others will mean flexibility in the hours you work. That said, you may be expected to work some antisocial hours too – expect some late nights and early mornings as well as shift work.

Real qualifications

A common misconception is that you must have qualifications to enter the care profession. For basic, entry-level care roles, no professional qualifications are required.

Most larger care organisations will provide on the job training, however, and there are some fantastic courses available if you wish to specialise. Courses vary in length and complexity, so do your research to find the right course for your career aspirations and ability.

Variety

When it comes to care, no two days are the same. You’ll meet people from all walks of life, each with a different story to tell, so there really is never a dull moment in this challenging and rewarding line of work. You’ll be out and about, too – no staring out of an office window waiting for home time to come!

What qualifications do you need to become a carer?

For many care roles, no specific qualifications are needed. Some positions will require applicants to have grade C or above in the core subjects of maths, science and English, but this isn’t always the case. That said, it may improve your chances of securing the position if you have some relevant qualifications under your belt.

In more demanding roles, you may find an induction course is necessary to get a basic understanding of what the specific role entails. Topics like moving and handing, medicine administration, confidentiality and personal care will be covered.

If you already work as a carer and are interested in furthering your career, there are plenty of training courses available in a variety of subjects to choose from. Choosing to undertake extra role-specific qualifications not only will provide invaluable information in order to do your job well, but will help you stand out from your competition when applying for jobs and boost your confidence, too.

Qualifications at Caring For Care

At Caring for Care, we specialise in providing comprehensive, industry-leading national healthcare training. Our training is delivered by qualified healthcare professionals with decades of hands-on experience between them, so you can trust us to provide the very best education in the field. We offer a whole host of training courses to help you achieve your career aspirations, from one and two day courses in subjects like autism awareness, bereavement training, dementia, diabetes and medication management, to more specialist five day courses covering hot topics like nutrition awareness, stroke awareness and catheter care – there really is something for everyone.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide has given you a better picture of what you could expect from a career in care. While it may not always be an easy job, it can be incredibly beneficial and rewarding, which is why thousands of people train to be carers every single year.

The benefits of working with old people go much further than income and career satisfaction. On the job, you’ll work with hundreds of people with interesting stories to tell, providing a fresh perspective on your own way of life. Not to mention you’ll make some great friends, too. The impact you can have on an elderly person can be life-changing, and make those challenging moments worth it.

Chat to a specialist

If you’re considering a career in care and would like specialist advice, get in touch today. Our team of elderly care professionals are on hand to answer any questions you may have, and to provide further information on any of the courses you find on our website.

If you’re looking to complete the full five day Care Certificate course, let us know and we’ll book you onto the next available course convenient for you.

We look forward to welcoming you at Caring for Care.

Photo: Care in the home by British Red Cross. licensed under Creative Commons 4.0