Nearly five million people across California support family, spouses, and friends with the care needed to live safely in their homes. And those caregivers routinely sacrifice their earning potential and their own wellbeing to take on that task, while never truly being recognized for their value, nor are they given the proper tools.
Tatevik Kyosayan’s mother was once a caregiver before she began to need support herself. A musician and music teacher by trade, Tatevik decided to put aside her passion temporarily and take up the role of caregiver for her mother.
Caregiving is so often a burden that many untrained and undervalued caregivers must shoulder in silence, but for Tatevik becoming a caregiver has been a source of personal fulfillment. She has worked as an In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) provider for 14 years now and currently cares for her mother and an elderly neighbor.
“I stepped in, and I found so much satisfaction in helping elders,[…] because you get to enjoy the work, you get to be very helpful.[…] They need me and they appreciate me,” Tatevik says.
Despite working as a caregiver since 2007, Tatevik was open to continuing to build on her experience and skill set. When she heard about the free IHSS+ training offered by the Center for Caregiver Advancement (CCA), she quickly enrolled. She is proof that even when you have over a decade of experience, it can still be incredibly valuable to keep learning.
“There was still so much that I’ve learned from here,” Tatevik says. “It’s a very, very, very helpful training, especially for caregivers who actively work full time.”
During the IHSS+ training, Tatevik learned about personal care, infection control, CPR, nutrition, and medication adherence. The medication adherence module covered in the training introduced Tatevik to techniques and tools to ensure the people she cares for correctly follow their prescriptions and medical advice, which she believes is crucial.
“The most valuable part of the training was the medical point of view and about the medications—the Five Rights,” she says.
The Five Rights are: the right drug, the right dose, the right time, the right route, and the right person. It is a tool to avoid errors with administering prescription medications that Tatevik relies on as a caregiver to the elderly.
Even with the skills her experience and prior training afforded her, Tatevik says there was a lot she learned through IHSS+, like a holistic understanding of wellbeing.
She says the knowledge she gained about nutrition and the perspective she gained about protecting the dignity and privacy of those in her care were eye-opening.
“I never had training on nutrition and how to really handle the people who have diabetes or high cholesterol […] The class helped me a lot to provide proper nutrition for myself and my family, and for clients.”
Another crucial aspect of the training, Tatevik says, is learning how to better communicate with the larger healthcare team.
“It’s extremely important training because […] let’s say you have a client who has a nurse coming in. And they ask you [a question] or they tell you a word you’re like, what is that? So at the training, they teach you the wording, important wording. They teach you all that. Important aspects of care in detail. And of course, they teach you about the medication.”
Surveys conducted after training echo Tatevik’s experience. CCA found that 95% of caregivers have more confidence in their ability to talk to the care team of the person they care for after completing caregiver training offered. And better communication among the team results in better care for the individual, and fewer unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
More than helping Tatevik build on her skill set, the training made her feel like a part of something bigger. A community of fellow caregivers that she could continue to learn from and lean on. A sense of belonging.
“When you get to take this class with other caregivers they share their examples and discuss things. This was very helpful,” Tatevik says, “because then they give you their perspective, or some knowledge that I didn’t know or even the book didn’t have.”
Post-training surveys show that 68% of caregivers feel less stressed, depressed, or lonely following the training. This feeling of community is one of the ways that the training does more than improve the lives of the individuals receiving care, but also improves the lives of the caregivers themselves.
Despite her initial apprehension for participating in remote training online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tatevik has fond memories for those 10 weeks and the passion her instructor inspired in her class. She hopes every caregiver has access to training like the CCA’s one day.
About the future, Tatevik says she wishes “this training was just across the board, like almost every caregiver. […] The quality of care would be higher, much higher than what it is now.”
Government of California. “California Master Plan For Aging: Caregiving That Works” Master Plan For Aging, 2019, mpa.aging.ca.gov/Goals/4.