Professional carers vs Family carers


I have seen situations when people are cared for by both family carers or separately by professional carers or what is more common is a combination.  And issues arise around which is better, because there is a belief that because professional carers have training that they must be better.  In some cases that it true and for some skill requirements that is true, however skills can be learnt and the key issue that family carers have is that they can be more persistent and love more.


Professional carers are often trained to deal with both challenging issues and medical needs.  They often don’t work through the night (although sometimes they do) and they get breaks, holiday and a private life, so they can be revitalised by their time off.  Professional carers can refuse to work with some individuals or change jobs.  They have skills and patience because they are refreshed to deal with their clients.  Due to the training they are given, they also have the skills to deal with the unplanned when things change and go wrong.  Family carers can sometimes feel intimidated by the training and skill and feel that what they do is inferior.  What they do is different.


Family carers don’t choose that they loved one is unwell, so end up in a job that they did not apply for.  They do their best and often work as well as care, so although they can become very tired, they still don’t give up and continue to care.  If family carers are faced with a particular medical task, they can be trained to carry out that task, some of which are more complicated than others.  Changing a pad doesn’t take lots of detailed training, emptying a catheter bag takes more knowledge and titrating insulin to be injected takes even more skill.  These are all things that I have known family carers take on to care for their loved one.


Family carers are also not “on the clock”, so there is no clocking off time or day, they work as long as they are able or as long as is needed.  The key thing that they provide is the love of a family member and I have heard family members talk about the time they spend with their loved one making sure that they feel loved.  Professional carers care, they often get very attached to the people that they care for and miss them when they are gone, but it isn’t the same.


How professionals and family members view certain events, if they happen can be very different.  If a person deteriorates and has an acute episode and goes to hospital or if they deteriorate to the extent that they need to go into full time care, professional carers view this as a normal part of the deteriorating health journey.  Family members see it as failure and often as their own failure, their failure to look after their loved ones well enough.  Life is not without its adversities, and that includes illness, so how healthcare professionals view acute episodes is likely to be the realistic way to view it.  And when someone has a deteriorating condition, they can cope for a while at home with support, but when they need more support and/or more skilled support than that which can be provided at home, then the right decision is professional 24hr support.  It is better for everyone, as the carer is not so worn out and the person in care gets more and/or better care.  The family can still visit.  This is not a moment of failure, but a moment of making a guilt ridden choice.


So the best combination of care package is both, the skills, training and workplace resilience of professional carers along with the love and persistence of family carers.  Neither should feel inferior to the other, they each have their abilities and benefits to offer to the situation.