According to data from the Ministry of Labor released at the end of 2018, there was a 547% increase in the number of caregivers of the elderly in the country. This is the fastest growing profession here, an opportune situation for us to reflect on the role and appreciation of this professional.

Such growth is due to demographic change in Brazil. Brazilians are aging more and more and need support in what is known as the elderly. The IBGE expectation is that the elderly population will more than double by 2050, jumping from 9.5% to 21.8% of our society.

Aging usually brings with it several health impacts. We talk about reduced mobility, greater risk of chronic diseases, greater propensity to dementias, loss of sight, need to stay in bed… This reality is a constant challenge for the caregiver. It requires preparation, psychological conditions and material resources to perform an adequate job in daily life. This will be reflected in the good treatment and support of the patients, and in their well-being in general.

Until recently, the profile of the caregiver was basically that of people close to the elderly, such as a relative without practice or basic knowledge about health. Faced with changes in the population and in the family constitution itself, the professional caregiver has been gaining ground and strength in the homes, especially because they have technical support and know how to responsibly meet the demands of the elderly person. Today there are even family entities qualifying to become caregivers.

In terms of qualification, the professional needs to seek training to identify the main signs of the most common diseases among the elderly. Thus, they can anticipate unwanted occurrences, which can be avoided.

In addition, they must be able to carry out an assessment of the family environment in order to eliminate possible risks to the safety of the elderly, as well as know how to act if they need to resort to first aid.

The technical qualification of the professional is becoming more and more relevant, because today the elderly and their families have access to a growing level of information on health and research on the excellence of the services provided. In addition, knowing the history of the cared for person, having empathy and establishing a good relationship within the family environment are essential for the success of the bond.

The caregiver of the elderly should not only have or seek training in colleges and technical courses but also seek to update himself permanently, in order to always be tuned to the needs of the elderly and the family. On the other hand, family members must establish a constant dialogue with the caregiver, listening to him/her before making decisions and sharing priorities and responsibilities. All so that we have an effective and humanized care.

Outside the home, we need concrete public policies to accelerate and expand programs and initiatives to care for the elderly, especially in the poorest areas of the country. Valuing caregivers and seeking joint solutions for healthy aging are important steps for people to live longer and better.

* Marcia Chorro dos Santos is a psychologist and a member of Support, an organization that offers free training to caregivers in the City of São Paulo.

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