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Ireland’s Ageing Population Demands More Care Assistants

caring courses

caring coursesWith the increasing longevity of Ireland’s population, the demand for care assistants is high and demand is expected to continue increasing. Limitations in health authority budgets means there is more emphasis on home care rather than in residential care homes, with much health authority work outsourced to the private sector offering in-home care. Besides the elderly, other groups of people also require care assistants. People living with disability, special needs, those convalescing or suffering life limiting physical and mental illnesses, all need additional care in the home.

Care assistants provide basic social and personal care combined with emotional support to those people that need help with everyday tasks. The role of the Care Assistant is to help people keep as independent as possible and to be as physically and socially active within the constraints of their particular restrictions. Care assistants are found in hospitals, residential and respite centres, and private homes. Many care assistants have a list of clients they routinely visit in the course of a working week.

Work Activities

The type of care provided depends on the age, self-sufficiency, and health of the patients. They help people with the tasks they are unable to perform unaided. This could mean helping someone getting up from bed, assisting them with washing and bathing and making something to eat for them. Typical duties include helping with eating, toileting, dressing and mobility, Care assistants under supervision may also be responsible for routine medical tasks such as changing dressings.


A career as a Care Assistant can be developed while working on the job or by completing qualifications first. While there is no formal requirement yet for care assistants, there have been indications that new legislation this year will make a formal basic qualification mandatory. Some employers will require a Leaving certificate and most will require some experience of caring for people.

Training in this area is highly recommended, as there are many aspects of this caring profession that require knowledge of best practice and health and safety procedures when it comes to assisting patients and taking care of their personal needs.

Care assistants as a rule are over 18 years of age and it is a career with no upper age limit. In fact, it is an ideal career choice for those who have families and can only work part time or around school hours and it is also ideal for those who are returning to the workplace after raising families.

Formal Training

There is a wide range of courses available in Ireland and the QQI Level 5 awards are comprehensive and the gold standard training for Care Assistants and Healthcare Assistants. Broken down into different learning modules, it is possible to complete all of the modules with full time study to gain a QQI major award, study part time or to study individual modules to achieve relevant minor awards – Safety and Health at Work for example. The responsibility of working with people who are dependent means formal expertise is a necessary tool for anyone working in the sector and will be an advantage to anyone wishing to follow this career path.

Common Modules for both Care and Healthcare Assistants are Safety & Health at Work, Care Skills, Care of the Older Person, Communications, and Care Support. Specific modules for Care Assistants are Nutrition and Food Safety & HACCUP. Healthcare Assistants have Team working, Palliative Care Support and Work Experience modules.


Candidates who are working as a Care Assistant or who wish to pursue a career as a care assistant should look at the advantages and benefits that gaining a formal qualification can bring. Care assistants need to be vigilant and having the right training leaves nothing to chance and gives employers and the families of patients confidence the care worker will know what to do in a given situation. There may be a crisis and without any formal training, a care worker could be in a situation where they are unable to take the right course of action, particularly in the home environment.

Working as a Healthcare or Care Assistant is a rewarding career with opportunities to specialise in different areas such as care of the elderly or palliative care. Individual learning modules are designed to be carried out by distance learning and in a workshop setting for the practical skills modules. There are also elective modules available to suit the particular field of the candidate.

This growth area is an ideal opportunity suited to men and women looking for a career where there is a high demand for workers. Care work is a career that offers flexibility to suit different lifestyles and is ideal for those who want to work part time or outside of the regular business day.

Denise Colebrooke