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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Caregiving Clinical Skills

Who are Caregivers?

A caregiver is a person, usually someone not formally trained in health care, who provides basic assistance and care for someone who is frail, disabled, or ill. Caregivers perform a wide variety of tasks to assist patients in their daily lives. Lay caregiving is especially challenging when a clinical novice must perform basic or occasionally more sophisticated nursing skills. Lay caregivers may need to know how to perform at least the following tasks: (1) change the linen on a bed with a patient in it; (2) safely transfer patients from bed to wheelchair or commode chair and back again; (3) care for the skin; (4) give a bed bath or assist with a shower; and (5) control infection.

The numbers of home caregivers in the United States are staggering. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that nearly 15 million unpaid caregivers, most of them family members, care for persons with dementia in the United States. Millions more provide care for disabled, frail elderly, or other categories of illness or condition. The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that fully 16 percent of the U.S. population provides care, usually unpaid, to adults aged 50 and older.

Internet Resources

Family Caregiver Alliance
Provides information, education, and advocacy to support individuals who are caring for loved ones with chronic health conditions and disabilities.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia: Pressure Ulcer
Provides basic information, including risk reduction for pressure ulcers, and illustrations.

DVD Resources

Caregiver Series. Written and directed by Marion Karpinski, RN. 2006. It is not necessary to watch the entire DVD; content is divided into chapters and can be viewed this way.

  • Essential bed rest skills. 35 min.
  • Safety in and around the home: fall prevention. 19 min.
  • How to help someone who uses a wheelchair, walker, crutches, or cane. 32 min.
  • Infection control. 26 min.
  • How to manage medications. 27 min.
  • Personal care. 36 min.
  • Caregiver wellness. 32 min.

Communication Series. Written and directed by Marion Karpinski, RN.

  • How to communicate with someone who has aphasia. 28 min.
  • How to communicate with someone who has hearing loss. 28 min.
  • How to communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. 27 min.


  • The complete medical guide for the family caregiver: the authoritative, at-home companion for giving the best care. West, J., ed. 2002.
  • Lippincott’s nursing procedures. 5th ed. Chapter One, “Fundamental Procedures,” pp. 1–133. 2009.

Check with a staff person for additional textbooks of nursing fundamentals.

Contact Us

The Health Learning Center offers classes, educational handouts, and, by appointment, a free consultation with a health educator. For more information, please contact the Health Learning Center at 312.926.5465 or HLC@nmh.org.

Last UpdateFebruary 16, 2012