As a family caregiver, you may come to a point when you have to hire in-home assistance. For some family caregivers, crossing this threshold can be filled with anxiety as it may mean having to convince a resistant loved one to accept help and/or figuring out which person/agency will be the best fit. For some family caregivers this process is more dreadful than convincing their loved one to accept assistance, because of "horror" stories they may have heard from others. "Horror” stories like caregivers who steal, don't show up and/or abuse their loved one. While such fear is understandable, the truth is family members can reduce the likelihood of hiring a “bad” caregiver by being proactive and starting the process of choosing someone before they are in desperate need.
Decide which route to pursue ~ Some family caregivers choose to hire a professional from a Licensed and Bonded home care agency. Such agencies are approved to provide a certain level of care and conduct background checks on their aides. Other family caregivers, however, decide to hire someone privately (not affiliated with an agency) who is highly recommended by friends/ trusted colleagues.. The key to making such a decision, if you have a choice, is to understand the pros and cons of each and to feel as secure as possible in your decision. For example, when hiring a caregiver through an agency, the agency is responsible for replacing your regular caregiver if he/she is unable to work. If you privately hire a caregiver, however, it means you can be left stranded if he/she calls out sick or has an emergency. The decision ultimately depends on the services available to you and your level of comfort with each option.
Make sure the person is trained and experienced~Upon deciding which route you are most comfortable with, make sure the caregiver you are seeking is trained and experienced; This is crucial to making sure your loved one is properly cared for. For example, if your loved one is cognitively impaired, it is important to have a caregiver who understands the nature of the impairment so as to interact with your loved one appropriately and effectively. This is especially important if your loved one is easily agitated or frustrated. Whether hiring from an agency or independently, it is essential to inquire about trainings, workshops and experiences the caregiver has had and to ask for documentation to verify such experience.
Ask for personal and professional references ~ This should especially be conducted if you are hiring someone independent of an agency. The more you know about a caregiver's work history and their personality, the better your chances of getting a responsible person and a suitable match. Make sure to follow up with all of their references so that you can hear about their qualifications first hand.
Interview your final candidate(s) ~ Interviewing a potential candidate, face-to-face, is important and, if possible, should be conducted with your loved one. A main part of having a successful relationship between your loved one and a caregiver is to see how their personalities match up. Believe it or not, there are cases where a trained professional caregiver has been hired by a family but for various reasons the person they are caring for does not like them and refuses to accept his/her assistance. This can leave you starting from scratch.
Check in frequently ~ Equally important as the aforementioned, is the task of checking-in frequently with both the caregiver and your loved one. Whether it is being done in-person or via phone, expressing your concern about your loved one's health, safety and daily routine can go a long way in showing the caregiver you are involved. During my work as an elder abuse specialist, most of the older adults who were abused by aides, either did not have any family expressing interest in their well-being or did not have any family at all.
While the above suggestions cannot guarantee a perfect match or ensure your loved one's safety, they can help in choosing a more appropriate caregiver for your given situation.
What approaches or tips would you share with someone who is looking for a caregiver? Please share your suggestions and recommendations below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.