How to Choose a Caregiver

 As the 80 million baby boomers reach retirement age, many of them will need support to maintain their active lifestyles and quality of life. More and more, however, seniors and their families are recognizing the benefits of hiring caregivers to help them stay in their homes longer, in comfort and safety, and to give families peace of mind. The key question is how do you find the right caregiver? While there is no one simple answer, these guidelines will help you in this important decision making process. 

First and foremost, assess what your needs are. Do you need home health care, such as nursing, physical therapy or medication management? Do you need non-medical personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing, toileting, and meal preparation, or are you looking mainly for a companion or sitter? What hours of the day or night do you need help? Based on this information, you can discern what skills and background your caregivers should have.

Once you know your needs, you need to decide where to look for a caregiver. You may not want to spend time looking in places where you won’t find someone suitable for you. Neighbors or friends may seem to be good prospective caregivers. Family members are a natural choice, but first and foremost, hiring, managing, and firing a caregiver are all business decisions, and for that reason, many family members (or friends) don’t make good paid help.  Hire a professional caregiver if you can afford it.

Prepare a list of questions to ask. Have a list for any applicant, caregiver agency, referral source, or reference you may call during your search. If you don’t know what questions to ask a private caregiver, call a caregiver agency. The agency should be helpful, because you are a prospective customer.

After you have screened applicants on the telephone, you should conduct an interview in person with those who sound acceptable. Invite a friend or family member to sit in on the interview to provide a second opinion. Always observe interactions between the worker and the person who will be receiving care to assess how they “mesh” with each other.

 If you are interviewing a caregiver agency, ask to interview the in-home caregivers yourself. Many agency employees look good on paper, but will not be a good fit for you, either for cultural, religious, social, or any number of reasons. You may just not like the person the agency has assigned to you. It is important to check references carefully, talking to everyone who is given as a reference. Remember, you are looking for someone who is dependable and reliable as well as someone who is qualified to do the work. If you are hiring an agency or from an agency, make sure that the agency does criminal background checks. Many states’ laws require a background check, but that doesn’t mean it has been done.

You want to hire a caregiver who has experience in the specific areas in which you need help. For instance, people who have Alzheimer’s disease often need help with toileting and bathing, so look for someone who has experience in working with elders with this illness. Try to hire a licensed and bonded care-giver. If the agency is not licensed or bonded, you may want to look somewhere else.

Following these simple steps can help insure that you find the right caregiver for you or for your loved one.

 Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Dr. David Fraser, MBA. Dr. Fraser is the chairman of the Home Care Standards Bureau and the CEO of Vitality Home Healthcare. He may be reached at 970-667-2273 or by email at