What to look for in a Caregiver for your loved one

Do:
• observe your parent’s daily activities
• know the type of care your parent needs
• inquire about the levels of care
• find out his or her qualifications
• make a connection

Don’t:
• let your parent feel like a burden
• interview the caregiver all by yourself
• assume that the caregiver will fit into your entire family dynamic
• feel bad asking if you can contact references
• be afraid to be upfront about all the services your parent needs

Do observe your parent’s daily activities
Deciding exactly when it is time to provide additional in-home assistance for a loved one can be difficult. Examine some of your parent’s basic daily routines to determine if assistance is needed. For example, is the mail stacking up at home, and do you see any past due or delinquency notices? Does it appear that your parent is improperly managing his or her personal finances?

It’s also important to notice if daily tasks are becoming challenging, frustrating or time-consuming. For instance, does getting ready to go out of the house take an extended amount of time? Is your parent keeping up with his or her hygiene and cooking well-balanced meals? Is there reason to believe that your loved one poses an above-average risk for being involved in an accident when driving? Has your loved one been falling at home? And finally, was your parent recently diagnosed with a disease, illness or other medical condition that could affect his or her functional ability?

Do know the type of care your parent needs
Once you have observed your parent’s basic daily routines, you are equipped with the information necessary to seek the right level of home care that can improve quality of life. For instance, does your mother or father need someone who can provide skilled services such as nursing, blood-sugar testing, administering medication, home infusion therapy, hospice assistance, wound care, or physical therapy?

Maybe your mother or father requires non-skilled services such as companionship. Companionship services include assistance with cooking, light housework, bathing or transportation. The caregiver can even play card games or simply watch television with your parent. You should have a realistic picture of your parent’s needs so the right match can be made.

Do inquire about the levels of care
The homecare provider will ask questions about your loved one’s health and well being, so be prepared to tell your loved one’s story. The more details you can provide, the better the homecare provider will be able to identify your needs. Not all homecare providers have a Registered Nurse on staff to oversee the caregivers and create personalized plans of care. Ask the agency if they have a director of nursing or clinical director. Different homecare companies offer a variety of different options, some more than others. Some agencies only offer companionship services, while companies offer a wide variety of medical services, too.

If your parent requires skilled services, you will need a Registered Nurse, specially trained Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or other professional. Consider all possibilities when selecting a level of care. Be sure to think about the future. While your parent might simply need companionship services now, it’s likely that she or he will need medical care a few years down the road. Many people feel more comfortable choosing a homecare provider that can offer medical care, just in case their loved one’s health takes a turn for the worse.

Do find out his or her qualifications
Ask about the potential caregiver’s experience and certifications. Does the homecare agency perform background checks on their caregivers? Are the caregivers drug tested? It’s also important to know if the caregiver is trained in providing condition-specific care, so if your parent has a condition such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, pneumonia, or heart failure, the caregiver knows what steps to take to improve the quality of life and look for warning signs that may indicate a decline in your loved one’s condition. Is the caregiver tested on actual equipment and devices that may be used in your loved one’s care before they use it? This is fundamentally important for safety during care. You want to be able to have peace of mind that your parent is with someone that can be trusted to do the job that they have been hired to do.

Do make a connection
During the interview, observe the caregiver’s interactions with your parent and/or other family members. Does it seem like the caregiver and your parent’s personalities click? If they will be spending a lot of time together, you’ll want to know that they will get along. It’s so important that not only your parent’s personality meshes with the caregiver’s, but also the rest of the family’s does, too. This person will become a regular member of your household and everyone should be comfortable with that.

Also, tell your caregiver all about your parent’s daily schedule and how to get around the house. Establish boundaries in the house so that any potential conflicts can be avoided. Not only do you want your family to be comfortable that the caregiver is there, but you also want the caregiver to feel comfortable in your home too.

Do not let your parent feel like a burden
Your parent more than likely has taken care of you for a good portion of your life, so it’s probably not easy for your mother or father to hand over the control. It also is possible that your parent may not agree with the fact that they need outside care, so talking to them about the situation is imperative. Be sensitive to this fact and don’t make finding the proper caregiver seem like a chore. If possible, start the conversation when potential homecare is still a long way off. Talk with your parent about other seniors with homecare services and focus on the positives. If your parent is interested, let him or her be a part of the research process with you. Show some of the various qualified home healthcare companies and how easy it is to help this caregiver become a valuable part of your life. Once your parent sees how common this is and how many good services are out there, he or she is more likely to be accepting of it all.

Do not interview the caregiver all by yourself
The caregiver might get along well with you, but it is most important that he or she gets along well with your parent, too (and the other way around). Even though you are the one doing the research and at this point you may have a better idea of what’s best for your parent than they do themselves, you still both need to be in agreement. Once you both agree that this person knows how to do his or her job, it’s important to make sure that you both actually like this person. It helps a lot if the caregiver has things in common with your parent and the rest of your family, such as different hobbies, interests or personality traits. If this person gets the ‘all-clear’ from both of you, then you’ll both be happier with the situation overall.

Do not assume that the caregiver will fit into your entire family dynamic
If there are more people living in your house than just your parent, you should make sure that the caregiver fits well into the entire picture. This also includes family members or even close friends that don’t actually live with your parent, but come over to visit regularly. Does the caregiver seem stressed out when your parent’s young grandchildren are running around the house? Don’t forget to consider any pets: Is your caregiver allergic to your parent’s dog or cat? Something as simple and yet as important as this can be easily forgotten if the pet isn’t around at the time of the interview. Along with fitting in with members of the family, is the caregiver willing to fit into your parent’s schedule and the activities that go on at the house daily? This can include the time your parent has dinner daily, bingo night, when he or she needs rides every week, etc.

Do not feel bad asking if you can contact references
This is a common question that many people ask in their search for a caregiver. It is possible to trust the potential caregiver and still want to know about what has happened in the past. Just because this potential caregiver has years of experience in homecare, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the compassion your parent needs and the passion for the job overall. Ask the caregiver or the agency if you can call past clients. Another thing to remember is that many agencies do background checks and extensive testing before they hire caregivers, so if you find out that the agency does do that, it can help give you peace of mind, too.

Do not be afraid to be upfront about all the services your parent needs
Not everyone is going to be a good match for your parent and you’re better off finding this out sooner than later. There is no person that has too many needs for one homecare agency to handle. If one caregiver doesn’t seem like he or she can handle it, or even if you just don’t like the person, move on and continue your search elsewhere and you’re sure to find someone who does. Don’t forget that you are the employer in this situation and you need to do what is best for your parent. Don’t be afraid to explore other options if the first few choices are not a good fit.

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