Hiring A Caregiver

Posted on July 10th, 2011, by iMinerva

Nurse Holding Medical Chart

A recent article in the LA Times brought back tough memories.  My mom lived with me for several years after she was hospitalized with congestive heart failure.  Concerned with her ability to take care of herself on her own, I never allowed her to return to her home which she loved and which represented her freedom and independence.  But that’s a topic for another day.

A few years later, mom suffered a stroke and required a caregiver to be with her when I was at work.  I don’t think anyone ever prepares for this possibility while parents are healthy and fully independent.  When the need comes, it’s difficult to know how to proceed, where to go, who to call – it’s especially difficult as you are dealing with the shock, fear and emotion of a parent in great need.

I urge everyone to read the LA Times article even though it tells a frightening tale.  And, I encourage you to compile a list of local resources as well as a checklist for “Hiring A Caregiver.”  This list can be used by your children when looking for a nanny, by your neighbor and by you when a need occurs.

Here are the top points to “Hiring A Caregiver”

  1. Write a job description.  Do you just want a companion and someone to prepare meals?  Will they need to help with bathing, medications, therapy, laundry and light housekeeping, trips to the doctor, socialization with trips to the park or the mall…  Be specific and thorough.
  2. Interview carefully.  Ask specific questions about past experiences, years with each assignment, responsibilities.  Probe by asking about a specific type of situation (angry or confused person) and how they handled the situation.
  3. Outline physical  and other requirements.  Is the candidate able to lift and transport your loved one.  Do they speak English fluently and are they easily understood (especially difficult for aging or ill patients).
  4. Confirm training.  If they have experience with a nursing home/hospital/homecare agency, find out the level of their training and contact their supervisor to verify and determine their skill level.
  5. Conduct a background check.  There are agencies who will do this for a fee – includes a drug test and criminal records.  At the least, ask for 2-3 referrals and call each and speak with them directly.  Make sure the referral is not a relative or best friend posing as a former client.
  6. Set rules.  Be specific about the hours and full coverage – there are no “breaks” for lunch or a smoke.  No smoking, no visitors, no driving unless specified, limited personal phone calls.
There are probably more horror stories out there than there are great experiences.  I was very lucky and had the most wonderful women who loved mom and treated her as their very own mom.  All of mom’s “Ladies” came through personal referrals – friends who knew them from the hospital (some were nurses) or from a neighbor who had hired them.
There are more home health care services available now so that’s always a place to start the search.  Although their caregivers have already been pre-screened, you still need to be thorough and skeptical in your interview process.  You’re entrusting them with the very personal care of a loved one who may not be able to report wrongdoing.  You’re also giving them full access to your house.
I’d love to hear from others who have good advice and/or resources to help others through this difficult assignment.  Please share some good experiences.



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