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Tips on choosing high-quality senior care providers

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Finding the best home caregiver for your aging parents or other family members may seem to be a very daunting task. We each want to take extra precautions to ensure those we love are in the best possible care.

But as a family caregiver, you may be having questions and making decisions without enough information.

For example, Where do you go to find the best caregivers? How can you hire a caregiver with the right skills and personal touch?

Researching care options can be time-consuming and confusing. In addition, one size does not fit all. It’s important to choose a care provider that best meets the needs of your loved one knowing that those needs may change down the road.

This article will address:

  • Determining the best provider fit for your loved one
  • Interviewing prospective providers

Determining the best provider fit for your loved one

The first step to hiring a well-matched senior caregiver for a loved one is to recognize which type of care you’re looking for. If they don’t need nursing or medical assistance but aren’t able to maintain or complete all activities of daily living (ADLs), you’re likely seeking a non-medical in-home caregiver. This knowledge will help frame the type of qualifications you look for and the candidates you interview.

Non-medical assistance can include a range of things from companion care to assisting a person with ADLs including bathing, eating, and dressing. The type of support also ranges from a few hours or a couple of times a week to full-time care, depending on the circumstances. Families may also be seeking a home caregiver for another valued aspect: companionship.

Take time to assess which senior care options make the most sense for your senior now and throughout the next 5, 10, or 15 years. The more reliable the long-term plan, the greater sense of security and peace of mind you can provide.

  • Understand your home care needs: Do they need help with daily functions? Someone to make sure they aren’t falling? Someone, to take them to various appointments and activities? Someone, to cook, clean, and handle medicinal regimes? There are various levels of care needed, and you should start from there.
  • Understand your financial reality: We would all want caregivers to be with our lovely parents around the clock. For most people, however, that isn’t a reality. Taking care of an older loved one can be stressful enough; you don’t want to add to that stress by being suddenly overwhelmed by costs.
  • Involve all stakeholders: Do you have brothers and sisters, anyone who is going to help? Please make sure they are part of the decision, have input on what they can contribute (time, money, etc), and use that as part of the overall needs assessment.
  • Prepare a job description: Prepare a detailed description of the job, focusing on the personal needs of your loved one. Avoid sugarcoating things, as you’d hate to hire someone only for them to find out that they aren’t qualified.

Once it’s clear that a person or companion caregiver is what you’re looking for, start by screening applicants over the phone or via video conference. If things feel like a good fit, introduce the potential provider to your senior loved one.

Here, are all the bases you’ll want to cover when you meet.

Interviewing prospective providers – Initial interview questions

During the process, don’t underestimate the importance of interviews being conducted face-to-face (even if that means over Zoom) and making the most out of your opportunity to ask questions. There are many compassionate, trustworthy care providers, but not all will be a good fit for your loved one. Prepare a set of questions that you’ll ask all care providers.

A few basics:

  • Do you have a driver’s license and a clean driving record?
  • Do you have reliable transportation and insurance? How far from here do you live?
  • Have you ever cared for someone with [conditions relatable to your loved one’s care: memory problems, elderly, wheelchair-bound, etc.] before? If so, please elaborate.
  • Are you able to work the hours needed? When are you available to start working? After a 30-day trial period, would you be willing to commit to a [fill in a time frame like 6-month or one year] term?
  • Are you willing to submit a background check? Both state and federal? Experts strongly recommend asking this of anyone you are seriously considering hiring – The cost is worth the peace of mind.
  • What are your expectations for vacation time, and are you willing to help find coverage for the days that you need to take off?
  • Will you drive to appointments or errands when needed? Will you be comfortable driving my loved one’s car, or using your vehicle to run chores if we request it? Do you expect mileage reimbursement if your car is used?
  • Are you legally allowed to work in the U.S.?
  • Are you looking for a short-term or long-term role?
  • Are you comfortable with pets?

Get to know their senior caregiving background

The process is emotional on both sides. On one hand, you’re looking for someone who is going to be with your family members, in their house, through some of their most vulnerable and challenging moments. And for the caregiver, the realities of the job can be at once rewarding and also emotionally taxing. That’s why the fit is so key.

To ensure that compatibility, the most important thing is to dig deeper into the potential caregivers’ background by asking the following:

  • Do I have permission to speak with your former employers? Employers often ask for reference checks but then don’t bother calling. But here, more than perhaps any other kind of work, hearing from both a professional and a personal reference is critical.
  • Why are you looking for new work and how did your last role end? If they are still working with that client, ask about the schedule and how they anticipate coordinating schedules. This will reveal upfront if it will limit their availability to meet your needs.
  • What can you tell me about the past families that you’ve worked with? Specifically, asking what some of their favorite and least favorite memories or experiences are and why. These stories will provide insight into how they feel about their role in their clients’ lives and how they interact with clients and families.
  • Can you give an example of a difficult situation with a past employer and how you responded? Beyond getting a practical sense of how a caregiver works, it’s essential to see that past work experiences are discussed diplomatically.
  • Have you accommodated special dietary needs in the past, and if so, how?

Clarify duties and expectations

As family members search for the right fit, keep both safety and their unique needs — which is different for every family — in the front of their mind during the interview process.

For example, if the aged family member loves to cook but may not remember to turn the stove off, don’t hire someone to do the cooking, instead, hire someone willing to assist with other needs and to be on-hand in the kitchen. It is important to respect the independence of the aging family member while also doing everything possible to keep the person active and engaged with others and the environment.

To get a sense of how a caregiver feels about a variety of duties and expectations, consider asking the following:

  • What type of personal care are you willing to provide? We recommend being clear with what, if any, toileting assistance you’re looking for, as some in-home care providers are not comfortable with bathing, dressing, or toileting.
  • Here is a list of typical caregiving-related duties — is there anything on the list that poses a problem or concern?
  • Are you willing to do household chores? If so, which are you comfortable with as far as dishes, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing, laundry, helping with mail, and how does this affect your rate?
  • What are your expectations if hired, and what type of flexibility do you expect? Do you expect to receive a detailed daily/weekly/monthly task list? Having them paint a picture of what it looks like to take this position allows you to better understand if they share your vision of what a successful relationship looks like regarding their position.
  • Is there anything you aren’t comfortable doing that hasn’t been mentioned?

Ask about safety

The following questions will offer you a sense of how prepared a caregiver might be in case of an emergency and where they stand on other safety- and health-related issues:

  • Do you smoke? Or do you allow smoking in your home? Second-hand smoke is something you should take into consideration depending on your loved one’s health.
  • What caregiving certification training do you have if any? Do you have any CPR or first-aid training? If I pay for it, would you be willing to add to your skills?
  • When was the last time you had to put CPR or first-aid training to use, and why? How do you tend to react in an emergency?
  • Do you keep your daily records, and how will you keep the family informed? Having precious documentation will keep everyone informed as well as save time.

Red flags to note

The following questions could provide insight into how a caregiver might handle touchy issues that could come up down the road:

  • Are you willing to sign a contract stating you will not accept money or gifts from my [parent/grandparent/spouse, etc.] without clearing it with me?
  • Are you willing to sign that you will not have guests come into our home unless you’ve received prior approval?
  • Are you comfortable with my [parent/spouse] having guests or other family members stopping by?
  • Would you have a problem if I checked your driving record with the DMV?
  • What services do you charge additional fees for?
  • Can you share a bit about your self-care routine? Being a caregiver can be emotionally taxing, and it’s important that candidates can recognize the realities of the job, and articulate positive ways of handling the stress of their work when they go home.

If you believe one of the caregiver’s answers is incorrect or dissatisfying, see how they respond to being corrected. Caregivers may need to be more agreeable as well as compassionate; this can be quite draining if this isn’t their natural state.

Check on their flexibility

Ask the following to gauge a caregiver’s bandwidth:

  • Would you be available for respite care or stay over for a long weekend?
  • What are your responsibilities outside of work? Do you have to account for the schedules or needs of others in your workday, or are you flexible?

Offer potential scenarios

Ask the prospective caregiver how they would handle various care issues that might arise and are similar to your situation. A few examples:

  • What would you do if my mother woke up grumpy and didn’t want to get dressed or eat her breakfast but she had a doctor’s appointment later that morning?
  • If my father is running a fever and is acting lethargic, and you think there’s blood in her urine, what would you do? If I’m out of town and can’t be reached, what would you do then?
  • My aunt falls, seems confused, doesn’t recognize you, and won’t let you help her. She’s combative. What do you do?

Get a sense if they will be a good fit

If you’re satisfied with the above answers, explore some nontraditional interview questions to see how compatible they might be with your family:

  • Who is your favorite type of client? What type of personality pushes your buttons?
  • Why have you decided to become a care provider?
  • What do you like the most about being a care provider?
  • How do you handle anger, fear, or stubbornness, and can you give an example of a client you dealt with? This is a big one; you must make sure the employee does their job with patience, humor, and happiness.

Consult your loved one

As you narrow down potential candidates, it’s important to involve your senior in the final decision. Taking their feedback on who is caring for them will make the job much easier for all parties concerned.

At the end of the day, after finding someone who is technically qualified, experienced, and has great references, you still have to make a slight guess. Don’t underestimate the power of tuning into your instinct. Don’t choose because it seems overwhelming. If you think the fit may not be a good one, then move on to another candidate.

If you’re still feeling unsure or confused about your senior care provider search, or what may (or may not) be needed at this time for yourself or a loved one, worry not! Riveter Consulting Group helps you articulate your needs and finds you wonderful senior care providers for your loved ones so you can enjoy your peace of mind.

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