Planning Ahead

Selecting the Right Home Caregiver

Selecting the right home caregiver is essential for your loved one. These are some steps you can take to find the right caregiver.

Telephone Screening

If possible, do an initial telephone screening prior to an interview. Write your questions down on paper before speaking on the phone. Be sure the caregiver can perform the needed tasks at the rate or amount you are able to pay.

Make sure the caregiver is available on the days you want help. Do not give your address out unless you decide you want to conduct a personal interview with that person. Do not continue a conversation with a caller that makes you feel uncomfortable or is asking questions that are unrelated to the phone interview. Trust your instincts.

Personal Interview

When interviewing a caregiver, it may be wise to include a friend or family member during the meeting. Have a brief employment application ready for the candidate to complete. It could include such items as name, address, phone, driver's license number, car license, car insurance, education, training and other care giving experiences.

Make sure they submit several references of individuals whom you can contact by phone. These need to be homes the caregiver has worked in… not employment agencies. You must be able to contact the person they cared for or a family member of that person. The references must never be the caregiver's family or friends.

Spend time explaining the job responsibilities. Ask pertinent questions:

  • Is the caregiver currently employed?  If he/she hasn't worked for a long time, ask why.
  • Does the caregiver have any special training to prepare him/her for this job?
  • Does the caregiver have his/her own transportation?
  • Is there a back-up person if he/she is not able to come one day… who is that person? Check references on the back-up person as well.
  • If the caregiver were to list their strengths and weaknesses, what would they be?
  • Ask what attracted the person to this line of work?
  • What skills does he/she possess that help in this job.
  • What does the person like best about this work? Like least?
  • What situations are challenging or frustrating for him/her?
  • What qualifies this person for this type of work?

Inform the Caregiver of the Client's Needs

Quality and quantity of work performed will improve if there is a strong partnership between the caregiver and the client. Try to take into consideration the personality and temperament of your loved one when matching a caregiver. Caregivers should be advised of individual needs. Some aspects to take into consideration include:

  • What is the client's mood…is it generally positive or negative?
  • Does the client adjust and welcome change or is it difficult to adapt to new routines?
  • Would the client like a caregiver that is sociable and outgoing or one that is more introverted?
  • What is the client's pain level…is he/she in chronic pain…does this affect his/her personality?
  • What is the client's energy level…does he/she tire easily…would the client like to get out of the house more often?

These questions should help you explore the needs of the client so you may find someone that matches the clients' preferences.

Evaluating the Caregiver

After the interview, evaluate the caregiver's qualifications and your feelings about them for the position. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the caregiver have experience in caring for the elderly?
  • Does he/she have any degrees or certificates such as a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA)
  • How did the references check out? Positive? Negative?
  • Is the caregiver mature and does he/she present himself in a professional manner?
  • What does the caregiver know about the aging process? Can he/she provide activities for daily living?
  • Is the caregiver physically capable of performing the required tasks?
  • Does the caregiver demonstrate personal attributes such as kindness, patience, and honesty?
  • Is the caregiver self-motivated and able to work independently?
  • Does the caregiver enjoy working with people?
  • What Are the Needs of the Caregiver?

By developing a positive atmosphere of mutual respect and open communication, the caregiver will often experience greater job satisfaction and respond with responsible and enthusiastic caregiving. The caregiver wants and deserves to feel valued. He/she requires good working conditions and loyalty from the employer who in turn should treat him/her with fairness and respect. Caregivers should be given a written work plan and should not be asked to complete tasks that are out of the established work plan. This will make the duties more explicit and might indicate if the caregiver is lacking the proper training for certain tasks.

It is important to acknowledge that people of different cultural backgrounds may have different communication styles. Their culture may influence a person's idea of what is acceptable behavior. If this is the case, try to learn and understand as much as you can about the caregiver's culture. Other differences may arise such as dress code expectations, cleaning styles and food preparation and selection. Be open to the differences and communicate your needs to the caregiver in a kind and understanding manner.

Hiring a caregiver in your home is no different from hiring someone in your office. If the caregiver is full-time, there will be expectations regarding time off that will include sick time, holidays and vacation. Check with your local bank to find out what their benefits are regarding time off. This will give you some standard guidelines to discuss with your caregiver. Full-time caregivers will also need to have salary increase reviews on a six-month to one year basis. Once these details have been worked out, put your agreements in writing. This provides a clear understanding of both the client's and the caregiver's expectations.

- North Shore Senior Center, Northfield, Illinois.