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10 Things to Look For When Selecting a Caregiver

When seniors consider bringing extra assistance into the house to care for themselves or an aging loved one there are many particulars to consider. The place to start is with care recipient.  

Think through various options for care. What does quality care in the home look like to you? What are the care goals? Certain caregiver traits can help fill the care recipient’s essential needs which are usually focused on basic safety and their current medical conditions. Other traits might help fill their wants or desires, which are more about quality of life, wellness, and higher-level needs such as mental and spiritual well-being.

Here are 10 things to look for when selecting a caregiver:

Reliability

Check into their work history to see if they have stayed in that work for an extended period of time. Do they have a sense of duty that when things get tough they’ll see the care through with your best interests in mind. Medical events, life changes, family dynamics, can happen to the caregiver as well and you will want to have someone that will persist through these challenges so that you or your loved one’s needs get met. The caregiver with a history of job hopping may not be so reliable in difficult times. The caregiver should have their own car, not have to share it with someone else like a boyfriend or spouse. Convenience counts so living nearby can improve reliability. Seek out those who seemingly have stability in their personal life.

Skills & Experience

Do they have the skills and experienceto meet your needs? A care recipient with cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis for example may have significant physical needs with transferring from a bed to a wheelchair, bathing assistance and toileting assistance. In such situations it may be critical that the caregiver has lots of personal hands-on personal care experiences. If they worked in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, they would likely have significant physical hands-on caregiving experience. Alternatively, another care recipient may be having cognitive decline, impairment, and personality change with the onset of dementia. Often those with early stage dementia can manage their own personal care needs, or activities of daily living. This type of caregiving may be very hands-off and more about understanding the nuances of queuing, avoid triggers, and redirecting behaviors. A caregiver coming from an intimate one-on-one setting of caring for their own parent or grandparent with Alzheimer’s may be just the right fit.

Training

Are they properly trained and do they receive continuous training? Those coming out of LNA programs (Licensed Nursing Assistance) may have great training, even without other experience. What kind of on-the-job training have they received in professional caregiving experiences? If they have done private duty caregiving how would they seek out more skills: Trial and error simply by learning while doing? Or did they go the extra step and read books on caregiving, take an online course, or search out YouTube videos? Find a caregiver that works on improving their craft, continuous improvement initiative, and you have found a caregiver that even without experience will quickly come to understand and provide for your needs.

Teachable Attitude

Are theyteachable? This is going beyond training. This is finding a person eager to learn and takes the initiative to figure things out. A good caregiver will seek to learn a lot from the care recipient and will be eager and embracing of feedback. So beyond just asking about their experience seek to understand a caregiver’s ultimate potential. Are they truly embracing the role to the extent that they want to self-improve?

Background Check

Has their background been thoroughly investigated? If they have been reported to the State of Vermont for elder or child abuse, physical or financial, their name will be on the State’s Agency of Human Services registry. A criminal background check should be conducted. Though there is not a truly national criminal data base, and checking every county in the country is impractical, a reputable background check company should uncover most previous criminal convictions.  A simple driver record check, though it need not be perfectly clean, would uncover those that have a pattern of reckless or careless behavior behind the wheel. When you see a pattern rarely is the issue confined to their driving habits and it is usually indicative of other problems going on in their lives. Checking Facebook or doing a Google search to see what comes up may reveal an unseemly or undesirable side of the caregiver.

Drug Test

Are they drug free? I think we can all agree that inviting a drug user into your home would be a bad idea. You could be inviting someone who will pilfer your pills, swipe your cards, or pinch your purse. And here’s the rub, drug users and substance abusers are very good at concealing their issues, they do it all the time. Don’t fall into the false belief that you can just “tell” if they are a user. The only way that you can be reasonably certain your caregiver is clean, and not arriving into your home with mal intent, is to have them drug tested.

Proper Life Circumstances

Do they have the right life circumstancesto maintain a consistent schedule? Caregivers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so look for the steady eddies that don’t have a lot of drama in their lives. When they have family circumstances arise, what’s their plan B for resolving those circumstances without sacrificing the time commitment they’ve made to you? When a call-out is absolutely necessary do they, or you for that matter, have a plan B for the needed care?

Availability

Does their availability meet your needs? People are busy nowadays, even when they are out of work demands, on time could be coming from family, their own medical situation, volunteer or social commitments they’ve made, and more. Look for a caregiver who not only is available for the hours you want them to work, but who is seeking those hours. Keep in mind that if a “better opportunity” (at least in the caregiver’s mind) comes along you may be left without care. You should want the caregiver as much as the caregiver should want working with you or your loved one. Doing so creates long term and fulfilling matches for both parties.

Proper Personality

Don’t underestimate the importance of having the right personality match. This person could be spending lots of one on one time in your or your loved one’s home. Common interests between caregiver and care recipient connect souls and grow relationships. So much joy can come from these new connections. If you understand the care recipient’s own personality type you could equally have caregiver do a Meyers-Briggs online assessment to see if there’s a match. Quality caregivers come in all personality types but the one common denominator is that they score very high on the quality of conscientiousness. They must truly be people persons who naturally, without effort, put the needs of others at the forefront of their thought process. Testing for this is worthwhile.

Reference Checks

Reference checks are meaningful, recent relationships, work supervisors and co-workers from caregiver positions who can attest the worthiness of the caregiver. These should be given careful scrutiny and consideration when inviting a caregiver into your home.

There is a lot to consider, but the time invested into this level inquiry is well worth it. Another way to accomplish the end result of a well suited, well matched, quality long-term caregiver is to hire through a caregiver agency who subscribes to these best practices. The process can be simplified by checking the Google reviews and Caring.com reviews of an agency and letting them do the heavy lifting.  Quality agencies, by their shear nature will have some substitute capacity should your caregiver ever be out sick themselves. In addition to getting their leg work on all the above items, you will also have a partner (the agency) who will work to hold the caregiver accountable and provide on-going caregiver support and training resulting in the best possible care for you or your loved one.

Tom Lee is co-Owner of Home Care Assistance of Greater Burlington and has personally screened, interviewed or hired over 5000 applicants and hires just 1 out of every 25. To contact Tom and his staff call 802-876-7258, email TLee@HomeCareAssistance.com, or visit HomeCareAssistanceBurlingtonVT.com.

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