How to Hire an In-Home Caregiver for Your Aging Relative
The thought keeps going around in your mind: I need a caregiver for my husband. Or your mom or your dad, or even aunt Gertrude. Either way, you realize it is time to get help and you would prefer if your elderly relative were able to stay in his or her own home. While many people do take on the responsibility of caring for a senior loved one, it’s not an option for everyone, and may just not be practical for your situation. That’s when it’s time to turn to a professional in-home caregiver who can meet your relative’s needs.
Whether you have been pondering the thought, “my dad needs a caregiver,” or you truly realize it is time to look for a caregiver for the elderly, you have some choices to make, and there are loads of options available in terms of services offered. What you do need to do, is decide if it would be better to use an agency or hire independent caregivers.
In this article, we are going to discuss:
- Agency vs. Private Care – Which is Better for an In-home Caregiver?
- Caring for an Elderly Parent or Partner
- What Not To Do When Hiring a Caregiver for the Elderly
- Getting a Caregiver Quickly
- How to Hire a Caregiver for a Senior
- How to Choose the Right Agency
Agency vs. Private Care – Which is Better for an In-Home Caregiver?
Many people are relatively new to caregiving, and sometimes we need a caregiver for a senior somewhat unexpectedly. That is why it is important to understand what your options are and how your final decision will impact both yourself and your relative.
While the primary options are private caregivers vs. using an agency, there are certainly some differences that are worth exploring. Perhaps you have been relying on friends and family for additional support? However, hiring independent caregivers or opting to go through an agency can significantly improve your loved one’s quality of life.
If you’re thinking, “I need a caregiver for my mom,” the idea of private caregivers could well be appealing. But don’t be too quick to make a decision. Typically, you will be required to pay the caregiver on an hourly basis and while the rate may seem somewhat lower, how much will you really be paying out in the long-run? While it may seem like an attractive offer, there is always the risk of private caregivers who aren’t available when you need them, aren’t as experienced as they should be, are irresponsible, and you may face hidden costs.
Think about standards of care . Everyone who has to be a caregiver for the elderly wants to provide top-notch care, but it can be easier said than done if you lack personal experience. When hiring independent caregivers, the onus is on you to enforce set standards. Sadly, though, this can increase the risk of both financial and physical abuse.
However, when you seek an in-home caregiver from an agency, the standard of care is usually a strict set of procedures that the agency sets. If a problem arises, you can address your concerns directly with the agency. If you invest in private care, you just don’t have this level of security.
If something did go wrong or something happened, you would have to go through the process of hiring independent caregivers all over again, potentially leaving your loved one without the care they desperately need. However, when you use an agency, you are assured that if the regular caregiver can no longer provide their services, the agency will provide someone else.
Here are a few more points to consider when hiring independent caregivers:
- If a private caregiver is injured on your property, you risk facing a lawsuit. When you use an agency, the agency will provide insurance coverage for their caregivers and you will not have to worry about the legalities.
- When you hire a private caregiver, you become their employer, so you are responsible for certain taxes and payments. Even if you pay the caregiver cash, you will have to report their earnings. Agencies take care of all of this for you so that you don’t have to worry about the risk of penalties.
- Any caregiver for the elderly can create a resume – it doesn’t mean they are honest in their resume. When it comes to caring for your loved one, there is no room for error and agency caregivers are provided with ample support and training on an ongoing basis.
- When private caregivers don’t arrive for work, you will need a backup plan – you may even have to be the backup plan. Without the proper training and experience, you could be placing your aging relative at risk.
A Quick Overview of the Benefits of Using an Agency for In-Home Care
Besides the above benefits of using an agency to find a caregiver for a senior, consider these advantages:
- Back-up care – agencies always have qualified and able back-ups should your regular caregiver not be able to get to work.
- Comprehensive screenings – agencies do screenings and background checks on all their employees, as well as handling the paperwork, legal matters, payroll, and offer training.
Before you make a decision about your loved one’s care, let’s look at what it takes to care for an elderly partner or parent.
Caring for an Elderly Parent or Partner
How often have you thought, “I need a caregiver for my husband,” or “my dad needs a caregiver?”
As caregivers of elderly parents or partners, many of us have experienced these thoughts. Becoming someone’s caregiver is a huge responsibility , and if you are a first-time caregiver, chances are, you are going to struggle. You may know that you need help, but you may not know where to start or what your options are.
Caring for the elderly presents a myriad of challenges. So many children or spouses are thrown into the role of caregiver for a senior because their loved one has been hospitalized with an injury, had a fall, or become incapacitated due to dementia or Alzheimer’s and they require special care. Perhaps you are already noticing the warning signs. Maybe your mom or dad has recently wandered off, is becoming more and more withdrawn, their memory is failing, or they have lost a significant amount of weight.
For many people, caring for someone else is a daunting and mammoth task, especially if you don’t live close by. That is why an in-home caregiver is an excellent option. Home care is a good alternative to living in a nursing home or assisted living facility .
Home care is typically considered to be health care that takes place in the comfort of the patient’s home. It gives relatives the freedom to find the care they need while remining independent in their home.
As discussed earlier, you can choose between hiring independent caregivers or an in-home caregiver from an agency. Whichever option you choose, we need to discuss what you shouldn’t do when hiring a caregiver.
What Not to Do When Hiring a Caregiver for the Elderly
If you are considering hiring a caregiver, here are few things you should not do.
1. Don’t Put Things Off
The biggest mistake relatives tend to make when they need to find a caregiver, is not hiring someone professional and experienced. There is a lot of evidence that shows that using a professional can improve not only your loved one’s psychological well-being, but yours as well . In fact, studies cited in the Journal of Aging and Health, report that people will usually turn to professional caregivers to help alleviate the depression and stress that comes with taking care of someone 24/7 .
If you continue to look after someone who requires more care and attention than you can give, your own health is at risk.
2. Don’t Just Hire Anyone
Finding the perfect solution, and caregiver, is a daunting process. While people may be throwing recommendations at you, the person that worked for them may not work out for you. When you begin looking at caregiver agencies, it is okay to ask for a caregiver’s prior experience and credentials. You want to be 100 percent sure that an agency only hires professionals, conducts the required background checks, and has verified the caregiver’s experience and training.
3. Don’t Get Sidetracked with Just One Factor
It’s natural to be worried about the impending cost of an in-home caregiver, or how your elderly loved one is going to cope with a new face coming into their home and doing the cooking, cleaning, and even grooming. But, don’t get sidetracked with just one of these factors.
When thinking about home health care, consider three important elements:
- The caregiver’s skills
- The caregiver’s personality
- The financial aspect
Be sure to afford each of these elements equal weight.
4. Don’t Forget to Communicate
If you have been providing care for your loved one and you have other family members who haven’t helped out, it is probably going to be up to you to find a caregiver. However, once you do, ask your family members to join the interview process with you, and get them involved in making the final decision together.
5. Don’t Think That’s It
Once you find a caregiver, don’t think that that is it. It is important to regularly check in with your loved one to find out how things are going and to ensure their needs are being met.
After considering the above factors, and hopefully coming to the conclusion as a family that your elderly relative needs professional care, it’s time to set the process in motion and find in-home care.
Getting a Caregiver Quickly
Step 1 – Get a Doctor’s Assessment for Your Relative’s Needs
You need to know what kind of care your aging loved one needs and to help you with that, you should have a doctor assess your relative to decide if they need a companion caregiver or perhaps someone who has a nursing background. A doctor will also help decide whether or not in-home care is the best option for your relative.
Step 2 – Decide on a Budget for Home Care
Before you take the step to hire a caregiver, you need to know about available funds to spend on the service. This will help you when it comes to making decisions about how many hours and what type of service you can afford. Talk with your relative and other family members to devise a budget and then you can start deciding on an agency vs. hiring independent caregivers. If ongoing care is required, you may want to cash in an annuity or policy (perhaps your elderly relative has policies that can be used to fund care). What’s more, your relative may be eligible for a certain amount of coverage for in-home care via their insurance, so it is worth doing your homework as thoroughly as possible.
Step 3- Planning a Schedule for In-Home Care
Once you have devised a budget and you have an understanding of your loved one’s needs, you can draft a schedule for in-home care. This is a rough outline of how many hours per day are needed for care, the best times of day, and which days are necessary. When doing this, consider which needs you and other family members may be able to cover and then cluster the tasks together within a time slot per person if you are only considering a part-time caregiver. It is worth noting that an agency will conduct an assessment of your loved one and, along with you, devise a comprehensive care plan and schedule, so there is very little for you to do.
Step 4 – Start Looking for a Caregiver
Now you can start looking for an in-home caregiver for your aging relative. You can begin by asking friends and family, medical staff, religious communities, and senior organizations for recommendations. However, a professional agency will be able to answer all your questions and will have caregivers that can meet your relative’s needs right away. While it may be a little more expensive, you will have peace of mind that everything from paperwork and taxes to replacement caregivers and, importantly, your loved one’s needs, are all taken care of.
Step 5 – Finding the Perfect Caregiver
If you are working fast to find quality care, there are a couple of things that can help you find the perfect match. Firstly, weed out agencies or private caregivers over the phone if they are unable to meet your budget or schedule. Next, go with your gut and rule out anyone you don’t have a good feeling about. You can then narrow your list down to those you wish to interview and meet them in person, preferably along with the person who requires the care.
Step 6 – Don’t Rule Out Agencies!
It can be really hard to find the right person, and time may be running out to find someone for your loved one. That’s when it is worth turning to a recommended agency that will accommodate your urgent needs.
Don’t forget to discuss your options with other family members and be sure to ask for their input. If the person you have been caring for is able to be involved in the discussion, by all means involve them. After all, it is her or she who needs to be comfortable with the caregiver.
Remember, though, that you are allowed to change your mind. If the first caregiver doesn’t work out, an agency will send another one over right away. If you hire a private caregiver, you will have to go through the interview and vetting process all over again.
While the hiring process is daunting and can be a little complicated, we’ve compiled a checklist to help you.
How to Hire a Caregiver for a Senior
Hiring an in-home caregiver means allowing your relative to remain in their home, and independent, for as long as possible, while receiving help with their daily activities.
How to Find Candidates
- You could run an ad in the local newspaper or on a local website. If you choose this option, be sure to describe the job and the duties it entails; include your contact details; but avoid providing your name or any other personal information.
- Ask colleagues, friends, and family for referrals.
- Talk to a home care agency.
- Post a bulletin board as at the library, recreation center, place of worship, hospital, and even a senior center.
How to Consider Applicants
- Decide how much you are prepared to spend and, when working with an agency, find out what that money will cover and what insurance may cover.
- Write out a detailed job description to share with applicants and include all the tasks that are required, the days and hours needed, and your loved one’s personal preferences in terms of driving, grooming, cooking, and so on. An agency will help you compile a list of preferences and care duties, too.
- Contact candidates via telephone and find out about a caregiver’s availability, work experience, special training for dementia patients, driving experience, and so on.
How to Conduct an Interview
- Ask caregiver candidates to bring their resume and a copy of their job history along with a few names and numbers of past and present references. An agency will provide this automatically. Make sure your loved one participates in the interview or at least meets anyone you may want to hire.
- Discuss your loved one’s needs with the agency, any health concerns, dislikes and likes, and requirements. Talk about the duties they will be expected to carry out.
- If you are considering private caregivers, be sure to get candidate’s names, addresses, contact numbers, and any other relevant information. Don’t forget to ask for their proof of identity, too. An agency does background checks on all their staff, so you will receive the necessary information and you won’t have to worry about any legal issues, prior convictions, etc.
- Ask the caregiver about their expectations of the position and why they enjoy being a caregiver for the elderly.
- Find out if the candidate has any special training, like working with patients who have had a stroke or who suffer with dementia. Find out about their work history and what they do and don’t like about their tasks.
- Ask the candidates if they have any questions about your expectations and the job at hand and be sure to answer them honestly.
How to Check References
While an agency will check references of caregivers for you, you may want to conduct your own checks. Use these tips to do so:
- Always telephone references and ask them to confirm your feelings about a candidate or to provide any important information you may have missed.
- If the agency doesn’t conduct criminal background checks, you may want to pay to conduct your own. You can contact the local law enforcement agency to find out how to do a check.
- If the reference is a former employer of the candidate, ask them about the candidate’s attendance and punctuality as well as their precise nature of the work. Ask why the candidate left the position and whether or not any problems arose.
- You may want to consider hiring somebody for a short trial period before you decide to hire them permanently. If you do, explain to the caregiver that it is an opportunity to see if the arrangement is mutually agreeable.
- Once a candidate accepts your offer, make sure the entire agreement, along with the care plan, are set out in writing. Include information about any trial periods, payments, duties, schedule, time off, termination policy, start date, and other requirements. Make sure you both sign the contract. An agency will have a standard contract with standard terms and conditions and will talk you through the paperwork so that you don’t have to worry about doing much on your own.
- Make an effort to be at your loved one’s home, at least for the first couple of days, to familiarize yourself with the caregiver and the new routine.
As you can see, choosing private caregivers on your own may turn out to be a great deal of work, whereas an agency can provide a caregiver for a senior who is already trained, experienced, and all the necessary checks and paperwork are in place.
How to Choose the Right Agency
Did you know that on average, family caregivers spend 20 hours per week looking after loved ones while 13% of adults provide 40 hours of care per week? By the year 2050, the number of people who will require paid long-term care at home is likely to double to 27 million.
As we mentioned earlier, looking after your loved one yourself can wreak havoc with your own health, and hiring a private caregiver can be just as stressful.
Once you have decided that you do need the services of a caregiver for a senior, you have devised a budget, and have decided to go through an agency, you can start comparing quality and costs between agencies. Usually, there are three stages to finding an agency: screening, evaluating, and monitoring.
Before you take a really good look at any particular home health care agency, you may want to screen a couple and ask them a few preliminary questions, such as:
- Does the agency have insurance coverage for their staff?
- Is the agency certified with medical insurance companies?
- Can the agency provide the care that is needed for your relative’s situation?
- Does the agency come recommended by social workers, doctors, or hospital planners?
- Does the agency have a caregiver for a senior who can accommodate language barriers?
- Does the agency conduct background checks on its caregivers?
Evaluation of Agencies
Once you have found a few agencies who meet the above criteria, you can choose one or two with which to conduct in-depth evaluations. Use the following questions as guidance:
- What experience and training do the caregivers have? Ask what training the agency offers and if their caregivers are certified by the agency itself. Does the agency require caregivers to participate in ongoing training and education? Are caregivers trained to identify and report changes in the needs and health conditions of your relative?
- How does the agency assess needs? Most will start by sending someone over to make an assessment. You may have already performed a needs assessment for the elder you are looking after, but ask the agency how they determine the appropriate levels of care.
- What services does the agency and its caregivers provide? Sometimes they assist with dressing and bathing but won’t cook meals. Some will do the shopping and cleaning but are not licensed to drive with a passenger. They may or may not be able to administer medicine.
- What caregivers will be assigned to your relative? Does the -person have experience or will they receive special training for the type of care required? Do they make use of any particular assistive technology? How long have they worked in the field of caregiving?
- Does the agency assure the continuity of care, and if so, how? It is a lot less confusing to have your elder cared for by a limited number of people and preferable the same people. Is the agency able to ensure, within reason, that the same caregiver for the elderly will be available for every visit? How long do caregivers typically remain with the agency and what is their turnover rate like?
- How does the agency supervise the caregiver and how do they develop a care plan for the elder? Does an experienced supervisor or medical professional evaluate and monitor the caregiver in your relative’s home and, if possible, get input from your loved one? How much personal independence and control does the agency provide clients?
- Does the agency involve the senior person and their relatives in the process of supervising and assigning caregivers and, if so, how?
- Does the agency ask the elder for input on their care plans?
- How much will the caregiver for the senior be paid? Does he or she earn enough to be dependable? This can help to minimize turnover.
- Are any support or other special services provided? Does the agency have a 24-hour emergency telephone number?
- How will the agency be paid? Be sure to compare the payment plans and billing process offered by various agencies. Look at how often you will be billed and if you will be asked to pay for anything in advance. Also, find out if there are any additional deposits or fees that may not be included in the price that was initially quoted.
Monitoring the Agency
Once you decide on the perfect in-home caregiver and agency, you will need to monitor the agency. This can be an ongoing job – and it should be. You need to determine the quality of the relationship between your elderly relative and the caregiver, and ensure that as your loved one’s needs change, so does their quality of care to meet those needs.
By allowing our elders to age gracefully and with independence in their own home, we can minimize the need for repeated hospitalization and recurring health problems. But, looking after someone is a full-time job, and not easy if you are inexperienced and have your own responsibilities.
While hiring independent caregivers has its advantages, it also brings with it an amount of stress and responsibility. However, working with an agency who will provide a fully trained and experienced in-home caregiver will give you peace of mind that all the nitty-gritty details are taken care of, and that your loved one’s needs come first.