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Caregiving & Relationships: Hiring a Professional Caregiver

Caregiving & Relationships: Hiring a Professional Caregiver

We’ve explored important topics in our Caregiving & Relationships series over the last few weeks:

The value of training for family caregivers

Learning to set boundaries for yourself as a caregiver

Coping with guilt as a caregiver

As we’ve seen in these posts, caring for a loved one is life changing on so many levels. There may, however, come a time when you feel you’re not able to continue in your role. You may have a full-time job, or the care recipient’s health (or yours) is declining  Or, maybe the stress has become too much. You’re not alone.

In the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Report, 22 percent of caregivers felt their health had gotten worse as a result of caregiving. Also, six in 10 caregivers report having to make a workplace accommodation as a result of caregiving, such as cutting back on their working hours, taking a leave of absence.

So what are the next steps for you and your loved one?

In our final post of the series, Julie Cherry, a professional care manager, talks about how to know when it’s time to hire a professional caregiver and how to do so.

At what point should a family reach out for a professional caregiver?

There are few clear indicators in determining the need for caregiving such as:

  • Needing help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, toileting, and transfers
  • Frequent falls
  • Weight loss

The family should also consider some of the benefits of having a caregiver.

  • Having a professional caregiver can reduce stress within the family
  • Professional caregivers can do household chores so the parent or loved one has more energy to spend time with family or on favorite hobbies and activities
  • A caregiver can pick them up and take them shopping when driving becomes more difficult
  • Having meals delivered so they don’t have to cook as much

Are there any misconceptions about the role of a professional caregiver?

Yes, a professional caregiver is there to assist the client with their needs. They are also there to identify needs that are unknown to the family. They have a wide skill set. I think a common misconception is that their responsibility as a caregiver is to be a “sitter” or simply provide homemaker services and that is so untrue. They are very skilled in identifying and providing for the needs of older adults.

How do you help a family or individual determine how much care they need?

It really depends. That is why it is good to inquire about what services are offered by an agency. You need to have someone visit your loved one’s home to complete an assessment of what the client’s needs are.

In my role as care manager, I assist the family and client in first identifying what they are having the most difficulty with. It may even be determined that a client could benefit from having a caregiver 8 hours a day, but the client is only open to having someone 4 hours a day at the beginning. The client may be resistant to having a stranger come into their home, so we help them feel comfortable with the caregiver and then expand hours as time goes on.

What qualities should a family look for in a professional caregiver?

Patience and respect for the population they have chosen to serve. Great caregivers are hardworking and able to overcome challenges. They are kind-hearted, willing to think outside the box, dependable, honest, and caring. They love what they do and do it for all the right reasons.

As you begin to look for a professional caregiver, remember to include your siblings in the hiring process. Leaving them out may result in tense situations later on. “It’s pretty common that the lead child, if you will, . . . goes in with the right expectations, and then another sibling has a completely different expectation,” says Randy Brown, CEO of Quaker Gardens Senior Living, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community that offers in-home care in Stanton, California.

Speaking of hiring, what type of questions should you ask when searching for a professional caregiver/agency?

  • What does their contract say?

    It’s important to read over the contract. Evaluate what or if the agency is asking for upfront. Are they asking for money? For what and why?

  • How much training has the caregiver received?

    If looking at agencies, they should be able to provide you with a specific training model including a skills check list the caregiver has completed. If you’re hiring a private caregiver, make sure to ask about their past experience, training, and references.

  • Will you have the same caregiver for every shift?

    It’s often very important to maintain as much consistency for the care recipient. Check with an agency to see if the same caregiver will be available to you each shift.

  • Are they licensed and bonded? 

    Licensing varies from state to state. Generally, however, caregivers assisting with daily tasks such as housework, cooking, and sitting don’t require a license. Home health aides do require licensing. Bonding refers to the protection offered from an agency’s insurance company covering theft by a caregiver. Private caregivers can also be bonded.

  • Have all caregivers been drug tested and a full back ground check completed?

  • Do they have a minimum of hours needed?

    Many agencies require a four hour minimum. You may, as you do your research, find agencies who have as little as a 30 minute requirement though.

Our goal with this series has been to provide useful advice and insight into the world of caregiving and its impact on all those involved. If you need further assistance, we have provided a list of resources below. As always, you may reach out to us here at Blakeford if you have questions.

Family and Professional Caregivers More Alike Than Different

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Caregiver for Your Parent

Family Caregiver Alliance

The Rosalyn Carter Caregiving Institute Book Series

Julie Cherry, LMSW, serves as the Care Manager for Blakeford At Home.