How to Select a Caregiver
In the next two decades, with baby boomers aging and older adults living longer, more caregiving help than ever will be needed if people are to remain at home, where 90% of us would prefer to be. Although families and friends do what they can, it often becomes necessary to hire someone to help with personal care, meal preparation, transportation and other daily needs.
Keep the Client Involved
Probably the most important factor in selecting a caregiver is keeping the client involved in the process. None of us wants to be thrown together with someone with whom we feel uncomfortable. Most clients, given a choice, would prefer to have a son or daughter care for them, but with families’ busy lives and geographic separations, a paid caregiver can be a lifesaver. Luckily, the paraprofession of caregiving has grown along with the need for it, and there are many compassionate and competent people willing to do the job.
Steps to Follow
To begin the selection process, make a list of areas where help is needed. These areas might include shopping, housekeeping, bathing, dressing, medication reminders, driving or escorts to social events.
Next, consider the client’s personality and privacy needs. A social person might prefer a caregiver who is outgoing and likes to chat. Someone who likes more alone time may want a caregiver who is task-oriented and not too talkative. A personality fit is just as important as a skill match.
Then, think about how many hours it will take to accomplish the duties required. This process is an ongoing one and can be adjusted as needed. Sometimes, a few hours twice a week can make a huge difference in extending a client’s independence and keeping him or her at home. With the current state of technology, it is now possible for someone who needs around the clock care, whether on an hourly or live-in basis, to remain in their own home for life. A care manager or home care agency can assist in assessing the client’s needs, initially and as these needs change.
Private Care vs. Agency Management
Caregivers can be hired privately or through an agency. If hired through an agency, consider that there are different types of agencies. Some agencies are employers, which means they handle all payroll, taxes, workers compensation and other insurance, training, care monitoring and supervision. Other agencies simply help select and place caregivers. With the latter, the caregivers become employees of the client and the client will need to handle payroll, taxes, workers compensation and other insurance, training, care monitoring and supervision.
Interviewing and Screening
The person being considered for the caregiver job should be interviewed and screened carefully to determine training, experience, credentials and personality characteristics. A criminal background check and, if the person will be driving, a DMV clearance, should be done. The person’s identity should be verified and references checked thoroughly. These things are handled by the agency if the agency is the employer. If the client employs the person, they are the client’s responsibility, as is true of job expectations, benefits, wages and time off. Someone needs to be available 24 hours a day to provide a backup if the caregiver becomes ill or misses work for any reason.
Selecting a qualified caregiver can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life of an elder and of his or her family. Managing the hiring process thoughtfully, taking into consideration the client’s wants and needs and communicating openly, can ensure a successful long-term caregiving experience.
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