Caring for an aging loved one should be a rewarding part of your life, so it’s important to consider ways to avoid burning out in your role as caregiver—and hiring outside help to support you may offer some relief. Whether it’s for a few hours, a few days, or full-time, bringing in a professional can help family members to advocate for themselves and to create much-needed downtime—not to mention, professional caregivers bring a lot to the table, including valuable expertise and a fresh perspective. For families looking to hire a professional caregiver, the most common first step is finding a reputable caregiver agency.
Families usually choose to hire a caregiver from an agency because of the security it provides. A good caregiver agency will take care of all details, big and small, so you don’t have to, like background checks, providing insurance, ongoing training, care management, and handling day-to-day issues. But because the caliber of agencies can vary greatly, it’s critical to do your research beforehand. It’s in both your family’s, and loved one’s, best interest to find an agency that’s trustworthy—and only works with quality caregivers.
Finding a Reputable Caregiver Agency
If you are considering hiring a caregiver agency, these key questions can offer insight into whether or not the agency will be the right fit for you and your loved one.
Needs and Wants
When choosing an agency, it’s important to first determine your specific needs and expectations.
- How often do you need someone? Figure out the number of hours or days per week that you want a caregiver to be with your loved one.
- How many caregivers do you want? Decide if you want more than one caregiver working with your loved one. Some agencies offer rotating caregivers, while others can provide one per client.
- What tasks will they be doing? Think about the day-to-day tasks you’ll be asking the caregiver to do, anything from cleaning, meal preparation, helping your loved one to exercise, or perhaps driving them to appointments.
- Do you need a specialist? Consider whether your loved ones needs a caregiver with particular specialization. For example, if your loved one has Alzheimer’s, you’ll probably want a caregiver with expertise and experience working with dementia sufferers.
Licenses and References
You will want to make sure that the agency has been approved by the state you in live—and also has great feedback from real clients in the area.
- Are they state licensed? California recently passed a law that requires home care and caregiver agencies to be properly licensed by the state. Always check that an agency has proper accreditation.
- Can you get references? Request references from the agency’s former and current clients. Similarly, word-of-mouth can be a very useful indicator of an agency’s reputation in the community.
Screening and Training
The level of training that caregivers receive, and the thoroughness of the screening process they undergo, both point to the level of care an agency delivers for its clients.
- How are caregivers screened? Most home care and caregiver agencies in California are now required by law to do a background check on all future employees. However, the depth of these checks can vary greatly. Ask what type of criminal checks they do—felony or misdemeanor—and any other background information they look into before hiring new caregivers.
- How are caregivers trained? A good agency will offer a strong training program for all of their caregivers, in addition to investing in ongoing education, so everyone stays up-to-date. Check whether their caregivers are also trained in First Aid, CPR, and any other specializations you have determined your loved one needs, such as working with older adults with dementia or cancer.
Matching and Rotation
If you’ve determined that the agency’s caregivers are properly qualified and well-trained, find out how they match caregivers with clients and what their rotation policy is.
- How do they pair caregivers with clients? Ask how they choose which caregivers work with which clients—and find out what their policy is if it turns out that the caregiver and client aren’t a good fit.
- How often do caregivers rotate? If you prefer to have the same caregiver each time, see if that’s an option. Otherwise, find out how often they change caregivers for each client. While it can be beneficial to have a few caregivers working with your loved one, it’s ideal to keep it between 2 or 3.
Supervision and Complaints
One of the main benefits of using an agency is that, in theory, they’re supposed to maintain quality control, oversee sticky issues, and deal with any problems that crop up.
- How do they handle client complaints? If you have an issue with a caregiver—or encounter a situation that you feel was poorly handled—the agency should handle it quickly and efficiently. Find out what their policy for handling complaints is.
- How are caregivers supervised? Good agencies have a clear protocol for ensuring their caregivers are doing quality work. This might include a supervisor doing regular drop-in visits while caregivers are working, or a system that tracks how much time a caregiver spends with clients.
A great agency is foundational to providing high-quality care and giving you access to excellent caregivers, so it’s imperative that you find the best fit for your unique situation. Asking questions like these can provide you and your family with important insights about agencies in your area. And, as most family members can attest, having an excellent caregiver to work with your aging loved one is truly priceless.
Many caregiving agencies pride themselves on giving their best to aging adults every day—and those are the ones who deserve to be in your aging loved one’s life. There is no greater comfort, when you can’t be there yourself, than knowing your loved one is being cared for by someone you can trust.
If you’re unsure how to give your aging loved one the best support, Institute on Aging provides a variety of resources, programs, and services to help. Connect with us today to find out more.