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Caregivers: What to Look For

Do you have a loved one that is aging to the point that you are beginning to get worried about their ability to take care of themselves properly?  It might be time to open the discussion about hiring a caregiver.  The discussion itself can be a time-consuming process, so prepare yourself to have to approach the subject from several different angles, especially if you think your loved one might be resistant to help from an outsider.  Once you have both determined that searching for a caregiver is in their best interest, however, what should you look for?

First, you should check their references.  Discuss their skills with previous clients & employers to get a feel for their strengths & weaknesses & determine whether they would be a good potential candidate for caring for your loved one.  Be sure to inform the applicant that you will be calling their references & encourage them to be up front if they’ve had difficulties in the past.  Sometimes personality types do not function well together.

Second, consider their personality.  You want your loved one to be cared for, yes, but you’d like for it to be a pleasant experience for both the loved one and the caregiver.   If you take some time at the beginning to evaluate their personality, you may be able to determine whether it would be encouraging or grating to the nerves of your loved one.  If, for instance, the caregiver is extremely efficient, & somewhat short, your loved one may interpret that as rude behavior.  On the other hand, if the caregiver is given to chatting lightly for longer periods of time, your loved one may interpret that as inefficient.  You’ll never be able to foresee whether they will get along until the care is occurring, but there are some clues that you may be given if you take a little longer in the interview process.

Third, get a background check.  This should weed out those who have been previously convicted of something that would be harmful to your loved one.

Fourth, make sure they’re trained for what they’re about to do.  Many states have licensing for these types of things, which is helpful, especially if the caregiver will be dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s or another specific disease.  If you feel that that level of training is unnecessary for what they will encounter on a daily basis, then provide adequate training for the situations that they WILL encounter.  Be sure they know about your loved one’s allergies, diet, concerns & history of complaints that have made you both think that it is time for extra help.  Also, be sure that they know what your plan for the future is.  If their services will no longer be needed once your loved one needs more advanced care for their memory problems, notify the caregiver at the onset.  If they have degenerative disease & will need to be moved to another house or apartment with full time care eventually, it would be prudent to notify the caregiver before they even start, so that they have an expectation of letting go when the time comes.

Lastly, do your best to encourage them to speak about any issues they may have with one another directly.  It can be tempting in these situations for them to want to put you as the go between, especially if you interview & hire the caretaker. Of course, it would be necessary for them to speak with you about major issues, but you do not want to have to hear about whether the caretaker doesn’t fold the towel how your loved one likes it or about how your loved one isn’t ready when the caretaker wants them to get into the shower.  Allow them to have their own space in this challenging, new relationship & see how it goes.  It will most certainly be a challenge for your loved one as they move through the stages of aging & it can be very emotional.  It is natural, so be there to be supportive & encouraging when they need it.   

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