Whether your parents need a little help around the house or 24 hour care, hiring the right caregiver can be a daunting task filled with emotions. While this is ultimately a business relationship, the emotional connection is critical to ensuring your parents are comfortable with having someone in their home, doing tasks they can no longer do.
Determine Your Caregiving Needs
Before you begin your caregiver search, decide on your needs.
- What days/times will you need someone?
- Is the schedule negotiable? Do you anticipate more hours in the future?
- What are the tasks required. Make a list of what your needs are and what your potential needs are. Not all caregivers do all things. If you need someone to cook meals, make sure they can cook! If you need someone to drive your mother to her activities, make sure they have a reliable car and check their driving record.
Where to Find a Caregiver
I highly recommend finding a caregiver through personal referrals. Whether you are referred to an agency or an independent caregiver, speaking to people who have used your caregiver is far better than picking a random person off the internet.
If you don’t know anyone who has used a caregiver, reach out to your local senior center for referrals. Once you’ve received referrals, regardless of where they came from, you’ll want to screen your candidates before hiring someone.
This is the part where you treat it like a business. Set up a phone interview with the potential caregiver to pre-screen. You’ll learn a lot about the person just through the phone conversation. Were they available for the pre-scheduled call? Did they treat the call like an interview or were they distracted or bored? You want someone who will treat your parent with respect and converse with them, not someone who is reluctantly doing the job.
When I interviewed caregiving companions, I would start out with around 10 applicants and after the phone calls, be left with 3-4 prospects. Don’t skip the phone interview!
After you’ve narrowed the field, arrange in-person interviews in a public place (coffee shops, shopping centers, etc.). You again, will have the opportunity to filter your candidates. Were they on time? Did they appear interested in the position? If your parent was at the interview, did they speak to them as well? This is a big indicator or how they view the elderly.
I have had several people tell me in an interview that working with the elderly is like working with children. I immediately took them off my “to hire” list. If they express a view that shows that they don’t see the value in working with people who have a wealth of life experience in an interview, how will they treat them when they are alone?
If you haven’t included your parent in the interview process, be sure to set up a meeting with your parent before hiring the candidate. They will be the one who is spending time with them and you want them to be comfortable with their new companion. You’ll also want to watch how the caregiver interacts with your parent. Does she treat her with respect or talk down to her? Does she acknowledge her presence or talk over her to you?
Don’t skip reference checks and background checks, particularly if you are hiring an independent caregiver. If you are hiring a caregiver through an agency, they have already been drug tested and gone through a complete background check, so you don’t need to do your own checking. There are many online services that provide background checking for less than $100. It is well worth the expense. In two cases, I thought I had the perfect candidate and one had her license suspended for reckless driving (the position required driving) and another had a felony. I would not have guessed that from the interview.
Caregiver Interview Questions
In your initial phone interview, your goal is to pre-screen candidates. This call should address your specific caregiving needs. These are potential questions you should ask:
- Are you available on the dates/times we need you. You’d be surprised by how many people apply for jobs that they are not available to work.
- If we need you more days/times, would you be available?
- We need the following tasks done. Are you willing and able to do these as part of the job for the agreed rate. Again, you’d be amazed by how many people apply for a job they can’t perform. I had a client whose caregiver assured her she would prepare meals. Once hired, she claimed to not be able to make more than a sandwich or salad. Be as detailed as possible.
- Are there tasks/requests that you would be unable to fulfill?
If you’re struggling with what to ask a potential caregiver, here are some questions you can pose.
- What attracts you to caregiving?
- Are there things about the job that you prefer not to do?
- What is your favorite thing about working with the elderly?
- Who has been your most difficult client and what did you do to make it successful?
- How do you establish a bond with your clients? How do you try to connect?
- How do you handle requests outside of your ability? Are you comfortable reaching out for guidance?
- How do you handle downtime?
- What types of activities do you do with your clients? You’ll want to let them tell you what they do with clients so that you know that they will not just be turning on the TV. This is particularly important if your parent has dementia or physical disabilities.
- What caregiving certification training do you have, if any? Do you have any CPR or first-aid training? If I pay for it, would you be willing to add to your skills?
- Do you smoke? If so, you’ll need to decide if having them smoke outside is a workable solution for both of you.
- Do you have any allergies? This is really only applicable if your parent has pets or is a smoker.
- Are you willing to sign a contract stating you will not accept money or gifts from my (parent/grandparent/spouse, etc) without clearing it with me?
Of course, this is your opportunity to find out as much as you can about the person who will be caring for your family member, so don’t be shy with your questions. There are questions an employer can’t ask by law, so you may want to do your research before asking personal questions such as marital, religious or family status.