Caring for an aging loved one is a difficult job. And whether you have the bandwidth to take on the caregiving yourself or need to hire outside help, there is considerable thought that should go into the process. In order to ensure that your loved one receives the best possible care and personal boundaries can be maintained, expectations about care need to be transparent from the beginning of the process.
The first step in the process, whether you are going to serve as a caregiver or figuring out how to hire a caregiver, is sitting down with your loved one and writing out a list of their needs, limitations, likes and dislikes, as well as their preferred level of care. From there, you can use the following tips to guide you through the rest of the experience:
How to Hire a Caregiver From Outside The Family
If you’re interested in hiring a caregiver to work with your loved one in the home, finding someone qualified, trustworthy and experienced can be stressful. If you’re thinking about how to hire a caregiver, there are a few places you can start—with referrals from friends or family, with an agency or with a private service. Regardless of which avenue you choose, these are the questions that you should ask before hiring an adult caregiver for your aging parent:
Are you licensed?
Professional adult caregivers can hold a range of degrees, including:
Personal Care Assistants (PCA) are not licensed, but are trained and have enough experience to work in the field. They serve as companions, providing conversation, light housekeeping, meal preparation, and bathing or dressing.
Home Health Aides (HHA) can also assist with activities of daily living but are licensed and know how to check a patient’s vital signs.
Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNA) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) have spent at least 2 years in nursing school and are qualified to check vital signs, observe and report on any changes in a patient’s health status, set up and change medical equipment, and more.
Skilled Nursing Providers and Registered Nurses (RN) both meet a variety of state certification requirements and can administer higher levels of care for their patients.
Can we run a background check?
Most agencies will run background checks for any adult caregivers they employ, however, if the agency does not offer skilled nursing services, they are not legally required to run background checks on their caregivers. If you’re hiring a caregiver through an agency, be sure to inquire about whether or not they run background checks on their employees.
If you’re hiring an adult caregiver through a private resource or friend, you can essentially run your own background check by asking for a variety of references, valid photo ID, a social security number, and use a website like BackgroundChecks.com, to find out a well of information about the caregiver in question.
Is this covered by financial aid?
- Certain services are eligible for financial reimbursement, whether through th Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, long-term health insurance or state and federal programs, depending on your needs and income level. Be sure to check with these various organizations to find out if your loved one will qualify for financial aid, or ask the home caregiving agency you are interviewing. They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to senior issues, so be sure to take advantage of their resources during the interview process.
Do you have a minimum requirement for caregiving hours?
- This one is often overlooked, but many agencies or even private individual caregivers might have a minimum requirement for weekly caregiving. Be upfront about the number of hours you anticipate needing their services, as if it falls below their minimum it won’t be a great fit for either of you.
In addition to the above questions, write down any others you have before you interview caregivers so that you don’t forget at the moment. And absolutely meet the potential caregiver in person before hiring them to make sure that it’s a good fit for your loved one.
A Caregiving Plan For Family Caregivers
Even if you’re working as a caregiver for free to help an older family member, putting a caregiving plan together at the beginning of the experience can set you up for success down the road. A caregiving plan is a great way to establish what you will be responsible for as an adult caregiver and put some necessary boundaries in place.
A strong caregiver plan will identify their needs and expectations, and define what you will be responsible for as their caregiver. Here are some of the things to consider as you put together your caregiver plan:
Days and Times for Available Caregiving Hours. If you have a full- or part-time job, be clear about the dates and times that you will be available to help your loved one with their caregiving needs. If you don’t work, you should still set dates/times in advance so that you can have time for self-care and prevent caregiver burnout.
Define Your Role. Talk about what you feel comfortable helping with and what you would recommend bringing in an expert caregiver to do instead. Many family caregivers have no problem with general activities of daily life, light housekeeping, food shopping, meal preparation and transportation to and from doctor appointments. You may, however, feel uncomfortable when it comes to changing catheters, taking vitals and other medical procedures.
Compensation. It’s never easy to have a conversation about money with family members, but it’s an important one to have before stepping into a caregiving role for a loved one. Work this into a caregiving plan and decide whether or not a parent will reimburse you for some of the expenses related to caring for them, or if you would be responsible for paying for everything out of your own pocket.
Reviewing your caregiver plan with your loved one could also be an opportune time to discuss their end-of-life wishes and find out if they have specific medical directives that they would want you to honor in case of an emergency. Like talking about money, talking about end-of-life care is not an easy conversation to have, but it’s an essential one when you are responsible for providing care for an aging parent.
Bringing In Some Extra Help
It’s not possible for any caregiver to be with their loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Instead of carrying an immense amount of guilt and worrying about your parent’s well being, make everyone’s life easier and invest in a medical alert device. With a variety of products to choose from, Medical Guardian offers caregivers peace of mind since all of their medical alert systems connect directly to an emergency operator when you need them.