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10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Caregiver or Home Care Agency

Using an agency to hire paid caregivers may give older adults and their families a false sense of security regarding the background and skill set of the caregiver, according to a recent study. Just because it's an agency employee doesn't necessarily mean the caregiver is trained to care for an elderly person.

Researchers posed as consumers seeking a caregiver for an older adult relative. The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, surveyed 180 agencies around the country about their hiring methods, screening measures, training practices, skill competencies assessments and supervision. They found:

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  • Only 55 percent of the agencies did a federal background check.
  • Only one-third of agencies said they did drug testing.
  • Only one-third test for caregiver skill competency.
  • Supervision ranged from none to weekly and included home visits, telephone calls, and caregivers visiting the office.

Based on these results, people looking for home caregivers are taking shots in the dark as to whether they will get a trained professional who provides quality care or one with little-to no experience and training.

By being an educated consumer, you can find a qualified, reputable agency that employs caregivers who will care for your parent with compassion and skill. Here are 10 questions to ask before you hire a caregiver:

  1. Number one on the list is to go through a well-known agency. This doesn't necessarily mean a large franchise, but get references.
  2. What recruiting methods do they use? How are they finding job candidates? Newspaper ads? Staff agencies? Craig's List?
  3. What are their hiring requirements for prospective employees?
  4. What screenings are performed on caregivers before they are hired? Criminal background check -- federal or state? Drug screening?
  5. How does the agency assess what the caregiver is capable of doing?
  6. Does the agency train caregivers? What does that training entail? Are they knowledgeable about elderly health conditions and certified in CPR?
  7. Are the caregivers insured and bonded through the agency?
  8. Is the agency diligent about sending the same caregiver to the home, rather than a revolving door of strangers who parents don't know or trust?
  9. If you are not satisfied with a particular caregiver, will the agency provide a different person?
  10. Does the agency provide a supervisor to evaluate the quality of home care on a regular basis? How frequently?

Like so many things caregivers are responsible for, hiring in-home care requires due diligence, to make sure their loved one is safely cared for.

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