The first step in hiring in-home care is to research, consult with and select a home care company. An excellent home care company will understand the qualities of a good care aide, recognize the value of this selection process and assist you with finding the best possible fit for your unique situation.
Read: How to Choose a Home Care Company
Once you have chosen a provider, their care coordinator will typically set up a time to meet with you and your loved one and conduct an in-home assessment. From there, you will have the opportunity to personally interview prospective caregivers that have been recommended for you. Matching caregivers with clients is a process that many home care companies have perfected, but there are a few fundamental traits you should make a point of looking for.
What Makes a Good Professional Caregiver?
The caregiver screening process allows you and your loved one to get a feel for the person or people who will be providing services before they actually begin. Including these five important attributes in your selection criteria will help ensure you hire a compassionate, experienced in-home care aide.
Characteristics of a Good Caregiver
ExperienceThe elder care field covers a broad spectrum of services, ranging from companionship to skilled nursing care. Professional caregivers have often cared for many different clients in diverse settings throughout their careers. When interviewing prospective senior care aides, ask for specifics about previous caregiving experiences. References can be very helpful to ask for as well.
If your loved one has a health issue, such as dementia or diabetes, you’ll want to select a caregiver who is familiar with these conditions. For example, if meal preparation will be part of their duties, ask them about the kinds of food they enjoy cooking and if they are comfortable with accommodating special dietary restrictions or requests.
ExpertiseMake sure that the caregiver you choose has received proper training and licensing/certification(s) in accordance with the guidelines in your state. Reputable home care companies will ensure all their employees meet these federal and/or state regulations, but it’s wise to familiarize yourself with these requirements and what they entail. Continuing education and supplementary training on top of the state's minimum requirements are usually good indicators of quality, too. Ask about any additional credentials a caregiver may have obtained or training they engaged in on their own, such as specialty training or certification in dementia care.
CompassionEmpathy and attentiveness are fundamental qualities of a good caregiver and crucial to fostering a trusting relationship with clients. The right companion or home health aide (HHA) will be professional yet personable and nurturing. Inquiring as to why a candidate chose elder care for their occupation can provide a great deal of insight into their character and caregiving philosophy.
To get an even better feel for a caregiver’s personality, ask about their background and personal interests. They will be spending plenty of time with your loved one, and shared interests can help make visits more enjoyable for both parties.
PatienceHome care services offer much needed respite for family caregivers who may be overwhelmed with responsibilities or experiencing burn out. Caregiving is not for the faint of heart, and it takes a very special kind of person to choose this line of work. One of the most important qualities to look for in a caregiver is patience—especially when seeking care for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia. Ask about a trying experience they had with a previous client and how they handled it. Look for both composure and warmth in their answers.
CommunicationA professional caregiver should have good verbal communication skills and a positive attitude. Since they will be spending plenty of time with your aging loved one, you want them to be able to communicate well with one another—and with you. Your caregiver should assist in keeping your loved one calm and comfortable, while also keeping the lines of communication open with you and your family about any changes in their condition or care plan. Problem-solving is a huge part of providing care for another person and requires perseverance, creativity, cooperation and excellent communication skills.
What to Expect from an In-Home Care Aide
It is extremely important to select a caregiver whose knowledge and abilities match your loved one’s needs, but ensuring their personality is a good fit should be a priority, too. Involving your loved one in the caregiver interview process (if appropriate) may give them a greater sense of control over their own care and an increased willingness to accept new members of their care team.
Once you've found someone who you believe has the right combination of professionalism, patience and compassion to care for your loved one, learn what to expect and how to prepare to hand over the reins to ensure a smooth introduction.
Read: Hiring In-Home Care: What Happens on the First Day?
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If your aging loved one is comfortable with their in-home care aide, and you feel that you have hired someone with the right skills and attitude, then you will be more confident that they are in good hands and more comfortable taking a reprieve from your own caregiving duties.