Once you have selected a reputable home care company, chosen a caregiver and begun services, it is important to evaluate this new addition to your loved one’s care team. The home care company should have procedures in place for making a good caregiver match and ensuring the transition into the home is a smooth one.
As the process continues, you should take an active role in determining if the professional you hired is doing a good job. As part of monitoring ongoing care, use this checklist of quality measures to assess a caregiver’s performance. Consider the questions below while on a drop-in visit during one of the caregiver’s shifts, and keep them in mind when conversing with your loved one and company employees.
Questions for Evaluating a Caregiver’s Performance
- Is the care plan being followed? There should always be an official care plan in place before the caregiver walks in the door on the first day. Any deviations from the plan, unless they were previously discussed and approved by you or a supervisor, should not be tolerated. Such deviations should be noted in your loved one’s file.
- Does your loved one appear safe and well-adjusted? Unless there are actual signs of mistreatment or abuse (bruises, cuts, etc.), it can sometimes be tricky to gauge whether a senior is safe. Look for certain behavioral warning signs from your elderly loved one, such as withdrawing or a reluctance to talk about time spent with their caregiver.
- Is your loved one's quality of life being improved? The goal of home care is to elevate an elder's comfort, happiness and health. Look for signs that they are thriving and enjoying (or at least benefitting in some way from) the caregiver’s assistance and company. Even small positive changes in mood, energy and appearance are good indicators that a caregiver is doing an excellent job enriching their day-to-day life.
- Has your loved one expressed care concerns to you? If a senior is of sound mind and they voice a concern, discuss the issue with the company’s office, as opposed to addressing the caregiver directly. This helps avoid conflict and makes the correction process smoother for everyone involved. Bear in mind that if an elder suffers from a disease that impairs their cognitive abilities (e.g. Alzheimer's), they may be prone to making unintentional false accusations. In these situations, it's important to remember to take your loved one's complaints seriously, but allow for the possibility that their disease may be impacting their ability to accurately assess the situation.
- Does the caregiver communicate well with you and your loved one? Verbal communication is essential to maintaining an effective relationship with a professional and the company they work for. It's important for everyone involved in executing the care plan (family members, professionals, care managers and the senior themselves) to be open and honest.
- Does the caregiver seem invested in your loved one’s wellbeing? Are they attentive to your loved one's needs? Do they maintain a calm, concerned demeanor when dealing with difficult behaviors or requests?
- Is the caregiver reliable? Do they show up on time and ready to work? Do they frequently have others cover their shifts? You should be able to expect a reasonable amount of consistency from professionals. Excessive caregiver turnover can be stressful for a senior, and for you.
- Does the company conduct their own quality checks? Most reputable home care companies will arrange for supervisors to make both announced and unannounced home visits on a regular basis to observe their employees in action. These assessments ensure that caregivers are following established care plans and other company policies. Visits from care coordinators provide an opportunity for the care plan to be updated if needed.
How to Address Home Care Issues
While it's important to make sure your loved one is getting the care they need, it's equally crucial to avoid prematurely requesting a new caregiver or discontinuing services completely. If the hiring process was hurried in response to a crisis, the initial caregiver may not be the best fit. That doesn't mean that the whole idea is a bust. Collaborate with your chosen home care company to address any concerns you have and iron out the kinks.
You, your loved one and your caregiver are all acclimating to a new relationship. It can take some time to go through a warming up period before everyone is comfortable and gets into a groove. Ultimately, though, it's important to trust your gut when it comes to evaluating in-home care. Nobody knows your loved one like you do. If the answer is to request a different caregiver or switch to another home care company, make sure to screen the new candidates thoroughly to prevent any repeat problems.