5 Qualities to Look for in a Professional Caregiver

The first step in hiring in-home care is to research, consult with, and select a reputable home care company. Once you have chosen a company, their care coordinator will typically set up an in-home assessment to meet you and your loved one. From there, you will be given the opportunity to personally interview prospective caregivers.

This secondary screening process allows you and your loved one to get a feel for the person who will be providing services before they actually begin. Matching caregivers with clients is a process that many home care companies have perfected, but there are a few fundamental traits that you should make a point of looking for.

Characteristics of a Great Caregiver

  1. Experience: Professional caregivers provide services in a number of different areas, so make sure you ask for specifics about each candidate's previous caregiving experiences. References are a helpful measure to ask for as well. If your loved one has a preexisting condition, such as dementia or diabetes, make sure that the caregiver you choose has experience working with these conditions. If meal preparation will be a part of their duties, ask them about the kinds of foods they enjoy cooking and if they are familiar with accommodating special dietary restrictions or requests.
  2. Expertise: Make sure that the caregiver you choose has undergone the necessary training and received proper certification(s) according to guidelines in your state. Continuing education and additional training on top of the state's minimum requirements are usually good measurements of quality, too. Ask about any additional credentials they may have obtained or training they engaged in on their own.
  3. Compassion: The bond between a patient and their caregiver is very important. Empathy and attentiveness are crucial to fostering a trusting relationship with your loved one. Inquire as to why the candidate chose caregiving as a profession. The right caregiver will have a good mix of professionalism and a nurturing, caring nature. Ask what interests they have that can possibly be shared with your loved one, such as watching a particular sport or listening to a certain kind of music. They will be spending plenty of time together, and shared interests can make visits more enjoyable for both parties.
  4. Patience: Home care services offer welcome respite for families 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 as a career. 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 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.
  5. Communication: Look for someone who has good verbal communication and a positive attitude. Since they will be spending ample amounts 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 care plan or condition. Problem-solving is a huge part of providing care for another person and requires perseverance and excellent communication skills.

It is extremely important to make sure you find a caregiver who is a good match in both skills and personality. If your aging loved one is comfortable with this person, and you feel that you have hired someone with the right skills and attitude, then you should be confident that they are in good hands.

Renata Gelman, RN, B.S.N., is assistant director of clinical services at Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). In this role, she coordinates patient care and manages a multi-disciplinary team of field nursing and home health care professionals in the clinical area of a VNSNY’s private care division.

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