A successful experience with hiring in-home care involves establishing a trusting relationship with a company and their caregivers. When someone comes into the home to help with personal care tasks, such as bathing and dressing, or even more straightforward tasks, like light housekeeping, planning meals or arranging transportation, the senior needs to feel comfortable with the person assisting them.
There are a few measures that the entire care team—family members, home care companies and professional caregivers—can take to ensure a smooth and positive experience when beginning these services.
The Hiring Process
During the hiring process, be sure to screen home care companies thoroughly and ask to interview individual caregivers. These steps will help ensure selection of a reputable company and increased involvement in choosing the person who will be providing care. While both of these steps can provide initial confidence and peace of mind for families, involving seniors in the selection process can help them feel more comfortable and in control as well.
Forming a Caregiver Connection
A good caregiver should immediately begin to establish a rapport with the elder through conversation and activities. Companionship is a significant benefit of hiring in-home care, but a genuine relationship requires both parties to learn about one another. Inviting someone into the home is very personal, and getting used to new personalities and new methods of completing tasks can take time.
A few constructive ideas for breaking down barriers and opening up discussions can make all the difference. Family members can encourage bonding by pulling out certain items and conversation-starters that will help facilitate this process for the first few visits.
- Exchanging Stories
Sharing memories about family, friends and experiences can build a bond across generations. Finding common experiences, likes and dislikes through storytelling can help to create a sense of comfort and openness between seniors and caregivers. It can be difficult to get some seniors to open up initially, but flipping through photo albums and looking at memorabilia together is a great way to jog the memory and create opportunities for meaningful discussions.
- Connecting through Music
Listening to music together can be a great way to form a bond. Hearing a treasured old song can be therapeutic for older adults by bringing back memories and reducing anxiety. Try leaving out a few favorite records or CDs to be played during visits.
- Hobbies and Activities
Discovering pastimes that both caregivers and seniors enjoy equally is a great way to forge a connection. Possible projects may include scrapbooking, flower arranging, crafting, watching sports on television, cooking and even just completing minor household chores. Finding things to do together will help keep minds and bodies active and engaged, not to mention spark conversations. If any of a senior’s interests require supplies or special instructions, be sure to make these easily accessible for their caregiver.
Warming Up to More than One Caregiver
Many elders prefer to have the same caregiver all the time. Home care companies do their best to limit turnover and accommodate these requests, says Val Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. While having the same person visit the home is preferable, that may not always be possible, he says.
Early on, a senior should be introduced to aides who could serve as backups for their primary caregiver, Halamandaris says. Those individuals may be substitutes if the primary can't make it to work, or they could be in line to serve as replacements if the main caregiver quits. “It’s a matter of introducing other people so seniors will be more comfortable and familiar instead of meeting someone on the spot for the first time,” he notes. It also helps if the new person or persons can be introduced with the help of the current favorite or primary caregiver.
Meeting with and establishing a relationship with multiple caregivers is especially important if a senior's condition requires assistance from multiple people. Although a senior may have a preference for a single care provider, it is important for them to understand the need to accept other caregivers as part of the team. This is the case with clients who need specialized or around-the-clock care. Two or more caregivers must be assigned to handle more complex care needs and the continuous shifts associated with 24/7 services.
Trust Is Key
If a caregiver isn't a good match, tell the company that they are not working out and why. They should continue to work with you and your loved one to find somebody that has the desired personality and skills.
When a senior feels they can rely on and relate to their caregiver(s), the bond they form will help them experience greater enjoyment in remaining in the comfort of their own home. After the initial awkwardness and apprehension has been overcome, seniors often begin looking forward to visits with their caregivers.