10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Professional Caregiver

Reputable Agency Should Be Able to Answer Them

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There are many scenarios in life when you may need to hire a professional caregiver for yourself or a loved one. Often times people are in a time of crisis when they realize the need for a caregiver, and therefore are not quite sure what their needs are and what services are available. Regardless if your need for assistance is short term or long-term, ask the questions below before hiring a caregiver.

A caregiver can be part of a team of people who bring their expertise to help someone in need of assistance. This care team may be needed for just a few days or weeks or on an ongoing basis for a chronic condition or degenerative disease such as dementia.

  1. Why? When someone realizes they have a need for a caregiver, it’s important to ask why. What needs are not being met? Typically it is assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) that lead someone to realize there is a need for additional care.  ADLs include bathing, grooming, toileting, dressing one’s self, walking, transferring (for example, moving from a chair to the bed), and feeding; IADLs include meal preparation, driving or navigating public transportation, managing finances, managing medications, doing housework and yardwork, and caring for pets.
  2. Who? Maybe what is really needed is a physical therapist or an occupational therapist to resolve an issue that is preventing someone from managing their ADLs or IADLs. A caregiver can still be needed to reinforce the work of the specialist, such as doing exercises together. A caregiver agency may have a more skilled expert such as a social worker on staff. In general though a caregiver has been trained to assist with ADLs and IADLs and is not trained to do the work of an occupational therapist or such.
  1. When? Perhaps the need for home care occurs away from the home initially. For example, someone is being discharged from the hospital or a rehabilitation facility in the middle of day when family members are work or school. Ask if there are caregivers who can provide transportation.
  2. Do they create a customized care plan? Is a written, customized care plan developed in consultation with the client and family members, and is the plan updated as changes occur? A care plan should factor in the unique preferences of the person who is in need of care. There is no one size fits all care plan.  Also, it’s important that the caregiver is trained to notice any changes in ability so that care can be adjusted as needed. Perhaps less care is needed, or a different type of care would be beneficial.
  1. Does the caregiving agency closely supervise the quality of care, including maintenance of a daily journal in the client’s home and non-scheduled supervisory visits?
  2. How are emergencies handled after normal business hours? Don’t wait until there is an emergency to ask for a 24-hour number or a reference on who to contact in the middle of the night.
  3. Does the home care agency provide a written document that states the rights and responsibilities of the client, and explains the company’s privacy policy and code of ethics?
  4. Do they triple-screen their caregiver employees carefully, including use of reference checks, driving records and criminal background investigations?
  5. Does the agency mandate ongoing training of its employees to continually update their skills?
  6. Are their caregivers employees or independent contractors? If they are independent contractors, you could be on the hook as the employer and responsible for paying the mandated taxes and withholdings. It’s important to know if the agency manages all payroll and employee-related matters and adheres to state and federal guidelines in its employment practices, such as withholding appropriate taxes and providing Workers’ Compensation and other benefits.

    A reputable home care agency should be able to answer all of your questions and more before you meet the caregiver. You have every right to ask all of these questions to ensure the safety and quality of the care in your own home.

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