How To Choose a Companion for the Elderly – If you’ve ever cared for a seriously ill or aging loved one, you’re not alone. According to the latest figures, more than 53 million Americans report providing unpaid care to another adult or child over the past 12 months.
Personal assistance enables the 12 million Americans who are unable to live independently to perform such daily routines as eating, bathing and dressing. In the case of the elderly, it allows them to continue to live in their own homes.
More and more, seniors and their families are hiring caregivers. Many states and the federal government are setting aside funds to allow people who otherwise couldn’t afford outside help to pay for it.
If you’re thinking of hiring someone to help you care for a loved one, here are some tips:
- Assess home care needs. Evaluate what’s needed for the patient’s health care, personal care and household care. Do you need physical therapy or medication management? Do you need help with meal preparation? Are you mainly looking for a companion or sitter? Do you need help with shopping and running errands or with managing money?
- Write a job description based on the help that’s needed. Include the health care training you expect from a successful applicant, whether a car or valid driver’s license is needed, and whether the successful applicant will need to lift the care recipient or operate any special equipment.
- Develop a job contract. It should be based on the job description and include:
- Wages, including when and how payment will be made.
- Hours of work.
- The employee’s Social Security number, in order to report wages paid to the IRS.
- What you consider unacceptable behavior, such as abusive language or tardiness.
- Some information about termination, including how much notice you’re willing to give and reasons for termination without notice.
- Seek a caregiver by talking to any qualified neighbors and friends. If you belong to a religious congregation, ask your pastor, rabbi or imam for prospects. You may try a caregiver agency or referral source, which may be able to do a lot of the screening for you.
- Once you find a candidate, prepare for the interview with a list of questions and screen applicants on the phone. If you find someone who sounds acceptable, ask a friend or family member to sit in to provide a second opinion. Observe interactions between the worker and the person who will be receiving care. If you use an agency, always ask to interview the in-home caregiver yourself to see whether the person is the right fit.
- Check all references carefully. You are looking for someone dependable, reliable and qualified to do the work.
- If you are hiring from an agency, make sure it does criminal background checks.
- Hire a caregiver with experience in the specific area(s) you need help with.
- Hire a licensed or bonded caregiver. But if you want to hire a neighbor because he or she meets all your other requirements, go for it.
- Set a schedule to monitor the quality of services the caregiver is providing. Make personal contact with the caregiver and visit regularly with the person receiving care. Get periodic reports from the caregiver and the agency. Consider hiring an independent geriatric care manager to monitor the situation if you’re unable to do it yourself.
- Have a backup plan if the caregiver or agency fails to follow through or problems arise.
- Watch for signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation, and report suspicious activity to the agency or state authorities.
Caregiving can be demanding, draining and hard, but also a source of well-being when you feel closer to the person who needs care. Create a care team you can count on.
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