Article Series

How to Find a Caregiver

Article submitted by Rebecca Sharp Colmer: Eldercare Advocate, Author, Publisher, Speaker. Find Rebecca’s books online.
The Gift of Caregiving – Click Here
More Books by Rebecca Colmer – Click Here

Finding a caregiver may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. Where do you begin? Caregivers provide services to people of all ages. The experience of caregiving is complex and usually exists on a continuum---starting with help for a few needs and ending with help with almost everything.

It is virtually impossible for one person to be a successful, full-time, around-the-clock caregiver, for an extended length of time. Being a caregiver is a tough job, even though it does have its rewards. When your loved-one needs ongoing care, the following questions should be addressed:

  • What services does the care-receiver require?
  • Can the care-receiver remain at home and for how long?
  • Are there any community programs available?
  • Who will have the primary responsibility for coordinating care?
  • How will you share the care with siblings, spouses, friends, and other concerned people?
  • How will direct responsibilities be shared?
  • How will the family determine what is fair for all concerned?
  • Can the care-receiver participate in decision-making about his/her care?
  • How many funds are available for caregiving?

Classification of Caregivers

  • Family caregivers provide care at no charge for a parent, sibling, or spouse who is chronically ill, disabled, or aged.
  • Crisis caregivers provide care only in emergencies.
  • Primary caregivers provide regular care for the care-receiver and make decisions that directly affect the care-receiver. In addition to providing hands-on assistance they also may represent the care-receiver in legal and medical matters.
  • Secondary caregivers provide assistance to primary caregivers.
  • Respite caregivers provide temporary care when the primary caregiver needs time away from caregiving.
  • Working caregivers hold part-time or full-time jobs and provide physical or financial support to individuals who depend upon their care.
  • Long-distance caregivers live at least an hour away by car and provide much of the assistance for relatives.
  • Occasional caregivers provide, on an irregular basis, one or more services, such as transportation, shopping, household chores, etc.
  • Agency caregivers are formal or paid caregivers employed by a home health or caregiving agency.

Hiring a caregiver to come into your home or to provide additional care in a facility can be nerve-wracking. How do you know who to trust? How do you know who will be a good fit? Some people find caregivers through a homecare agency, home health agency or referral service in order to keep less complicated. Hiring a private caregiver is usually the most inexpensive option, but it means you'll need to do the work that an agency or referral service would normally do for you.

Where to Find Private-hire Caregivers

  • Ask for referrals from people you know and trust in the medical community, including discharge planners, physicians, social workers, and pharmacists.
  • Ask for referrals from friends who are using a caregiver.
  • Let people around you know that you're looking to hire a caregiver. You may be surprised at how many leads you find, and word-of-mouth recommendations are usually the best ones.
  • Place an advertisement in the newspaper or via online forums.
  • Contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

Assess Your Situation

Before calling any caregivers, make a list of what the job will entail and what your expectations are for hiring a caregiver. Be as specific as possible. Write down what is most important:

  • When and how often do you need a caregiver?
  • Is it likely to change soon? If so, will it be a problem?
  • What duties would you like the caregiver to perform and how often?
  • Do you need any specialized care, such as for dementia or incontinence?
  • The caregiver you hire will be spending a lot of time with your loved one.

Research Your Candidates

Once you've identified the caregiving duties, then you're ready to screen candidates by phone and begin scheduling interviews. On the phone, explain what your needs are and make sure the candidate has experience, training and the physical capability to do tasks such as transferring or bathing (if applicable). Let them know you will be checking their references and performing a background check. Ask potential caregivers to come to the interview with a Social Security card, driver's license, listings of prior home addresses, references, and a resumé.

Background Checks

Performing a background check on potential caregivers is imperative. Background checks can include credit reports, DMV records and searching county, state and/or federal criminal records. You must have written consent from the potential caregiver in order to perform a background check. If time is an issue, hire a caregiver through an in-home care agency; the agency will perform all the background checks and match you with a caregiver who suits your needs.

The Interview

Interviews are always tricky because they require you to assess a person in a short amount of time. The following are a few questions and talking points for interviewing a candidate.

  • How long have you worked as a caregiver?
  • Tell me about your past work experience.
  • What did you like or not like about your previous jobs-and why?
  • Do you have any specialized training or experience?
  • Are you willing to perform the following duties? (List the duties you require, including any future needs that you anticipate.)
  • What activities do you think would be appropriate for my loved one?
  • How would you deal with my loved one being combative?
  • When are you happiest at work? (What makes work a good experience for you?)

Where to Find an Agency Caregiver

Home health care is classified into two categories, “skilled” and “custodial” care, based on Medicare’s definitions. Skilled care refers to more intensive medical care, provided by or supervised by nurses and therapists. Custodial care refers to help with bathing, dressing, cooking, shopping, and other daily tasks.

What agency you use depends, in part, upon whether your loved-one needs skilled nursing care, and whether Medicare or Medicaid will cover the care.

To find a formal, paid, agency caregiver, look in the phone book or on the Internet under:

  • Area Agency on Aging
  • Home Health Care
  • In-Home Care
  • Caregiver Agency
  • Visiting Nurse Agency

Here are some questions to ask when looking for an agency caregiver:

  • What services does the agency provide?
  • Who is on the Care Team?
  • What are the costs for services? Are there a minimum number of hours per week or for each visit? Are there any extra charges that could arise?
  • Is the agency certified to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement?
  • How does the agency determine what services the care-receiver needs?
  • How will the care be coordinated?
  • How do I reach a supervisor if there is a problem?
  • Will the same person care for my loved-one consistently?
  • What training has the staff received?
  • How much say does the family have in the Care Plan?
  • Is the agency licensed by the state and in compliance with all state regulations?
  • Is the agency insured and bonded?
  • Does the agency provide worker’s compensation so you are not liable if an employee is injured on the job?
  • Can the agency provide references?

Assemble a Care Team

It’s not enough to find one good caregiver to help with your loved-one. You need to assemble a Care Team—the more help you coordinate, the better your loved-one will be taken care of. Learn to share the care.