How to Hire the Best Caregiver

By July 25, 2018Caregiving

The best caregivers we hire at LivHOME help seniors live safely and independently in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own homes. By hiring the best caregiver who is right for your family, you’ll help a loved one lead a healthier and more meaningful life—plus, you’ll benefit from the peace of mind that comes from knowing they’re being well cared for.

Bear in mind that caregiving services are not “one-size-fits-all,” and you’ll need to do some research to find which caregiver is best for your family. Take the time to do your due diligence, and you’ll find the right caregiver who will become a trusted part of your family, helping you all enjoy a better quality of life.

Steps to Hiring the Best Caregiver for You

Hiring the best caregiver does not need to be difficult. Just follow these five steps:

  1. Identify your caregiving needs
  2. Understand your caregiving options
  3. Define the caregivers’ responsibilities
  4. Ask the caregiver questions
  5. Protect yourself

Identify Your Caregiving Needs

First consider your loved one’s overall care needs, including personal, household, physical, social, and emotional. Remember that finding the right type of caregiver services will allow you to positively impact the senior’s independence, security, and well-being.

Understand Your Caregiving Options

There are three basic ways to hire caregiver services for the elderly. You can hire:

  1. A private caregiver through your personal network
  2. An independent caregiver through a caregiver registry
  3. A caregiving agency with trained caregivers and support staff

Of the three options, a caregiving agency provides the most comprehensive assistance to families. Why? Because caregiving agencies are staffed with licensed, bonded, and insured caregivers who are trained and supervised by professional care managers who must follow your state’s rules and regulations. These rules are in place to protect you and your loved one, and caregivers must abide by them.

Define the Caregivers’ Responsibilities

The next step to hiring the caregiver who is best for your family is to conduct research online or ask for suggestions from your loved one’s doctor and staff, friends and neighbors, a faith community, or the local senior center.

Create a job description for your potential caregiver that clearly lays out your expectations and their duties. What are the tasks that they’re supposed to complete, and how often do they need to be done? Make sure you have all this, and more, in writing.

Ask the Caregiver Questions

Properly vet all caregiving providers by asking these critical questions:

  • Are they licensed by the state? (Most states require this)
  • How long have they been in business as an agency?
  • How long have the individual caregivers been in this line of work?
  • What training have the caregivers received? How have they been supervised and supported?
  • Are the individual caregivers insured?
  • Can they provide written information about services and fees?
  • Can they provide references?

Protect Yourself

To protect yourself and your loved one from hiring the wrong caregiver, make sure to take your due diligence seriously:

  • Understand your state laws
  • Understand your liabilities and tax implications
  • Check at least three references
  • Complete a background check via an online site or through your personal and professional networks

Once you’ve found the right caregiving provider, don’t just settle for a handshake. You need to sign a contract that spells out the provider’s responsibilities.

Look for the Best Qualities of the Caregiver

Ultimately, your goal is to empower and encourage your elderly loved one so they can live happily and independently in their home for as long as possible. That’s why it’s critical to find the best caregiver who will not only prioritize safety and security but also provide compassionate, dignified care, prioritizing your loved one’s autonomy and joyful connectedness to the world.

Think about it: If you were no longer able to bathe yourself, would you instead be helped by someone who made you feel “less than” because they always reminded you of what you couldn’t do, or by someone who genuinely engaged with you as a care partner?

The best caregivers consider the whole person and will help your loved one enjoy life to the fullest. They believe that no one is too old or too frail to experience some form of laughter, fun, or joy on a regular basis, and their job is to figure out how best to make that happen so that it can be incorporated into a caregiving plan.

Understand the Different Skill Levels of Caregivers

As you search for a type of caregiver who is the best fit for your family and your elderly loved one, you should bear in mind that different caregivers have different levels of skill and qualifications. Not every caregiver will be able to perform every job. You will want to ensure that your caregiver’s skills are a good match for your loved one’s needs. The different skill level of caregivers include:

  • Homemakers/Companions/Sitters
  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Home Health Aides (HHAs)
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)
  • Registered Nurses (RNs)

Homemakers/Companions/Sitters

Companions, homemakers, and sitters are considered lower-skilled caregivers. They are not qualified to provide medical care of any sort. Because their responsibilities are limited to domestic chores and companionship, they do not require specific licensure. Companion caregivers and homemakers can offer support and entertainment, transportation, help with medication reminders, assistance with exercise, and performance of housekeeping/cooking duties. These types of caregivers can provide live-in help or work as hourly employees.

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Home Health Aides (HHAs)

Certified nursing assistants and home health aides require licensing, for which criteria vary by state. They can perform all of the functions of a companion but often serve under the supervision of either a doctor or registered nurse (RN). CNAs and HHAs are adequately trained to provide personal care services such as helping individuals bathe, use the restroom, and assist in getting into and out of bed and a wheelchair. They can also be either live-in or hourly employees.

Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)

A licensed vocational nurse, or LVN, is licensed by the state and serves under the supervision of either a doctor or a registered nurse (RN). LVNs execute the treatment plan of their supervising doctor or nurse. A licensed vocational nurse can do everything a companion and CNA can do and can serve as either live-in or hourly employees.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

The state licenses registered nurses (RNs). They can independently provide skilled nursing services, such as medication administration and injections. A registered nurse can create and execute treatment plans. They are most likely employed to provide oversight and high-level clinical services.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Caregiver

As you’re searching for the best caregivers, be sure to consider the full range of caregiving options. You can hire a caregiver through a caregiving agency, independent caregiver registry, or a private caregiver.

Caregiving Agency

When hiring a caregiver from a caregiving agency, there are some critical questions to ask, things to look for, and pitfalls to be aware.

—Questions to Ask

For prospective caregiving agencies:

  • What unique benefits do you offer?
  • How is using a caregiving agency better for my loved one vs. hiring privately?
  • Do you employ your own staff of personal caregivers, live-in caregivers, homemakers, and companions?
  • How are your caregivers screened (criminal background check, drug testing, TB testing, and driving record verifications)?
  • What does their ongoing training and support look like?
  • Do you provide all the appropriate insurance coverage, including liability and worker’s compensation?
  • Do you provide in-home and on-call support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
  • How will you assess my loved one’s care needs? (They should send a credentialed professional to conduct a thorough care assessment.)
  • Can you describe how your care plans are put together? (A good agency will provide a personalized care plan, tailoring services to each client.)
  • Do you provide information, referrals, and coordination of local resources?
  • Can you help my family navigate insurance coverage options and maximize reimbursements?

—What to Look For

When considering prospective agencies, look for a company that will match the needs of your loved one. Caregiving is not a one-size-fits-all package, so it is essential that you feel the services are customized and fit well based on your loved one’s needs. Do they offer the services of a geriatric care manager, nurses, social workers, gerontologists, or other experts in elderly care to supervise the caregiver and support the family?

Before you start with an agency, you should also consider the top 2–3 other criteria that are important to you. The most top-ranked criteria include:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Reliability
  • Peace of mind
  • Staff experience
  • Staff credentials

It’s also important to check the reputation of each agency you are considering. Online reviews on Yelp or Caring.com, testimonials, and social media conversations are good indicators of how satisfied other families have been with agencies.

—Common Pitfalls

Although costs are an essential consideration, it’s important not to let it be the sole factor driving your choice of caregiving services. Make sure to interview multiple caregiving agencies to get a good sense of how you feel about the respective management teams and staff. In the long term, it’s more important to find a care team that is a good fit for your family; this will help prevent you from switching caregiving agencies over time, which could incur unexpected costs.

It’s important, too, to take the time you need to complete this exploration thoroughly. Rushing into a caregiver choice because circumstances seem urgent is rarely the best approach for long-term satisfaction. And remember: The best way to maximize the benefits of care for your senior loved one and to ensure optimal choices is to plan. Ideally, your family should begin exploring care options long before they become necessary.

Independent Caregiver Registry

Should you decide to hire a caregiver through an independent caregiver registry, there are also crucial questions to ask, things to look for, and pitfalls to be aware.

—Questions to Ask

For the prospective caregiver registry:

  • What are your requirements for caregiver registration?
  • How do you screen your prospective caregivers?
  • Do I have to pay any fees if I hire a caregiver through your service?

For prospective independent caregivers:

  • What is your experience with different types of elderly care?
  • Are you willing and able to perform the duties necessary for this job?
  • Do you enjoy working with the elderly?

Remember, too: You are the caregiver’s direct employer! You should also ask for and verify:

  • Credentials and licensure
  • References
  • The ability to legally work in the country
  • Background checks

—What to Look For

When considering prospective independent caregiver registries, you want to find someone who is both compatible with your loved one and who can also address their individual needs. Not only should the independent caregiver’s skill set and work experience match the job description, but there should also be a good rapport between the senior and their caregiver. Pay close attention to this rapport.

—Common Pitfalls

Remember that a caregiver registry service performs limited screening; it is not a full-service caregiving agency. A common pitfall is that while a caregiver registry may bring clarity to the issue of how to find a caregiver, it will be far less helpful than a caregiving agency when it comes to the actual business of how to hire a caregiver that is the best fit for your family.

If you are overextended from caring for your loved one and other responsibilities, or if you are unfamiliar with how to hire a caregiver, you might find it tempting to cut corners. However, devoting adequate time and energy is, in fact, essential to the hiring process and your role as an employer.

Private Caregiver

Once you have identified candidates for the private caregiver position you’re seeking to fill, you’ll need to ask the following critical questions. Be on the lookout for specific issues and certain pitfalls.

—Questions to Ask

For prospective private caregivers:

  • What is your experience with different types of elderly care?
  • Are you willing and able to perform the duties necessary for this job?
  • Do you enjoy working with the elderly?

Remember too: You are the employer! You will have to ask for and verify:

  • Credentials and licensure
  • References
  • The ability to legally work in the country
  • Background checks

Check out Family Caregiver Alliance resources that can help you perform a complete background check.

—What to Look For

If you believe that hiring a private caregiver is right for you, it’s critical to find someone who is most comfortable with your loved one. It’s essential that their skill set and experience matches the job and that there is a close rapport between the senior and their caregiver.

—Common Pitfalls

The drawbacks of hiring a private caregiver are similar to those of hiring through a caregiver registry. For instance, when employing a caregiver independently, you will not receive any guidance about selecting the right individual. If you are already overextended from caring for your senior loved one, or if you are unfamiliar with how to hire a caregiver, you might be tempted to cut corners and skip or reduce the research that is required to find the right fit. Do your due diligence! Your hard work will pay off in the end when you find a caregiver who can meet the needs and preferences of your elderly loved one and your family as a whole.

What Should You Do Next?

Researching and hiring the best caregiver for your family can be challenging. We understand because, since 1999, LivHOME has provided senior care services for more than 25,000 families just like yours. Please schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation today. We are here to help you on your caregiving journey and will work with you to meet your elderly loved one’s caregiving needs.

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