In-home senior care can help an aging family member stay at home but hiring someone can seem like a monumental task. Good relationships between the care provider, the person requiring assistance, and the rest of the family are essential for a happy, functional household. Hiring an overqualified worker leads to unnecessary expense, while employing an under-qualified candidate can have disastrous consequences.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you choose the right in-home senior care professional to assist your aging family member.
How to Hire an In-Home Senior Care Professional
Assess your home care needs and preferences
The National Caregiver’s Library provides the Needs Assessment Worksheet to make assessing your in-home care needs easier. Be sure to consult with the senior in need of care when detailing your needs and preferences in a care provider. This information can help you determine whether your loved one’s needs are minor and only require the help of a nurse’s aide, for example, or advanced enough to warrant hiring an RN.
Create a job description
Use information gathered from the assessment to create the job description. Be sure to include information about the level of healthcare training required, whether a car and valid driver’s license are necessary, if heavy lifting is involved, and any special language or caregiving skills.
Create a clear contract that spells out the terms of employment, including:
Duties and responsibilities: Hours, schedule, duties, privileges, meals
Compensation and benefits: Rate of pay, frequency of paychecks, and benefits including days off, vacation, insurance, performance review
Transportation: Guidelines for using your family’s car or public transportation
Discretion and confidentiality: Detail your family’s expectations of privacy
Notice and severance: Determine the actions required of each party if the job ends
Finances/taxes: While it is tempting to pay caregivers under the table, it is risky and illegal. The caregiver must file a Form 1040, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and may be required to pay self-employment tax.
Get a personal recommendation from friends, family, and trusted community members. Advertise for help at nearby senior centers, independent living centers, and college career centers, especially those with nursing or social work programs. Your local National Association on Area Agencies on Aging can provide information about places to advertise for in-home care, nurses and nurse registries in your area, and lists of home care agencies. They can also offer tax help for seniors.
Screen applicants according to the skill level and availability. Schedule telephone interviews with a handful of candidates. During the telephone interview, describe the job, hours and wages in detail. Schedule an in-person interview with acceptable applicants.
Conduct an interview
Prepare a list of questions to ask during the interview. Questions could include:
- Where have you worked previously?
- What were your duties there?
- How do you feel about providing care for someone with memory problems? (Or other specific disability)
- Are you comfortable cooking for other people?
- How do you handle people who are angry, stubborn, fearful?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license and car?
- Are you able to transfer someone from a wheelchair into a bed?
- How many days per week are you available? What days and hours can you work?
- Is there any task listed in the job description that you are uncomfortable performing?
Request at least work-related and one personal reference, including previous employers, teachers or college professors, neighbors, and call each one Provide a sample contract for the applicant to read.
Look for the candidate to make eye contact when speaking with you and your family member. Watch how the applicant interacts with the family member for whom the candidate will be providing care. Be wary of those who ask you questions instead of asking your loved one. Most of all, look for someone who seems to genuinely enjoy working with seniors. Experience is important but passion is essential.
Seek out a candidate who is warm, yet professional. Avoid caregivers who ask about bringing children to work, watching television or request other treatment.
After the interview
Write down notes about your first impression of the candidate. Discuss your thoughts and feelings with other members of the family or a friend. Consider the applicant’s qualifications but choose a person with whom you and your family feel comfortable.
Check the potential caregiver’s credentials and licensing. Some states require licensure and certification for in-home caregivers. Look for a candidate who has the right healthcare training in nursing and experience in the field. Find out if the individual Red Cross certified in First Aid and CPR.
Run a background check on all potential hires, whether you go through an agency or hire someone yourself. Some states require that agencies run a background check on their employees. Type the candidate’s name into Google or another search engine. Look up the person on Facebook to learn more about her.
Call each reference and ask clear questions, such as “Were you satisfied with the care the individual provided?” or “Was the individual reliable?” You may not always hear outright complaints so listen for subtle clues, such as hesitation to comment, which can indicate dissatisfaction.
While years of patient care experience is important, consider candidates who have provided care for only a handful of clients but who took care of them for a very long time. Reliability, loyalty, and dedication are essential to optimal care.
Determine immigration status so that you do not get into trouble for hiring an illegal immigrant. Request and document the caregiver’s immigration status using I9 form as needed.
Hiring an in-home care provider is a sensitive process that, at first glance, may seem overwhelming. Breaking it down into small steps makes hiring a senior care professional easier and more effective.