There often comes a time when caring for an aging parent or other loved one becomes more than a family member can regularly and easily handle. Even if the senior is living with you, helping them with basic activities of daily living, such as dressing or toileting, can become more challenging. If the senior is living alone, you want to be sure they are eating and living in a clean environment.

And as their medical needs increase, you may need a medical professional to care for your loved one.

If the senior is to continue living in their own home, choosing the right caregiver is important. In some cases, a non-skilled home health aide a few hours a week might be sufficient. On the other side of the spectrum, you might need a live-in nurse. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a caregiver who will keep them safe and sound.

9 tips for selecting a senior caregiver

The Institute on Aging offers these suggestions when beginning the selection process:

  1. Understand the daily needs they need help with
    Does the senior simply need help cooking and cleaning? Do you need someone to drive them to doctor appointments and the store? Or do they require medical care like managing medications, diabetes or colostomy bags? Take a geriatric assessment to understand whether you should hire a home aide or skilled nursing. If you decide the senior needs live-in help, look out for these household employee pitfalls.
  2. Evaluate the costs and your ability to pay
    Once you know the level of care you need, evaluate the family’s financial resources to pay. Home care can be expensive. Medicare is not usually a long-term option, so be realistic as to what the family can afford.
  3. Try to involve all stakeholders
    Are there other family members (brothers, sisters, grandchildren) or maybe neighbors and friends who can help? Be honest and open with them about the loved one’s needs and include them in the decision-making.
  4. Prepare a job description
    Before you start the hiring process, write a clear job description that details responsibilities and expectations so the person you hire knows exactly what is expected. Include all tasks, such as heavy lifting and driving. You’re on firmer ground if you need to terminate somebody for failure to perform job duties.
  5. Decide between an employment agency or private hire
    An employment agency has its benefits in that it should be performing the background checks and have staff readily available. Hiring on your own is time consuming. And if the caregiver quits or doesn’t show up, you’ll need to have a backup plan. Here are some pros and cons to help you evaluate.
  6. Get recommendations
    Ask doctors, family members, local senior centers and other senior-care resources for recommendations on people or agencies to work with. See if your county has a senior services agency to help you get started.
  7. Interview carefully
    You need to completely trust the person you hire to care for your loved one delicately, continuously and respectfully. So don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, but also recognize this is a difficult job and be respectful. Provide what-if scenarios, like “What if dad refuses to eat and yells at you? What would you do?”
  8. Conduct background checks
    Background checks are essential to protecting your loved one from physical and financial abuse or neglect. Start with a criminal background check. If they are licensed or credentialed, check with the regulating agency. Verify their residency status. Placement agencies should do this work for you, but then you should check on the reliability of the agency.
  9. Let the loved one participate, if possible
    This caregiver will be spending lots of time with your loved one, in their home. Naturally, they may be apprehensive, even angry. Depending on their mental capacity, and other limitations you face in selecting a professional, let them be part of the hiring process. Ideally, you’ll find someone who will seem more like a trusted family member or friend over time.

Our team at Senior Safe & Sound is here to help families keep their seniors safe. If you need more support or information, email us at info@SeniorSafeAndSound.org.