As more and more Baby Boomers reach retirement, the concept of their childrenâ€”Generation Xâ€”eventually assisting in their long-term care becomes more humbling and even a little daunting. Often called the Sandwich Generation, these children of boomers are likely still raising their own children while also caring for elderly parents.
Whether those parents still maintain their independence in their own home or have come to live in your home, the additional care can become exhausting. If one of those parents is ill, disabled in some way, or needs specialized care because of a progressive illness like dementia, the burden is even further amplified.
Luckily, there are many qualified, skilled professional caregivers who are available to help alleviate the stress and provide respite for the full-time, family caregiver.
Once you have decided to enlist the help of a caregiver, the concern then becomes how to select the best caregiver for your loved one. I recently sat down with Julie Aiken, CEO of Ameritech College of Healthcare, where we discussed four of the best ways to ensure youâ€™ve hired a good, quality caregiver.
- Ask for referrals
As a new, overly cautious parent, you likely asked several friends and family members to share the names of their favorite pediatricians, right? The same should most certainly be true when looking to hire a healthcare provider for your elderly loved one.
â€œThe most important thing that I would do first is to ask people I know for a referral,â€ Aiken said.
Donâ€™t limit yourself to just one referral, either. Get multiple suggestions, and ask for details. How did they choose that particular agency? What did they like best? What was the name of their caregiver? Were there ever any problems? Try to get some honest feedback so you can make a fully educated decision.
- Research the agencies
With so many hospice and home health agencies popping up right and left that claim to provide the best caregivers for the elderly, it is your responsibility to thoroughly investigate each and every agency to ensure you are signing on for the best possible care.
Even if the agency comes with a high recommendation, you still need to do your own research. â€œYou want to make sure that the agency has hired the professional caregiver themselves, has conducted background checks, verified education and prior in-home care experience, and carries the proper insurance for workersâ€™ compensation claims,â€ said Tamar Shovali, an assistant professor of human development at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, who specializes in aging and caregiving.
Questions for the agency should include the following:
- Do they conduct criminal background checks?
- Is drug screening mandatory?
- Is the agency bonded and insured?
- What competencies does the agency expect the caregiver to have? Cooking? Feeding? Dressing?
- What medical training and certifications, like first aid and CPR, are required by each caregiver?
- What type of mobility training are the caregivers required to have?
- Do they conduct surprise visits?
- Do your own background checks
After researching the agency at length, once you have been assigned a caregiver, take some time to do a background check on him or her.
â€œItâ€™s important to interview, call multiple references, run background checks, and trust your gut instinct,â€ said Care.com’s Mary Stehle, LICSW and Senior Care Advisor.
If the caregiver is a CNA, you can search the stateâ€™s board of nursing website to verify a license. Simply type in the personâ€™s name for a listing of any restrictions or disciplinary actions.
After youâ€™ve done your background check, introduce the caregiver to your loved one. Let them spend some supervised time together getting to know each other to better determine if the match is a good fit.
- Install a security camera system
For ultimate peace of mind, especially when you are away from home for long periods when the caregiver might be attending the patient alone, security cameras are a great safety measure. With new advances in technology, you can actually check in anytime, right from your smartphone.
To encourage full transparency, let the caregiver know about the cameras, mentioning that you are installing the system to not only help you monitor the overall care of your loved one while you are away but also allow you to help reinforce the caregiverâ€™s efforts and help in disease prevention, suggested Aiken.
By closely following these four steps, doing a good amount of research and checking of references, you and your family can feel confident that your loved one will receive the very best in-home care possible.
Amy Osmond Cook wrote this article. She is executive director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers.