Safe and Sound at Home: Part 4- How to Hire a Care Giver

Newspapers are filled with want-ads by individuals seeking employment as caregivers and individuals needing care. many who work with seniors in health-related fields recommend that you not hire a caregiver "off the street." If you are choosing the route of private-hire, it is much better to get recommendations from friends or family members. Whichever model you choose, private-hire, Full-Service Agency, or Domestic Referral Agency (DRA), you should be fully engaged in the process. 


Dependability, patience, and compassion

The most important qualities in a caregiver are dependability, patience and compassion. These qualities should be evident when you see the candidate with the elderly person. Good caregivers enjoy helping seniors. For example, they enjoy the reminiscing and should display patience with both occasional and chronic forgetfulness. 

Work History

A candidate should have a strong work history that can be evaluated. Do former employers speak favorably about the person without reservation? Are there any "red flags" in the former employer's evaluation? Do the accounts of the employer and the caregiver match up? Are there significant gaps in the employment history? If so, why? 

Health History

A potential caregiver should offer proof of a negative TB skin test. In certain situations, physical strength and stamina are important. Can the caregiver safely transfer your loved one from the bed to a wheelchair if necessary? Does she have any chronic conditions that could keep her out of work for long periods at a time? 

Personal Issues

Does she have reliable transportation? Does he have family situations and circumstances that could interfere with his ability to work? Look for people with little or no drama in their personal lives. 

It is imperative that a caregiver understands the typical behaviors of a dementia patient and what those behaviors mean. - Larry Dawes, Senior Connection, Eskaton


Below is a list of suggested questions to ask a candidate. You must take into consideration the particular needs of your loved one and add questions that fit your specific situation. 

  1. Why are you seeking employment as a caregiver? 
  2. Have you ever cared for an elderly person before? Was this person a relative or family member? 
  3. What kinds of training and experience do you have in care-giving? 
  4. What qualities do you have that make you a good caregiver? 
  5. What weaknesses may hinder your ability to do the job? 
  6. What is your least favorite task in care-giving? How do you handle it? 
  7. What is your favorite aspect of the job? Why? 
  8. How would you handle an elderly person who resists your encouragement to complete a necessary task, such as finishing a meal in order to take medication with a full stomach? 
  9. How would you handle an uncomfortable situation, such as an elderly person who is in the bathroom and unable to complete the task of toileting? 



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Interviewing For the Memory-Impaired

Memory-care patients create unique caregiving challenges that require experience and knowledge of brain diseases such as Alzheimer's. The questions on the previous page (22) are designed to test whether the potential caregiver has insight into caring for individuals with memory loss. Some may claim experience or knowledge that proves to be false or inadequate. 

It is imperative that a caregiver understands they typical behaviors of a dementia patient. For example, the caregiver needs to know what to look for if the client is in pain or needs to be toileted and cannot verbally tell the caregiver. 

"Memory patients may experience a variety of behavior issues: disrobing in public, sun-downing, hallucinations, and aggression. These create a very stressful care situation."- Yvonne Speer, Program Coordinator, Alzheimer's Dementia Program, Kaiser

Personality Differences

As the period of transition unfolds with the new caregiver, personality differences may become evident. For example, some caregivers are talkative, and others are quiet. While some are direct in their style of leadership, others are less assertive. Perhaps your loved one is doing well with a caregiver, but the spouse or other family member does not feel comfortable. Many possibilities for relational tension or conflict exist. Some families or recipients of care have a difficult time treating the caregiver as an employee. They may view the caregiver as a guest and continue to worry about his or her comfort and convenience. This dynamic can hinder the care relationship and should be carefully monitored by you. 

"Frequent transitions in the living environment and the fact that multiple caregivers are used in a facility may exacerbate the stress and emotional trauma for a person with memory loss." - Carol Shaneen, Case manager, Sutter Roseville Hospital