Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Caregiver

These tips will help you hire the right caregiver for a loved one – they’re from Bonnie Schroeder, the Director of Caregiving at VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) Canada.

“I’ve found through my work with caregivers and providers that there is an assumption that care providers know what to do without direction or instructions,” says Schroeder. “However, providers will tell me that everyone does things differently. It is important to establish clear expectations on both sides to avoid conflict and tension.”

Establishing caregiving guidelines at home may seem difficult or strange at first, but it’s an important way to start off on the right foot.

If you’re new to hiring a caregiver — or being a caregiver — you’ll find Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence by Gail Sheehy very helpful.

Hiring caregivers is about a developing a relationship to share the workload when you’re caring for an elderly or ill family member. Think of it as a partnership: how can the caregiver support you and your family? Most caregivers want to stay involved in the care of their family members, even if they’re hiring a paid caregiver.

Tips for supporting a positive relationship with your caregiver:

  • Reflect on your caregiving situation, home environment, mental and emotional stress, and the quality of relationship between yourself and care receiver.
  • Gain knowledge by using available resources, in order to better understand the various stages and aspects of caregiving, as well as the experiences of the care receiver.
  • Share your knowledge of your needs and the needs of the care receiver with your provider.
  • Provide honest and constructive feedback to the provider in order to ensure that mutual understanding is reached and that the provider is clear about how to provide support to meet your needs.
  • Ask about respite and other forms of support.

Important tip for family members: you can either hire an agency that acts as a broker for the services you require, or hire privately.

When hiring a caregiver, ask these questions:

  • What services does the caregiving agency provide?
  • How long has the agency been in business?
  • Is the agency insured or bonded?
  • Are the caregivers bonded?
  • Does the agency supply references for itself and its employees?
  • What type of training is required of employees?
  • Will the same caregiver come to the home each time?
  • Will a supervisor oversee the quality of care that is being received?
  • Does the agency perform an in-home assessment and create a care plan based on this assessment?
  • Will the caregiver or care receiver get a copy of the care plan?
  • What are the agency’s operating hours?
  • How flexible is the agency (with regard to its hours)?
  • What are the fees? Is there a sliding scale?
  • Are there payment plan options for hiring caregivers?
  • What are the financial procedures for billing, fee payment, and/or insurance coverage?
  • How does the agency deal with emergencies, holidays, and sick days?
  • Who does the family member or caregiver contact, if dissatisfied with the service?

You will also want to consider your feelings about the agency and/or hired caregiver. Ask yourself:

  • Are you and your family member comfortable with the agency/individual?
  • Does the applicant have the skills the position requires?
  • Do you trust the applicant, especially in emergency situations?
  • Are the personalities of the applicant and the care receiver well-matched?
  • Can you offer an anecdote about adjusting to hired help?

If you’re struggling with your elderly parents, you might find 3 Tips for Adult Children of Difficult Parents helpful.

Here, Schroeder shares the results of a focus group involving family members and caregivers:

Several years ago, I hosted focus groups with caregivers about their relationship with their home care nurses and support workers. One of the interesting themes that emerged was the tension about ‘my home’ is ‘your workplace.’

Caregivers discussed the tension of having providers in their home and having system rules imposed in their home (smoking while the provider is in the home, sequestering pets while provider was in the home, and shovelling driveways prior to provider arriving) or home rules not being respected (providers wearing outside shoes in their home, storing samples in their fridge, not knocking before entering the home).

As one Caregiver Focus Group participant reflected:

“It is different having someone coming into your home to provide care…I felt anxious about the nurse coming into our home. I finally got it; she was the first person… to ever cross the threshold of our bedroom. This is our space, our private space, you know. Now my husband’s care is done in the spare room. His stroke lives there…our private space is no longer breached.”

If you feel overwhelmed or burned out because of your caregiving responsibilities, read 8 Ways to Decrease Caregiver Stress.

And if you have any thoughts on how to hire a caregiver for your elderly or ill family member, please comment below…

For more info, visit Bonnie Schroeder, MSW, RSW, Director of Caregiving at VON Canada.


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