How to find the Mary Poppins of aging parent caregivers
Unless you live in Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, you can’t expect the East wind to magically blow a caregiver right to your doorstep. Therefore, take heed of the following recommendations to ensure you nab the best available caregiver.
· Don’t waste precious time. According to assistant professor of human development at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and aging and caregiving specialist Tamar Shovali, the gravest mistake people make is not hiring a professional caregiver right away. Most people seek the services of professional caregivers to relieve the stress, depression, fatigue, anxiety and resentment that come with providing care for a parent, especially if that parent has needs that you cannot meet, even if you have the disposition and the time. What they don’t know is that hiring a professional carer can also help to prevent these issues. As a matter of fact, professional aid in both home healthcare and adult day care settings can improve the mental health of non-professional caregivers. “The sooner you do your research, the better, because most caregivers regret not starting this process sooner,” Shovali says. She advises to research the services available in the community.
· Run a background check on the caregiver or agency. You could ask a friend or relative to recommend you a caregiver or agency, but that would be a half measure. “Don't be afraid to ask for the professional caregiver's credentials and prior experience,” says Shovali. “You 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 workers' compensation claims.”
· Assign equal importance to all factors. “There are three kinds of elements to having in-home care – the financial piece, the skills that the caregiver brings and the personality of the caregiver,” CEO of Stanton, California’s nonprofit continuing care retirement community Quaker Gardens Senior Living Randy Brown. “I think a mistake you can easily fall into is to only look at one of those elements and not equally weight all three. It's great if a caregiver has a wonderful personality and is honest, but if they have poor skills, that doesn't help your parent. Or if you focus so much on the financial side, you short yourself on the other two.”
· Keep your family informed. In many families there are siblings that like to contribute nothing to the care of their parents other than their opinion. Thus, even if you have to hire – and even pay for – the caregiver on your own, make sure to include your siblings in the interview process in order to avoid misunderstandings later. “It's pretty common that the lead child, if you will, does all the work and has met with us and goes in with the right expectations”, Brown says, “and then another sibling has a completely different expectation.”
· Remain involved. Even if you find a caregiver who is “practically perfect in every way”, that doesn’t mean you can wash your hands off your aged parent; that would make you no different than your hypothetical siblings mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. Ask your parent how the caregiver thing is working out for them. Also ask them if they need help with their finances and instruct them not to leave valuables lying around unguarded. Most caregivers are upstanding individuals, but there is always a bad apple, like a caregiver who was recently arrested for stealing $140,000 from the elderly couple she was supposed to care for.