Choose a Licensed Caregiver Agency
Although it may be tempting to hire a private individual as a caregiver, it can be a risky move. Most district attorneys and law enforcement officials have dealt with cases in which valuables or money were stolen by unlicensed, private caregivers. In addition, an unlicensed caregiver is more likely to ask for "loans" or not be qualified to provide proper care, especially in an emergency. They may have had little or no training or experience in dealing with medications, lifting people who have fallen, knowing when to call 911 or handling other situations. A better solution is to deal directly with an agency which is bonded and responsible for training and assisting you in choosing the appropriate employee for your situation.
What to Look for in a Licensed Caregiver Agency
The State of California has a Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act which requires agencies to meet certain requirements. Even if you live in another state, these are guidelines you should look for in any agency you may choose to employ:
* They should conduct background checks on their employees
* They should provide an employee dishonesty bond
* They should provide training (although in California only 5 hours are required)
* They should carry liability insurance
* They should keep records on any reports of suspected abuse
* They should provide workers compensation coverage for their employees
What to Look for in the Caregiver Who Comes to Your Home
Whether you are hiring the caregiver for yourself or a family member, you want to make sure they will be a good fit and able to handle the job. You should insist on meeting the caregiver before they begin working alone with you or your family member. There are certain issues to consider:
* You need to recognize that a caregiver is NOT there to provide medical care. The caregiver is employed to provide needed assistance with activities of daily living such as grocery shopping, cooking, feeding, bathing, dressing, dispensing medication at the appropriate times, or moving the client from the bed to a wheelchair or making similar transitions. They may also drive them to medical appointments and social engagements.
* The caregiver should be a self-starter, recognize when something needs to be done, and be willing and energetic enough to do it.
* The ideal caregiver should have a caring personality. They should smile often, be willing to give a hug occasionally, listen to repetitive stories, and laugh at the funny ones. Since they may be the only person their client sees regularly, they need to be able to fill of the role of both caregiver and friend.
* They should be willing and able to keep their client as active as possible, helping with their physical therapy exercises and enabling them attend their favorite social events or fitness classes.
* The caregiver should be observant and intuitive, able to recognize when "something doesn't feel right." They should be comfortable letting other family members or medical personnel know if they suspect there is a problem and be ready to call 911 in an emergency. They should also be good communicators and able to explain any changes they see.
* They should be diplomatic and discrete in dealing with other family members, especially if their client is dying, goes on hospice or becomes stressed when certain relatives are around.
What You Can Do to Help the Caregiver
Whether you hire a caregiver for yourself or a family member, there are steps you can take to make their job easier and more beneficial for the client.
* Give the patient the opportunity to have input in choosing the caregiver. They are the one who will spend their days with this person and you want to hire someone they will enjoy being with. The patient also needs to be involved in compiling the instructions which will be given to the caregiver, so they feel they still have ultimate control over how they will spend the final months or years of their life.
* Provide the caregiver with a detailed list of medications and when each one should be taken.
* Provide a list of the patient's favorite foods and recipes, as well as any mealtime preferences and food allergies.
* Explain sleeping, television, music and other preferences to the caregiver.
* Make sure the caregiver knows who is and is not allowed in the home with the client.
* Have the physical therapist or other medical personnel show the caregiver any exercises the client should be doing, the proper way to move the person and other important details of their care.
* Give the caregiver a list of emergency numbers ... family members, doctors, therapists, etc.
* Put all this information and anything else which you think will be important in a binder which the caregiver can refer to if they have any questions. This is especially important because occasionally the caregiver may become ill and a substitute caregiver will take their place.
You should also make arrangements to have bills paid, taxes done and other business matters handled by someone other than the caregiver. The caregiver should not be expected to take care of these things, so another family member, conservator, or public guardian will need to handle these matters if you or your family member becomes unable to handle their financial affairs.
If you need more information about retirement planning, common medical issues, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, changing family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be released by Griffin Publishing later in the fall of 2017.
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