hospice, caring, nursing

How to choose your home-carer

Most of us acknowledge that, as we get older, we will become less and less capable of coping with everyday tasks and will eventually need a home-carer to help us. But what qualities does a home-carer require and how do you choose one so you can be sure they will take care of you as you wish?

professional home carer is someone who has been trained to look after another person, usually a retiree, in their own home for varying lengths of time each day or on certain days of the week.

The amount of time a carer will give will depend on a retiree’s needs. Some may need help for a short time each day, others may need care for several hours a day, while some others may require a series of visits in any one day. Everyone’s needs are different.

The work of a home carer

As everyone has differing needs, what carers have to do will vary remarkedly from client to client. As examples:

  • Home carers nearly always provide help in dressing, washing and bathing.
  • They may also undertake housekeeping duties such as making beds, cleaning the home, washing and ironing, and even preparing meals.
  • They will usually remind their clients to take their prescribed medicines and other medications at specified times during the day.
  • Carers may accompany retirees outdoors to go for walks or visit the shops and help them with their shopping
  • They may also run errands such as picking up groceries, posting letters, and so on.
  • Additionally, they may have to help very enfeebled clients take gentle exercise or change their position in an armchair or bed.

One of a carer’s most important duties is to provide companionship … chatting and listening to your stories of the old days, and being cheery and positive under all circumstances … spending time with you as you are enjoying a hobby or reminiscing by rifling through old photographs.

The qualities a home-carer needs

There are many qualities a good home-carer must have if you are going to feel comfortable with their presence and their services in your home. These qualities include being:

Respectful at all times … as you age and your physical and mental capacities decline, it is all too easy for whoever is looking after you to become patronising. As we all resent being talked down to, nothing could be more hurtful to your feelings.

Empathetic … your carer’s the ability to understand and share your feelings is one of the most important qualities she must have. Without empathy, the relationship between you and your carer, which is so necessary for a pleasant experience, will not develop.

Reliable … older people are less tolerant of tardiness than younger persons and if your carer makes a habit of failing to turn up on time, she will quite quickly lose your trust.

Patient … as we become older we become slower on the uptake and take a longer time to think things through and make decisions. Our reaction time is much reduced and we also become slower in doing things. Thus, your home-carer needs to have a great deal of patience.  

Caring … that is being passionate about the job of taking care of you and putting you first. A carer needs to be observant, able to see what you need and keep up a smile at all times, even under stress.

Qualified … both through relevant experience, and through training and certification. Both are important so that your carer can handle any situations that turns up.

Nearby … a carer who lives nearby and can pop in should you have a sudden need is a plus … having a driving licence and a car also would be a double-plus.

You should search for these qualities when you interview home-carers.

In addition, you should ensure that they have good references which you can check easily. Ideally they should have been vetted by the police and have a police clearance certificate.

How to find a home-carer

There are several ways in which you can find a home-carer:

From state services … you contact your local healthcare office which may provide a free home-carer service. Though hours per week are normally limited, these carers are usually well trained and certified, and thoroughly vetted so interviewing them in depth is not usually necessary.

Through an agency … you contact an agency who specialise in recruiting and developing home-carers. Their carers will also have been vetted properly and they’ll have been trained to high standards. Some will have certificates earned on education and training courses.

A senior manager from the agency will probably come to visit you accompanied by a home-carer who is being proposed by the agency. The purpose of the visit will be to introduce you to the suggested carer and to see if you will get along together.

A full formal interview is not necessary but you may find it worthwhile to ask some of the questions in the checklist below.

Privately … you or your family advertise or put the word out among friends and acquaintances that you are looking for a home-carer. In this case, you will need to conduct a full interview and verify references and police reports yourself, perhaps with the help of your adult children or other family members.

The purpose of interviewing a home-carer

The interview has many important purposes.

Overall, you want to find out if she is a ‘good fit’ for you:

  • For a start, you need to make sure that the carer understands that her role is to improve your life as you are no longer able to do things for yourself.
  • You also need to make sure that she understands that her role is vital in keeping you in the comfort of your home rather than having to go into a nursing home for the elderly.
  • The carer must appreciate your need for privacy and a sense of independence.
  • You need to find out if your carer will be able to anticipate your needs (eg, to go to the toilet) and, rather than helping straight away, will first ask if you need her help, thus respecting your need for a semblance of independence.
  • You need to find out if the carer can communicate with you at your level and that she displays empathy towards you.   
  • You need to be reassured that the applicant’s previous experience has prepared her to take good care of you.

Hopefully, the checklist below will help. It is based on one I used to use when interviewing home-carers for my mother and enabled us to find suitable and amenable carers with whom my mother felt relaxed, secure, and at ease.

Remember that the purpose of the interview is to find out if you are suitbae for each other, in other words, that you are a good fit.

I hope you found this post and the checklist below useful.


Checklist for interviewing a home-carer

QUESTIONS

General

Why do you think home-carers are important?

Will you respect my dignity when you are helping me in the bathroom?

Qualifications and experience

Have you been trained as a home-carer?

Where did you do your training?

What certifications do you have?

Do you have training in first aid?

How much experience do you have?

For how long have you been caring for people in their own homes?

Have you been caring for people in any other environments?

If so, what kind of caring?

Do you have references with contact numbers?

Have you ever cared for someone with my medical condition?

Why do you think you’ll be successful as my carer?

How will your previous experience help you in caring for me?

Has a client ever professed profound gratitude for the care you were giving them?

As a home-carer, what kinds of people have you taken care of in the past?

Difficulties and problems

Have you ever had a difficult client?

If so, how did you handle them?

How do you cope with handling the emotional and mental state of the person you are caring for?

What would you do if you found out that a colleague was behaving badly towards a client?

Have you ever handled an emergency situation?

If yes, what happened and what did you do in that situation?

Practicalities

Do you have a driver’s licence?

Do you have a clean driving record?

Do you have reliable transportation?

Are you insured?

How far from here do you live?

Do you have other commitments?

Are your hours flexible?

Would you be available for a stay-over on long weekends?

Would you be available for respite care?

Scenarios

[1] Suppose I get into a mood and will not cooperate but have a doctor’s appointment … how would you handle this situation?

[2] If I have a fall, seem confused, don’t recognise you and won’t let you help me … what would you do?

[3] If you found me with a fever and I’m listless … what would you do?

ANSWERS

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