If you’ve ever considered hiring someone to take care of an elderly relative, you will have realized that it can be a daunting task. Placing a loved one in a care home may not be the answer you are looking for, so finding someone to take care of them in their own home may be the best thing.
So, where do you start looking?
There are several levels of live-in care options and the type of carer you hire will greatly depend on the needs of your loved one.
This type of care offers only companionship. It does not include any medical assistance. Companion carers are there to offer friendship and company, they will help with light housework and things like shopping and collecting medication.
A personal carer will be able to help with bathing, dressing and toileting. They are always specially trained in administering medication. They will also be trained in using hoists and other equipment.
Home health and skilled nursing
Carers who work at this level have been trained to help with clients who have serious illnesses such as cancer. They also help with clients who are recovering from accidents or surgery. This level of carer often does not include any companion services such as shopping or housekeeping, they are there to ensure that your loved one stays on the road to recovery.
Many people who are looking for a live-in carer for a loved one need a carer who is in the ‘personal’ range of care giving.
What should you look for in a personal carer for your senior person?
Are they friendly and relatively outgoing? Do they seem easy to get along with? Ideally you should look for a person who seems to get along with most people and is comfortable talking to different people.
Do their hobbies and interests have anything in common with your loved one? A suitable carer should be able to adapt a routine to include her client such as going for walks on sunny days rather than sitting in front of the TV.
Things in common
For a relationship to work, there needs to be some common ground, even if it is only one area such as reading or cooking. There needs to be something that your loved one and carer can chat about.
Tact and diplomacy
When you interview the potential carer, you should ask one or two questions which will need thoughtful answers. This will give you an idea of how tactful and diplomatic the person is. Senior people often need a person who can tell them something in a kind and pleasant way instead of being harsh and judgmental.
Handling difficult situations
Before you hire a carer for your senior, you have every right to ask them how they would handle certain situations. How would they handle it if your mom fell? What would they do if they could not wake her up? You need to be sure that the carer will not panic and will follow the protocols you have in place.
Sense of humor
Look for a person who can laugh at herself, not make fun of others. She will need an immense amount of patience at times, while still respecting your loved one.
Can she cook?
A personal carer needs to be able to cook meals that your loved one enjoys. She may be a gourmet cook in her own country, but many older people like to eat traditional foods. She should be able to handle this with ease.
Depending on circumstances you may or may not need a carer who can drive. If you do, she needs to be able to drive on the correct side of the road and possibly use the car you offer, whether it is manual or automatic. You may ask for a valid drivers license, but if she is driving a car you provide, she also needs to be added to your auto insurance policy beforehand.
And now for the ‘official’ questions
The CRB (background check)
The CRB (*available in the UK), must be in-date if you are to hire anyone to care for your loved one. You should be able to check this online to be sure that the potential carer is eligible to work with vulnerable people. Never be tempted to hire someone who does not have this, no matter how nice they seem to be.
The potential carer should be up to date on her training. Many agencies who place a carer insist that an annual update is done. This is to ensure that the carer is aware of any new developments in the care industry and the regulations that go with it. She will have received certificates showing what subjects were covered such as ‘Moving and Handling’ and ‘Medication’ and should be able to produce them for you.
Question the carer about previous employers and then follow up with a call to the past employers. Ask about competence and kindness. Check the reliability and bedside manner. Ask about honesty and trustworthiness. Never feel embarrassed about calling and asking about the carer as it is in your best interest to see how other employers have felt.
Right to work in the UK
Ask to see proof of this right to work. Again, do not be tempted to hire someone who cannot show you this proof.
To sum up
Look for a person who is warm and friendly, comfortable to be with and easy to talk to. Ideally you would like a person who takes his/her job – and all that goes with it – very seriously but can see the funny side of things. The ideal carer will be able to cook healthy and nutritious meals and keep the house neat and tidy. Driving may be an option, although this depends on circumstances.
The ideal carer to look after your senior is the one that you yourself feel at ease with. You should feel safe and assured that she is confident to handle any situation, and you should feel comfortable leaving her to look after your loved one.
Post Contributed by Valerie Holyoak for Live In Care Friends – a free portal for service users in the UK to find private individual carers that will provide care in their homes. Valerie has been a live-in carer for 11 years. She works in the UK and has extensive knowledge of many medical conditions affecting older people. Before she became a live-in carer, she taught exercise classes and provided personal training for seniors with limited mobility and other disabilities.