Interviewing Private Caregivers for Your Home Care Job

Assess their character, check references, run a background check, and schedule a trial period.

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  

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Family member sitting down with caregiver to conduct interview

  Need help finding care?

Assess the Person's Character

When considering going the route of hiring a private caregiver, you're first and main priority should be finding someone who is compassionate, sensible, and caring. You should begin to assess a person's character from the start of the interview. Listen to how the caregiver talks about his or her own family and friends. Encourage the prospective employee to share details about any previous caregiving experiences. Keep in mind that often subtle clues can be detected in the tone of a person's voice as well as what is actually said. Be sure to observe the caregiver's interactions with your loved one when he or she is able to participate in the interview process. Observe some of the following interactions such as...

  1. Does the caregiver smile a lot?
  2. Does he or she touch your loved one's hand or shoulder?
  3. Does the caregiver make an effort to talk to your elderly loved one?
  4. Does the caregiver listen attentively?
  5. Does he or she respond appropriately?
  6. Does he or she include your elderly loved one in the conversation?

Check References From Past Employers

Your next consideration is likely to be the competency and reliability of a potential employee. Can he or she manage all aspects of the care necessary? Will they show up on time or at all? When hiring privately, your best bet is to obtain several references from past employers and question them specifically about dependability and performance of a caregiver. Ask questions such as...

  1. Did he or she give reasonable notice when unable to work?
  2. Did the employee adhere to safe practices in the home?
  3. Did the employee have any incident reports filed?
  4. Did the employee have any substantiated complaints registered against them?
  5. Did he or she receive salary raises or promotions based on merit?

Look into Personal Recommendations

Whenever possible try to get at least one private family reference from a former client, as they will share a great deal more about the employee then a company will offer due to strict corporate policies. Many private caregivers have taken care of a number of other clients in the past and a good candidate will eagerly wish to share this information with you. If they are new to the private arena, don't be discouraged and unwilling to offer them a chance, especially when they have prior experience. Ask the former client and family questions like...

  1. Did the caregiver safely transfer and assist your loved one with walking?
  2. Was the caregiver gentle when bathing and did he or she take especially good care of their skin?

Run a Background Check

Background checks can be done conveniently on-line and for reasonable fees via a multitude of websites. When hiring professional nurses or certified nurse assistants, you can use a social security number, driver's license, or professional license number to verify credentials. It is important that the prospective caregiver...

  1. Is willing to give written consent to conduct a personal background check.
  2. Gives an explanation of work experience that matches the information obtained from reference checks.

Establish Needs and Expectations

In addition to getting to know the caregiver, the interview should entail a full discussion about your elder's needs and limitations, as well as your expectations including specific duties and responsibilities. Some questions for the caregiver to keep in mind...

  1. Can he or she drive? Are they willing to escort your loved one to errands, appointments, or other outings?
  2. If he or she is able to drive, are they willing to drive your loved one's vehicle provided there is adequate insurance?
  3. Is he or she CPR certified? Do they have any other special training?
  4. Can he or she cook well? What types of meals can they prepare?

Schedule a Trial Period

It is an excellent idea to schedule a trial period to evaluate a caregiver's reliability as well as their competency. The obvious advantage is that you can observe first-hand his or her caregiving skills and bedside manner. If you approach the trial from an angle that this arrangement is for the benefit of both parties involved, hurt feelings may be spared. Make it clear from the beginning that your arrangement is on a trial basis for a designated amount of time. This period of time will enable your loved one, family, and caregiver to become comfortable with each other before a final decision is made.

Establish Payment Terms

Be clear about the proposed salary, when he or she will be paid, vacations, holidays, absences, and lateness. Discuss the amount of time that should be given by either party if employment is terminated. Most agencies charge at least a third more than what you would expect to pay privately. Therefore, call a few local homecare agencies to check hourly rates and establish a baseline. Once the caregiver is selected, it's not a good idea to agree to any under-the-table pay arrangement. Although paying the employee directly may be preferable, it can have devastating consequences ranging from IRS fines and penalties to enormous medical bills resulting from a worker's job injury. Protect yourself and your elder by reviewing and following the rules set forth in the IRS publication 926, "Household Employer's Tax Guide". An added benefit of withholding taxes is eligibility to deduct the aide's salary on your parent's tax return which can be quite considerable.

Lastly, don't hesitate to give some credit to your first impression, general instinct, and your "gut feelings" about a prospective caregiver.

Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 44 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

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