My family and I spent part of our summer vacation visiting my mom. While we use video chat services to talk several times a week, we hadn’t seen her in person since Christmas. To say we were shocked to see how much her health has declined would be an understatement.
In talking with my mom and evaluating the condition of her home, it quickly became obvious to my husband and me that she needs in-home assistance. We live almost 1,000 miles away from her and can’t be there to help as often as we would like.
I’ve spoken with several home care agencies on the phone. Next week, I’m planning to visit my mom again and conduct interviews in person.
Do you have any suggestions for what questions a family caregiver should ask? I want to make sure I ask the right questions and select the home care agency that will be the best fit for my mom.
Interview Tips for Family Caregivers
Your situation is one adult children—especially those who live far away—often share with us. An aging parent might try to downplay their struggles because they don’t want to create additional work or worries for their busy adult children.
Creating a list of questions will help you stay on track during the interview. Carefully documenting each response will make it easier to review the answers. That will help you make an objective, confident decision.
Here are some of the questions you should ask and an explanation of why each one is important.
#1: Are caregivers employed by the agency or do they work on a contingent basis?
A home care agency that employs their own caregivers can usually arrange for your mom to have the same caregivers each day. Continuity of care means your mom and the caregivers who assist her will have an opportunity to get to know one other. This gives the caregivers an advantage in spotting changes and alerting you in time to intervene early.
#2: What kind of background checks does the home care agency perform on new employees?
One concern adult children often express is how safe it is to have a stranger in their loved one’s home when family members aren’t there to supervise. It’s an issue we take very seriously at Griswold Home Care. In fact, less than 5% of applicants make it through our strict screening process.
You have a right to know who will be in your mother’s home and how carefully they have been screened by the home care agency. Remember, you are trusting caregivers with someone you love as well as with medications, home valuables, and more. Keep asking questions about the screening and background check process until you are satisfied you’ve found an agency that takes safety and security seriously.
#3: Can you meet the caregivers ahead of time?
Finding caregivers your mother feels comfortable with is important, especially since you live far away. Most in-home care agencies will allow potential clients to meet the primary caregiver who would be involved in their care ahead of time.
While there might be other caregivers who visit your mother, such as when the primary caregiver is ill or on vacation, ask each agency you are seriously considering if you and your mother can meet the primary caregivers before signing a contract.
#4: Are caregivers bonded/insured?
While no one likes to think the worst will happen, it’s important to ask this question just in case. Find out what the process is if valuables go missing or the caregiver accidentally breaks something expensive.
#5: What kind of training do caregivers receive?
One factor that sets a quality home care agency apart from others is how much they invest in caregiver training at the time of hire and on an ongoing basis. Finding an in-home care agency that keeps up with industry trends and changes is important.
#6: What is the home care agency’s staff turnover rate?
Because of the stress involved with caring for the elderly or those living with a disability, turnover is higher in this industry than in other professions. However, a turnover rate greater than 50% could indicate a problem.
#7: What kind of contract is required?
Another important question is how the agency charges clients and what kind of contract is required. Be sure you understand how much the hourly rate is, if overnight or weekend rates are higher, what other charges you might expect to incur, and if there is a minimum hourly requirement per visit or per month.
Also, be sure to ask what kind of notice to terminate the contract is required. If the agency doesn’t turn out to be a good fit for your mother, you want to make sure you aren’t stuck in a long-term contract.
Finally, ask to see a copy of the contract so you can review it as you make your final decision.
#8: Can you talk with other clients and families?
References are a must. Ask for a list of current clients and family members you can talk with. Make sure you call at least 3 of them to see how satisfied they are and how long they’ve been with the agency. Long-term clients are often a sign of good service, while a list of only short-term clients might be a signal something is amiss.
I hope these questions are helpful, Karen! Please let me know if you need any other advice.