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By Sandi McCann
Reviewed April 2019, by Sara Russell, RN

At first, you may notice the fresh groceries you purchased for your mom last week, are sitting in the fridge uneaten. She’s eating cereal or snacks rather than making meals. Or perhaps she is acting more confused when you call. Then, you notice her clothes aren’t getting clean. Household tasks are becoming harder for her to handle and her loneliness is lingering.

It’s clear, that if your mom wants to keep living in her own home — which she does more than anything — she’ll need some help to do it.

Mom and daughter

What now? There is no way, with your work and family demands, that you can be there every moment, but will a professional caregiver really take on the daily tasks that need to be done to help your parent?

Yes. A caregiver with advanced training will help provide non-medical care to your loved one and provide nourishing meals, assist with household chores,  help with hygiene and personal care, and even find fun ways to connect with your mom – like taking her on outings or to her weekly bridge game, or doing other things she enjoys —  so she stays engaged and active in her life, says Paul Nygren, a senior care manager at HomeCare of the Rockies. Paul has worked with hundreds of families and is a trusted resource for those who are considering home care.

But, every agency, every caregiver does things a little differently. At the most basic level, whoever you call for help, should listen well and respond professionally so that you get the customized care you need.  Then, transparency and reliability are key. But there are a lot of other things to consider before you bring a caregiver in to help your loved one at home.

Here are some things to think about when hiring in-home, non-medical care support.

Qualities to Expect from HomeCare Agencies and Caregivers

1. Attentive and engaged listeners.

At HomeCare of the Rockies, the very first thing we do is listen well when a family member calls. Nygren and other care team members spend a lot of time talking to families. He wants to hear their concerns and ideas. He’ll ask about their loved one, her health and preferences, needs, desires, experiences and stresses. This ear for detail helps Nygren identify the services and unique ways a caregiver can serve the senior and the family. Then we can create a customized care plan for your loved one.

Families are often surprised about how much help and support a professional caregiver can provide, Nygren says. A caregiver can take on scores of tasks including, helping with laundry, and other light housekeeping. He can prepare nutritious meals, drive the senior to social engagements or medical appointments and even take notes during doctor’s appointments. And, while working in the home, the right caregiver will help establish a routine and recognize other ways to keep the senior safe, comfortable, and engaged.

HomeCare of the Rockies caregivers receive advanced training through the innovative HomeCare Caregiver Training Program where they learn through classroom programs and hands-on training just how to support clients with all of these tasks and more.

The right caregiver will serve as the eyes and ears for family members who can’t be there every minute. It’s OK to expect them to provide quality care and household support in a way that eases stress for everyone involved.

And at the same time, the client and her family should always feel free to share concerns, request help, and inquire about any aspect of care — even if it’s about the caregiver directly – with the agency they are working with. I want our clients to reach out, talk with us, share ideas and concerns, no matter the issue. That kind of dialogue can only enhance care for the older adult and that’s what we all want.

A caregiver or agency who doesn’t seem to listen to your specific needs and preferences, or disregards your concerns — probably won’t be a good fit in your home.

Tip: The best in-home care providers will listen well and offer a flexible range of services to accommodate the needs of your loved one.

2. Clear conversations about fees and hours.

Many agencies have a minimum number of required care hours — usually around three. In Boulder County, the cost for in-home care runs between $24 to $30 per hour. Reputable agencies will be happy to discuss specifics of hours and fees with you from the beginning. So, expect to have that conversation up front and early. At HomeCare of the Rockies we are open and transparent about our fees and we are happy to explain what goes into the cost of care we provide. We also spend more in training our caregivers, so you receive exceptional value with the care we provide.

Our dedicated Long-Term Care Insurance Manager even helps families access their long-term insurance benefits and handles all the paperwork, easing the burden for so many of our families who rely on their long-term care insurance to pay home care costs. We can also help you identify other ways to pay for the costs of in-home care, such as benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Also, it’s reasonable to expect your caregiving agency to work with your schedule to provide caregivers around the times that will most benefit you and your loved one.  If those hours need to be changed — perhaps you start with few hours a week and recognize soon after that you need more care — you should be able to add hours without additional setup costs or administrative fees. The only increase in costs should be for the per-hour fees for hours added.

And the ideal agency will have administrative staff to handle the schedule and billing. You should never expect to pay the caregiver directly.

At HomeCare of the Rockies, we handle scheduling, service agreements, and billing matters so the caregiver can keep their focus on caring for your loved one.

3. A professional, reliable presence.

You should expect a caregiver to be clean, professional, and reliable. They should be on time, dressed neatly, and ready to serve according to the agreed upon schedule. Our care team will always show up wearing the agency polo shirt, and name badge.

And, while it’s likely you’ll like the caregiver you work with – we hope you do, our crew enjoys working with older adults and is trained to keep things friendly and professional with their clients — they won’t impose with their own problems or concerns. Nor, should they accept tips or gifts, or visit during their off time.

For your protection, you want a caregiver that adheres to these professional standards.

By keeping these professional boundaries in place, our caregivers can provide excellent, customized care without any added stress for you or your loved one.

4. Extensive, and ongoing caregiver training.

In my experience, advanced caregiver training is essential and it’s something I would expect from any caregiver I hire to take care of my family members. Studies show a qualified caregiver can lower the risk of injury and health complications for the seniors they serve.

But there aren’t a lot of agencies or private caregivers or agencies who offer advanced training or practical experience. We do.

HomeCare of the Rockies caregivers receive 100 hours of classroom education and hands-on practice through the HomeCare 100 Advanced Training Caregiver Training Program. They learn dementia care, nutrient and hydration information, safe transfer techniques, how to create meaningful engagement and a variety of other skills so they are prepared to care for even the most complex needs.

Also, you should expect any caregiver you hire to have passed a complete background check and have a valid driver’s license, if you’d like your caregiver to take you to appointments or on outings, up-to-date auto insurance, and a clean driving record.  To find out, ask about the agency’s screening protocol.

5. Comfortable with incontinence care, hygiene, and other personal care needs.

Qualified caregivers should be capable and comfortable providing incontinence care and personal hygiene support. Incontinence care affects many older adults and it’s an essential part of care delivery, but not every caregiver will provide it.

Though it may be difficult to talk about, it’s essential that you know exactly what kind of incontinence care and hygiene support you can expect the caregiver to deliver before hiring.

Some just aren’t comfortable dealing with this kind of personal care, Nygren says. If that’s the case, that individual is probably not a good fit for your family. There are qualified caregivers who will provide this kind of hygiene care with skill, respect, and discretion, preserving the dignity of all involved.

Our caregivers do it all the time. It’s part of their training.

6. Consistent communication and 24/7 support.

Communication between caregivers, clients, care managers, family members, and the scheduling and administrative teams is essential when it comes to comprehensive care delivery and you should expect it from your agency and caregiver.

It’s fair to expect regular documentation and updates detailing your loved one’s activities, routines, eating and sleeping habits, needs, changes, and other behaviors.

Also, on-call support personnel should be available if you have questions or concerns during weekends, holidays, and after-office hours. The kind of response you’ll get varies greatly. So, be sure to ask the agency or caregiver you are interviewing what kind of communication they provide when the office is closed.

At HomeCare of the Rockies, caregivers are a great resource and are happy to answer your questions and update you on the details of the day including your loved one’s activities, moods, routine, medications, and any other happenings.

And, our care team is available to help 24/7. If you call when the office is closed, your call will be routed to an on-call manager in Boulder County and you’ll get a call back from someone who can help.

Tip: If communication and access to care managers, even during the off-hours, is important to you, be sure to ask how the caregiving team responds to calls that come when the office is closed.

7. Meaningful connection and quality-of-life care.

Finally, the ideal caregiver will provide more than care and assistance with the tasks of daily living. Companionship, connection, compassion, are important aspects of care and essential to creating quality of life and well-being for your loved one.

Caregivers with advanced training will have specific approaches and ideas in mind that they use to connect with every client – no matter what stage of life they are in. We spend hours teaching our caregivers how to create meaningful engagement, communicate effectively, and connect with their clients.

It’s fair to expect that any caregiver you hire will work to enhance the life of your loved one – but not everyone knows how to do this. Would you like a caregiver who tackle a crossword puzzle with your mom, or take your dad on outings, or work on safe and interesting art projects, or anything else your loved one is interested in? Then, be sure to ask the caregiver, how they approach this. We think creating meaningful engagement is an essential aspect of providing care.

Caregiving is about meeting the non-medical needs of the client, sure, but it’s also about supporting the emotional and intellectual needs of the senior. This is crucial to the senior’s well-being and something we teach, practice, and expect from our caregivers. You should expect it from the caregiver you hire too.

Call us today, 720-204-6083, and find out how much more you can expect from our caregivers.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Caregiver

  • How many hours of training will our caregiver have?
  • Do your caregivers receive training online or in the classroom?
  • Does that training involve hands-on demonstrations and practice?
  • Are your caregivers able to provide support with household chores, hygiene care and incontinence care, meal preparation, and other tasks of daily living?
  • Do you have caregivers with special training in dementia care?
  • How can working with your agency help to minimize the health and safety risks for seniors?
  • What kinds of activities and engagement do your caregivers provide to clients?
  • What happens if my loved one needs more advanced care in the future?
  • Can we change the numbers of care hours without additional fees?
  • What if I need additional help during holidays or weekends?
  • Will we always have the same caregiver?
  • Do I pay the caregiver?
  • Can you help us access our Long-Term Care insurance benefits?
  • What do you charge for care?
  • How do those fees support my loved one?
  • What is the next step, if we decide to put care in place?

Sandi McCann is the Founder and President of HomeCare of the Rockies, a provider of non-medical caregivers to older adults throughout Boulder County. McCann is also the creator of the HomeCare 100 Professional Caregiver Training Program, an innovative educational strategy that provides advanced training to non-medical caregivers.

Sara Russell, RN, is a registered nurse, senior care specialist, and caregiver educator.

Articles for Seniors & Caregivers from HomeCare of the Rockies

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