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How To Find A Good Caregiver For Your Parents

How To Find A Good Caregiver For Your Parents
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BY STEVE WINSTON

Who are we going to leave in charge of our loved one? And how do we find someone we can trust

It can seem like an incredible responsibility. And it’s one many of us, no doubt, try to put off – at least in our minds. But if you’re a Boomer, and your parents are still alive, you can’t put it off forever.

“I know that it certainly keeps many of my clients awake at night,’ says Alice Reiter Feld, principal at The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld & Associates in South Florida (www.florida-elderlaw.com), and a board-certified Elder Law attorney in both Florida and New York. “Watching our parents age is already a frightening process. And, when it comes to finding in-home care, we’re all afraid of making a decision we’ll regret. But there are agencies out there that can help you make the right choice, so that your parents can remain at home. You don’t have to go through the process alone.”

Getting started

If you’re talking about homemakers, sitters, or aides, there are a number of agencies in your community that can get you started on the right track, among them your Area Agency on Aging, the Department on Aging, Social and Rehabilitation Services, or your local Alzheimer’s Association. If you’re talking about trained nurses, however, you’ll have to go through a home-care agency. Your parent’s doctor can be a valuable help in setting up these services, and in recommending a good agency.

There’s a third option, as well – you can hire a Certified Nurse Aide. These people are trained to assist seniors with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, eating, and medications. And if your mother or father requires it, most Certified Nurse Aides have experience working with Alzheimer’s/dementia patients. (You might also want to check for CPR certification.)

Your local Alzheimer’s Association will have a list of individual caregivers. While they can’t make specific recommendations, they can tell you the feedback they’ve received. And don’t forget caregiver support groups, either; they can provide recommendations (as well as a feeling that you’re among friends who understand what you’re going though).

“If you decide to go the do-it-yourself route,” Reiter Feld says, “you’ve got to treat this as an employer-employee relationship – nothing less. You need to have each applicant fill out an application. You need to see identification such as a driver’s license, Social Security card, nurse/aide certification, and a resume. And – like any employer – you need references! And you need to check them out – this is not an area where you want to take short-cuts!”

The most important interview in your life

These may be the most important interviews you’ve ever conducted. They should be done in your home, with your mother or father present. This way, you can pick up on your parent’s level of comfort with the person, in addition to your own. Even if your parent can no longer express him/herself clearly, you should be able to pick up any signs that they might be uncomfortable with this person.

Remember what we said about an employer-employee relationship? Even after the hire, always keep a file with identification, certificates, and background-check results. (If you were a business employer, you’d certainly keep up-to-date records!) Familiarize your new employee with your loved one – her likes, dislikes, behavior patterns, and habits. And make sure you don’t pay for services you don’t need. For instance, if all you need is someone to cook and clean, a homemaker will cost less than a nurse aide.

Get good counsel

“A word of caution, as well,” says Reiter Feld, a 50-something who’s a part-time caregiver to her own parents. “In some states, contracting with someone to provide care for your loved one can cause eligibility issues if you apply for Medicaid later on. This could conceivably cost your mother or father every cent they’ve got. So don’t make any moves without seeking counsel from a good Elder Law attorney.”

Such an attorney can help you not only with this process, but also with your parents’ (or your own!) wills, trusts, powers of attorney, issues with the VA or Medicaid, and protection of assets.

Take your time

“Finding a good in-home caregiver for your parents is a high-stakes process,” Alice Reiter Feld says, “not a race. Take whatever time is necessary to get the right person for your parent(s). The peace of mind – both yours and theirs – will be well worth it.”

Steve Winston (www.stevewinston.com) has written/contributed to 17 books, and his articles appear in major media all over the world.

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