How to Find the Best Senior Caregiver

Easy Climber How to Find A Caregiver

Determining your loved one’s needs is the first, important step

The decision to hire a senior caregiver can be a difficult one. Maybe your aging father is becoming forgetful, or can no longer keep up with the household chores. Maybe your mom is not good about taking her medicine or cooking for herself, and you’re worried about her health.

You want your loved ones to be able to stay as independent as possible and to be able to live at home as long as they can. But how do you know when to offer help? Do you step in when the problems are small, and risk hurting their feelings? Or do you wait until the needs are greater, even though that brings increased risk?

How to assess your needs

The AARP has an assessment checklist that you can use to more objectively figure out whether your loved one needs a caregiver, and if so, at what level. These are a few of the categories mentioned:

  • Physical health: This includes such things as existing conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure), unusual weight loss or gain, incontinence, swollen feet or legs, vision or hearing problems, and complaints of pain.
  • Mental health: This includes existing mental conditions (depression, anxiety, dementia or Alzheimer’s), forgetfulness, decreased interest in daily life, increased difficulty in maintaining relationships.
  • Medication use: A medicine assessment includes a list of all prescription, over-the-counter AND herbal or holistic remedies a person is taking, and determining whether the person is adept at taking medicine as directed.
  • Daily life: Does the person go through the tasks of daily living – dressing, bathing or showering, preparing food, doing household chores, and driving safely? How are their appearance and hygiene?
  • Safety: In the home, are there areas of clutter that a person could trip over, or throw rugs that could slip? If handrails are needed in the bathroom, are they or can they be installed? Are there working smoke alarms? Is the neighborhood safe?

If you assess your loved one’s needs and determine that some sort of help is needed, you need to decide specifically on the level of care. Would an outside visit once or twice a week to help with cooking and housekeeping help the situation? Or do you need a daily caregiver who can attend to many of the person’s daily needs? As you make this decision, be sure to include your loved one in the conversation.

“Put yourself in their shoes,” writes senior housing and care consultant Mike Campbell for “It’s very important that your parents are the ones making the decision to seek help and decide which option best meets their care and assistance needs.”

What kind of caregiver do you need?

Depending on those needs, you may want to hire a personal care aide, a home health aide or an independent caregiver. Here are the differences between them:

  • Personal care aides (also called homemakers) can help with daily functions like bathing, dressing, fixing meals, doing laundry, sorting mail, keeping up a calendar and running errands. They also are valuable for the company and conversation they bring to a senior’s life. They don’t do anything that requires medical knowledge.
  • Home health aides can do the things personal care aides do as well as light medical duties, such as giving medication, dressing a wound or monitoring blood pressure or heart rate. They may work under the supervision of a nurse. These workers generally are hired through a home health agency, which assesses the needs of the person and assigns aides – who have been screened and trained – to the schedule. The cost of a home health aide can be as low as $12 an hour or as high as $40 an hour, according to Jim T. Miller of Savvy Senior.
  • Independent caregivers are people that you recruit, choose and hire to care for a senior according to specifics you decide. They cost less, Miller says – probably $10 to $20 an hour – but you are responsible for finding them, checking their background (this step is crucial, and you must do both a reference check and a criminal background check), hiring them, paying taxes and finding fill-in care if needed. Websites like com offer a middle ground – the site asks you when you will need care, what kind (one-time or recurring) and whether you want companion care, hands-on care or respite care. You pay to belong to the site – from $13 a month to $39 a month, depending on how many months you sign up for. You choose the caregiver, who has signed up with the site and has undergone a limited background check.

If you need more information, AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center can help you explore options and know where to start.