Do your parents need care in their own homes? Do they need additional help at an assisted living facility? Are you nervous about finding the right person for the job?
Here are four things to look for in the search for the right home health worker for your elder:
- Fit – Think about your parent’s personality. Are they easy-going, temperamental, grouchy, all of the above? When you are interviewing the home health worker, ask them how they work with folks with the type of personality your parent has. Do they get their feelings hurt easily? If yes, they may not be a good fit for your grouchy parent. If the aide is rough in his/her manner, they won’t be a good match for your sweet and accommodating elder. Ask about their style. How do they handle objections from their clients/patients? What do they do when their client doesn’t want to do what they are being asked to do? Inquire about their past experiences with different personalities and how they accommodated them.
If this person will be working with two parents or multiple folks in one home, make sure you consider fit for all involved.
The most important element of matching a home health worker with your parent is fit.
- Anticipation of Needs – Evaluate how this person would anticipate your parent’s needs. Would they look for ways to help without being asked? Would they check out the pantry to make sure there is enough food to make a meal? Will they fold the laundry that might be in the dryer when they arrive? Will they observe your parent as they move around the house and make suggestions for better furniture placement to accommodate your parent’s walker or movement needs? Ask them questions related to their past experiences. Give them an opportunity to evaluate something in the house where they will be working and gauge how well they anticipate. You want someone who is observant and acts on those observations. You also want someone who is sensitive to the situation. They will see (and help) your parent in some very vulnerable situations. They need to be kind, considerate and understanding of that.
- Passion for the Elderly – Workers who love the elderly are the best people for the job. If it is just a job, they won’t stay long and won’t work with as much care and compassion as those who truly enjoy working with the elderly. There are folks who love working with kids, those who love working with the elderly, folks with disabilities, etc. You want to find folks who love old people. Ask, probe, circumnavigate – whatever it takes – find out if they are passionate about elders. If they are, these folks should move to the top of your list.
- Can They Do The Work? – Can they lift your elder if it is needed? If you are hiring them for household duties – can they cook, clean, do laundry and other chores appropriately? Can they accommodate your parent’s special dietary needs? Are they gentle in their handling of care (like wound management, incontinence care or transferring from wheelchair to bed)? Are they punctual? Do they notify you in advance if there is a change in schedule? Make a list of what your expectations are and ask them about each one.
If you are working with an agency, make sure you are allowed to interview the workers that will be caring for your elder. Don’t assume that they will match the workers with your parent as well as you can.
Remember, you are the gatekeeper for your parents’ home and care. Being their advocate in this area is one of the most important contributions you can have to their care. Don’t forget to listen to your inner voice as well – it is often the best judge of character. AND – if it doesn’t work out, don’t continue to employ this person or agency. It’s a job, not a marriage!