One of the most stressful things as a family caregiver is wondering if Mom is getting the best care. It can be hard to judge, especially if you’re caring from a distance. Asking Mom may not always reveal the truth, or really get at the quality level of the care.
Our team will share steps to ensuring the best home care for your aging parent (stay tuned for our upcoming article on ALF care). Hopefully, this will help you avoid some of the painful mistakes other families have experienced.
1. Do your homework in hiring home care.
First, understand the reasons for hiring via a home care company. Using a licensed home care company provides you with a number of important protections you won’t get hiring someone privately. Licensing varies by state, but home care companies typically have minimum requirements and some oversight from a state agency. There’s also a process for making formal complaints and punishing agencies that do not adhere to basic standards. Read more about considerations and concerns about hiring a caregiver privately.
It’s not just about issues like liability, worker’s compensation and taxes (though those are all important). A quality home care agency has put a lot of things into place to ensure things go well. They’ll do quality assurance. And, they’ll be there to help you resolve any issues that do come up swiftly. If you are the employer, you will be responsible for all those things and you won't have the benefit of back-up care.
We’ve run across a lot of horror stories with private caregivers over the years, but more frequently it’s the seemingly small issues that become problematic for families. For example, we got a call from a daughter who was in a real bind with Mom’s home care situation. Unbeknownst to her, Mom’s caregiver had started shifting around her hours and not handling some of the tasks they’d discussed. She only found out when she noticed Mom wasn’t getting her bath and didn’t have fresh groceries. So, the daughter started taking time off work to fill in and handle these tasks. Though the caregiver wasn’t doing her job properly, she didn’t really know what to do because Mom liked the caregiver and was hesitant to make a change.
Grab a copy of our handout, Caregiver Concerns: Warning Signs and What to Do, to help spot potential problems early. Heed the warning signs and don’t let the issues get worse. Feel free to call us to talk with one of our care managers if you find yourself worrying or unsure of what to do.
Even with licensed agencies, you’ll find a lot of options. While meeting basic requirements, home care companies vary widely in terms of quality. You want to get familiar with the home care agency’s processes. Here’s a good basic list of questions to ask/consider. We’ll talk more about these below, including what we’ve put into place to ensure high-quality home care for all EasyLiving clients.
2. Make sure caregivers are trained to provide the home care your loved one needs.
Does the home care company provide training (or how will you handle this if you're the employer)? At EasyLiving, we not only check caregiver skills and experience prior to hiring them but we provide extensive ongoing training. Each caregiver attends an orientation and receives access to a full online training program for continuing education. Our Care Academy includes training on everything from specific diseases and dementia care to good communication, professionalism and skills training.
The Special Skills Needed for In-Home Care
Clients occasionally meet caregivers when they’re in a facility. The caregiver offers to help when they go home and they may already have a rapport. This might seem like the perfect solution if you’re trying to get Mom home after rehabilitation. Unfortunately, beyond the liability and oversight concerns, the caregiver may not have the skills for home care. For example, we train EasyLiving caregivers on safe transfers and support in a home environment. In a facility, caregivers may be used to providing showers in a fully accessible bathroom and helping clients into and out of hospital beds. A caregiver needs to know how to safely help a client with typical home furnishings. Our caregivers get specific training in providing dignified personal care at home, and even in doing household tasks per the client’s wishes.
Matching and Putting Training to the Test
Just because a friend refers you to a caregiver does not mean they will be capable of providing the type of home care your loved one needs. Providing home care for a person with dementia or heavy physical needs can be taxing. This is why we get to know our caregivers and our clients' needs. And, we use this information to make a good match. Then, we bring training beyond the classroom into the field. Our team does in-person visits with the client and caregiver to ensure expectations are being met and the caregiver feels confident in meeting the client's needs.
3. Set caregivers up for success.
In addition to proper training, a caregiver needs quality information to do the best job for your parent. At EasyLiving, we build a personal care plan for each client. We develop this using a questionnaire that seeks to understand preferences, needs, history and routines. This enables the caregiver to know what you need and WANT. It is our caregiver’s job description. It is their guide and also what we hold them accountable to.
Home care is very personal; you don’t want someone caring for your Mom without giving them direction. If you were hiring for an important position at your company, would you simply sit the person at a desk and tell them to get started? This is the most important job you’ll ever need someone to do. Without good information, the caregiver has no direction and you’re unlikely to get the best results.
Always set clear expectations from the start. Be honest and open in giving the full story about the situation. Be specific. Don’t expect the caregiver to read your mind.
4. Communicate and give feedback proactively. Continually monitor home care.
Feedback is the next important ingredient in getting the best care. We use a multipronged quality assurance program at EasyLiving. Our team proactively seeks feedback, using a third party agency. We also conduct supervisory visits and monitor care records via our online system. Read more about what we think every caregiver needs to be successful.
How will you know what’s going on with your loved one’s care? And, how will you communicate any concerns, needs or changes? This is all essential to establish up front.
EasyLiving uses an online care system called Clearcare, which offers a family portal. This keeps the whole home care team organized. It allows family members to see what’s going on and ask questions or provide information. It simplifies the communication and keeps everyone apprised of the client’s care.
When we started EasyLiving, we found that many caregivers were used to being provided little to no information before starting a job/shift. They would be late due to not having good directions. Or, they’d arrive and be caught by surprise by the client’s needs or situation. And, sometimes the client was even caught by surprise when no one informed them the caregiver would be coming at that time. These were basic things we knew we needed to do differently.
From the start, our mission has been focused on setting up our caregivers for success. This is our priority in everything we do. As such, we’ve set up systems that eliminate these seemingly simple but highly disruptive issues. And, with a focus on always improving, we monitor feedback and constantly check in to make improvements.
We know our caregivers have big hearts and want to do a great job. But, we also know that it takes a lot to be sure Mom is getting the best care. Caregivers need tools, support and feedback to do their best. And, you need good communication and information to have confidence Mom is getting the best care. A strong care team can do more than simply make sure Mom’s needs are met, they can enhance her life and give you peace of mind.
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