Overcoming Minor Obstacles in Order to Hire the Best Caregiver for Your Loved One
Selecting a caregiver is a balancing act. Families typically have several “must have” priorities and several “nice to have” aspects of a caregiver. But the bottom line priority should be having a kind, honest, and caring person to care for your loved one. Requirements involving race, owning a car, perfectly spoken English, excellent cooking, no telephone usage on job, providing own food, etc. limit, if not eliminate, all caregivers from the available pool of employees.
Often during initial conversations with potential clients or their family members, we hear requirements such as 1) must be English speaking with no accent, 2) must be white, 3) must have a driver’s license, 4) must be an excellent cook, and 5) must bring own food and supplies.
The reality of the caregiver world (and much of healthcare in general) is that the vast majority are of foreign descent. Many are from the Philippines, Poland, Lithuania, Ghana, and Nigeria. It is ingrained in their culture to care for others, specifically the elderly. In addition, they have come to this country to earn a living and typically work hard to keep their jobs. Many choose to do live-in caregiving for a living because they do not have a driver’s license nor do they own a car. Live-in caregiving eliminates the need to commute back and forth to a job site every day. Public transportation or carpooling can get them back and forth once a week or as needed.
Caregiving duties often involve assistance with showering, diaper changing, dressing, feeding, etc. These are very hands-on, personal duties. A kind, skilled, and caring caregiver who assists your loved one with dignity and safety is probably more important than a white caregiver that drives.
There are ways to work around some of the “nice to have” qualities of a caregiver so that a family can select the best caregiver for their loved one. It is a matter of working with an agency that is creative and willing to resolve the smaller issues. Our experience has taught us that most clients’ initial requirements change or soften once they get to know and trust their caregiver—the minor obstacles become less important and they become open to options.
Our approach to race requirements is to encourage an open mind and suggest a trial period of two weeks to get to know each other. We ask for feedback from client, family, and the caregiver. There is a lot of communication and coaching back and forth in the first few weeks as caregivers learn likes/dislikes and routines.
The perfect English requirement is also not realistic due to the fact that many caregivers are not from the United States. We know that we have spoken to our caregivers in person and on the phone many times—it is not perfect, but we do communicate. Most caregivers can communicate on the common issues that involve day-to-day care, such as medication reminders, exercise, bathroom assistance, meals, light housekeeping, etc. Again, over a short period of time, caregiver and client get to know each other and communication becomes natural—maybe not perfect.
The driving/car ownership requirement can be easily overcome in most situations. Many towns have senior cab services that offer reduced rates to seniors. Having a caregiver to arrange for the cab and accompany the client is really no different than driving herself. In addition, we have offered to the family our own transportation service—we can deploy a different caregiver that drives for specific errands and we charge a reduced hourly fee to cover costs.
By definition, a live-in caregiver spends 24/7 with a client in the client’s home. They may work 3–7 days per week. It is also common that they may have their own family—perhaps a husband or wife, children, or parents. Just like their clients do. It is natural for them to want to communicate with their own loved ones each day. Allowing a caregiver several 15–30-minute breaks of private time in their own room to speak to them on their own cell phone is reasonable. In addition, allowing a caregiver use of the shower, supplies, and food is also reasonable. If a client is not comfortable with this, an option is to have the client pay an additional daily fee and the caregiver will bring their own supplies.
If the most important thing is to have your loved one cared for by an honest, caring, and experienced caregiver, creating a pleasant atmosphere for both the client and the caregiver as well as creatively overcoming some of the minor obstacles will help to ensure your loved one is safe and happy at home.