Select Caregivers with Caution

Screen Caregivers Carefully

Finding the Caregiver who is a good fit for your loved one requires much scrutiny.  Write down what times you need to have covered and what you expect them to do.  What types of qualifications do they need to have? For instance, if you need someone to administer medications or insulin, you will need a private duty nurse.  Many home health agencies have companion services.  This is an individual with minimal training who is there to make sure meals are cooked and eaten; medications are taken on time; laundry is washed and light housekeeping is done.  Sometimes, they will provide transportation for the older adult to the grocery store, bank or beauty shop for an extra charge.  When care gets to the point of needing assistance with transferring from one place to another; taking blood pressure or helping with toileting, a CNA (Certified Nursing Associate) is required.  Also, check with a nurse to see what assistive equipment can be put in place to aid the mobility of the older adults.

What qualities should you be seeking?  They should demonstrate respect for the dignity of the older adult, patience; exhibit a  warm and caring attitude and show interest in getting to know their interests.  Someone who just sits in front of the TV and acts like a babysitter does not provide socialization or mental stimulation which older adults need.  They also need to understand boundaries, meaning that they do not pry into personal business or talk too much about their personal problems.  That only adds to the emotional burden the older adult already feels and, sometimes, they feel compelled to help them.  When the older adult begins to lend money, there is a problem with the caregiver.  Bringing a stranger into the home of a vulnerable older adult can open the door to many problems.  Do a criminal check on the individual and check with your state’s family registry.

Monitoring Caregiver Activity

How do you keep a check on how the caregiver is doing?  First, have the caregiver keep nurse’s notes about what happens during the day.  Second, privately talk to the older adult about how things are going.  Sometimes the older adult resents having their independence intruded upon by having someone else in the house.  They will try to actively sabotage the situation so be cautious about believing everything they say but also be observant.  Third, make unannounced visits to see what is taking place.  If the caregiver brings someone over without prior approval, that is a red flag.  If things begin to disappear, that could be a red flag.  Do not allow caregivers to pay bills or handle banking transactions.  That should be the responsibility of a trusted family member or Power of Attorney.  Some family members have installed cameras to monitor how things are going.

What activities should be taking place?  Suggest places that the caregiver might take your loved one within his/her capabilities.  Plan at least one activity for them to look forward to every day.  Ask the caregiver to read the paper to them.  The caregiver can involve the older adult in activities around the home like baking bread or cookies; setting the table; planting flowers; organizing closets, etc.  Music can greatly improve the mood of all individuals.  Dancing, walking in nature for fresh air or participating in chair exercise will contribute to their mental clarity and physical well-being.  Reminiscing over photo albums or talking about life during certain periods of the older adult’s life will bring out their memories.  You might suggest writing their memoirs or writing a letter to their relatives about wisdom they would like to pass on.  Learn about hobbies they used to enjoy and see if it is possible to reinterest them.  There may be some modifications that need to be made to make it easier for them to participate.  Take them to adult education classes.  Many universities will allow adults 65 and older to audit classes (no grades) for minimal or no fee.  Older adults who stay interested and active lead more positive and healthy lives.

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