Extra Set of Caregiving Hands

Wouldn’t Caregiving be Easier with an Extra Set of Hands?

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Caregivers can hear plenty of advice about the many benefits of taking respite from their work with an aging loved one; however, they don’t always follow those recommendations. These aren’t just empty words … breaking away to do something just for you does offer you rewards and isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. One of the easiest ways to get some time for yourself is to hire outside help for your mother or father.

With the numbers of seniors increasing across the country, it comes as little surprise that more senior’s home-care service companies are opening to serve the growing need. A qualified professional care worker can tend to your parent’s needs for a few hours or a full day and allow you some much-needed time and space away.

Naturally, with hiring outside help, you can’t just hire anybody. Your support worker must be experienced, trustworthy, friendly, and responsible … one of the best ways to get a better perspective on these individuals is by means of a personal meeting and interview. This will give you the best opportunity to chat with applicants, get to know them, and ask a number of questions.

While you are not permitted by law to probe job applicants with personal questions (including details pertaining to age, religious beliefs, place of birth, political preferences, etc.), you are certainly entitled to ask for other facts. To not overlook anything, list your questions and take note of the answers or share your questions with other family members who may join you in a scheduled interview. To get you started, here are a few ideas for questions you can ask:

  • Tell me/us about yourself (the standard opening question for many job interviews).
  • Where have you worked before?
  • What do you know about (name your parent’s health condition)?
  • Tell me/us about a time when you experienced stress or pressure and explain how you managed it.
  • Tell me/us about a time that you had to adapt in a difficult situation.
  • Why do you want this job?


Notice that all of these suggested questions are open-ended – meaning that they can’t be simply answered with a “Yes” or “No” reply. There’s a good reason for this as you’ll want to encourage your applicant to talk and open up and a one-word answer won’t be too helpful! Following you interviewing a candidate, allow him/her the opportunity to pose any questions in return.  Not only is this common courtesy, it will demonstrate to you how enthusiastic this person is to work for you.

With initial interviews, you are not required to talk salary; however, you could come prepared with an idea of what pay range you are willing to offer. You can base your salary offer on the applicant’s experience, the amount of work required, your motivation level to hire a specific person, and/or what other companion care companies are charging (call a number of such businesses in your local area and ask for the going rate or scan the classified ads in your newspaper for “caregiving help wanted” ads listing an offered salary). You also are under no obligation to make any immediate hiring decisions. Take a few days to mull things over, review resumes, debate applicants with other family members, and call the applicant’s references.

After making your offer to the chosen applicant, draft up a short written agreement. Stipulate the hours of work, the rate and regularity of pay, and the specific work required. There is a great deal of difference between simply entertaining your parent with visiting and playing cards and bathing and dressing your loved one. Laying out the job responsibilities in writing will reduce confusion and – perhaps unpleasant – surprises.

Monitoring your new hire once he/she is in place will be a good idea. If Mom / Dad is in a long-term care facility, you could begin by asking the facility staff to be watchful and report back to you. Mind you, this is not usually included in their regular job requirements, so limit this time and thank the staff for what they can do (a fresh bouquet of flowers for the nursing station can be greatly appreciated!). You can also take part in the process by intermittently dropping in to the facility … you can explain that your visit is for some other premise; however, your true purpose will be to observe your hired help interact with your parent. When my father was in a secured Alzheimer’s care unit, my family hired a part-time companion and we provided a notebook so that she could share observations about Dad’s mood, condition, or any other comments. By having this written log, she remained more accountable to us.

I consider myself (and my family and my father) very fortunate as our hired help remained working with Dad until he passed away. I believe that we found the best match by asking the proper questions. By doing the same, this can help lead to your hiring the best care staff and hiring the best care staff can – ultimately – help both you and your aging loved one.

Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.

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About the Author

Rick Lauber , Author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians

Rick Lauber is the author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide (both books are published by Self-Counsel Press) - valuable and practical resources for family members, friends, spouses, and/or partners providing care to seniors. Lauber, a former co-caregiver for both his own aging parents, has written extensively about caregiving and senior’s issues for print and on-line markets, has guested on radio talk shows and television news programs, and serves, on a volunteer basis, on the Board of Directors for Caregivers Alberta.

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