How To Hire In-Home Help For Your Elderly Parent

The Sandwich Generation dilemma–kids, spouses, bosses, elderly parents constantly tugging at your sleeves. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin and wear yourself out. Cooking, driving, managing medications, running errands, housekeeping-there is simply not enough time in the day for eldercare responsibilities, and giving others, including yourself, extra attention.

If you are at that point where you could use a little help, and are wondering if hiring a home-helper for your elderly loved one–full-time, part-time, hourly – is the answer, here are a few suggestions to guide you through the process.

Where to Start

To find reliable, trust-worthy, and competent in-home helpers, the first place to start is to ask people you know who have had successful dealings with service providers — family, friends, co-workers, clergy persons, and your parent’s doctor. Additional referral sources can include the local Agency on Aging, the hospital discharge planner, social service agencies, licensed homemaker and home-care agencies, and an employment agency.

Another resource is the “situations wanted” column in the classified ads if you are looking to hire someone who does home-care on a private basis and is self-employed. Independent workers tend to have more flexible schedules and charge less than an agency. If none of these leads prove successful put an ad in the paper. Rent a post box and request resumes and references.

Ask Specific Questions Before beginning the interview process, think about what specific services you need from the helper. When a job applicant calls, give a short job description, time and day expectations, salary and benefits. Grant interviews only to those considered for the position. Arrange for other family members or a friend to be present during interviews for feedback andsupport. Check all references before hiring.

Ask applicant…

  • What makes you interested in this kind of work?
  • Tell me about your past home-care work experience.
  • Why did you leave your last position?
  • Have you received any special training?
  • Do you have any problems that might hinder you in this job?
  • How do you feel about alcohol, drugs, smoking?
  • Is there anything about this job that you would not be willing to do?
  • What is your time commitment to this position?
  • Are you willing to do household chores like cooking and light housekeeping?
  • How flexible is your schedule?
  • Do you have a current driver’s license?
  • Do you have a car available? Can you drive my car?
  • What would you do if you are ill and cannot come to work?
  • What would you do in the case of an emergency?

Ask home-care agency…

  • Are you licensed and accredited? By whom?
  • Is your agency bonded? Is your worker bonded?
  • Who pays insurance, taxes and handles employer responsibilities?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you accept Medicare?
  • Do you offer sliding scale fees?
  • What are the fees for services provided by your worker?
  • What costs are not covered?
  • Who pays the worker, you or I?
  • What are the minimum and maximum hours of service?
  • Are there limits to services provided?
  • What is your screening process when hiring workers?
  • How do you supervise your workers?
  • Is the worker specially trained to work with older adults?
  • Do you find a replacement if your worker is ill or on vacation?
  • Do I continue to pay your worker while my relative is in the hospital?
  • Can your agency provide me with references on you and your worker?
  • What is the process when a worker does not show up?
  • How soon can a worker begin?

Ask applicant’s reference…

  • How long have you known this applicant?
  • What was the applicant’s position and job description?
  • How well did applicant get along with others?
  • What were applicant’s strengths? Weaknesses?
  • Did you find applicant trustworthy?
  • Were you aware of any substance abuse? Smoking?
  • Would you rehire applicant?
  • Why did applicant leave?
  • Describe job then ask if applicant is well suited for the job.

Ask yourself…

  • Do I like this person?
  • Do I believe this person is right for the job?
  • Will this person take charge and quickly respond in an emergency?
  • Is this person organized? Neat? Flexible? Energetic? Pleasant?
  • Does this person have the training and experience for this job?
  • Will this person get along with my elder? Family? Others?
  • Will this person know when to consult the family?
  • Will this person be sensitive to family traditions?
  • Does this person like pets?
  • Do family members like and trust this person?
  • Do family members believe this person can handle this job?

Once you decide to hire someone to help, your next step is to develop a job contract. You will need to know how to clarify duties with a formalized agreement, and become familiar with the rules and regulations of being an in-home employer.