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How to Interview Home Care Aides

Last Updated: April 2, 2013

Finding the appropriate senior home care means not only making a decision about agencies and service plans, but ensuring that the individual caregivers who will become such an important part of your loved one's life are the best possible match.

The kinds of qualities to look for in the caregiver will depend upon the kind of services they are providing. Some senior home care providers will drop by for a few minutes to provide medical services, while others may spend several hours a day with the senior in less formal circumstances. In the latter case, a professional relationship may become a personal relationship that can last for years.

If your loved one needs medical care, they will likely need the services of a licensed professional nurse or a certified nurse's assistant. Alternatively, they might work with an occupational or physical therapist. Visits from these caregivers are typically either of short duration-15 minutes to half an hour-or of a limited time-frame, such as a few months.

In evaluating the particular individual providing this type of skilled care, it is most important to ensure they are properly certified. If the care provider is Medicare-certified, the home health aide will automatically need to meet professional licensure requirements. Additionally, many senior home care agencies require their personnel to have the appropriate licenses, which can vary from state to state.

Personal care workers, on the other hand, provide the kinds of services that invite not only questions about their professional qualifications, but personal characteristics, as they will be intimately working with your loved one. Personal care services can include help with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and feeding. This care worker may also help with shopping and cleaning, and even general entertainment.

These senior home care workers often spend at least three hours at a time with their clients. They may come one day a week, or every day. Over time, they can develop a close personal bond with the seniors they care for. "They'll develop very close relationships," says Carol Autrey, the owner of Senior Care Associates. "They'll love their care giver more than anyone."

Because of this, it is important to ensure that the personal care giver is not only a professional expert, but gets along well with the character traits of the senior. "Some people switch three or four times before they settle on someone," Autrey says. "Personal care is about companionship."

For this reason, one of the most important steps a family can take to ensuring their loved one is receiving adequate care is ascertaining the nature of their relationship with the caregiver.

Effective ways of doing this include being on hand to observe the dynamics between the two, and being sure to have follow-up conversations. "They can come by when the caregiver is there, and observe them interacting," Autrey says. "After they leave, they need to ask questions, like 'Did you like them'?"

Because the personal care worker often comes to occupy a place of trust with the elderly person, families also need to carefully evaluate his or her qualifications and background. The caregiver should be professionally trained in tasks such as bathing, moving patients in their beds, and helping with prescription medications. Caregivers most often either attend specific training schools or are trained by their in-home care agency.

Families may also want to ask for information about the caregiver's preceding employment history, and call those references. In addition, many states offer background checks on criminal history. Senior home care agencies typically perform these kinds of evaluations on their employees, Autrey says, and in many cases clients are able to obtain this information by simply asking the agency, if they have decided to work with one.

In addition, senior home care agencies work to monitor the relationship between the caregivers and the elderly. The agency should routinely send in supervisors to evaluate the working climate in the home. "The people that are supervising have to do the in-home visits as well," Autrey said. "They also need to have a good relationship with the senior." 

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