Partnering With Your Loved One’s In-Home Caregiver: 8 Steps to a Strong Relationship

Claire Samuels
By Claire SamuelsOctober 5, 2020
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Your senior loved one has decided to age at home, and you realize in-home care is the best way to keep them safe while aging in place. Once you’ve hired a caregiver, it’s important to build a relationship and work together to help your relative age happily and healthily.  

Forming a strong partnership with your loved one’s caregiver can help improve the care they receive — from both of you — while providing you with peace of mind. Learn more about establishing trust, setting expectations, and communicating with your family’s in-home care aide.

1. Set expectations

Before hiring a caregiver, write a list of expectations and caregiver responsibilities. When interviewing potential aides, discuss your requirements and ask them to share theirs. By establishing expectations ahead of time, you’ll avoid surprises down the road. If you’ve already hired a caregiver, it’s never too late to have this conversation for an ongoing, smooth relationship.

If your aging relative’s health declines and they need more help, discuss changes to your expectations openly. Trust the caregiver’s expertise on situations that are new to you and make sure your family can fulfill their expectations as well.

2. Share stories about your loved one

Sharing stories about your aging loved one’s life can make in-home care more personal. Older adults may be open to talking about themselves, or they may feel reluctant to share stories with a stranger.

Discussing a relative’s past with their caregiver is especially important if they’re experiencing cognitive decline. By understanding a person’s history, preferences, and emotional needs, in-home caregivers can provide the type of support that best fits each senior’s personality, abilities, and care needs.

To start sharing stories with your loved one’s caregiver and encourage person-centered care, you can:

  • Write down favorite memories you’ve shared with your relative
  • List their accomplishments and strengths
  • Make a list of events they talk about often — do they bring up the time they starred in a theater production? Do they regularly mention their history in the military?
  • Think about traditions your relative enjoys and ways they can be incorporated into caregiver routines. 

3. Talk about preferences

Your in-home caregiver will spend a lot of time with your elderly relative, and they’ll likely be tasked with household chores and responsibilities. It takes time for care aides and elderly clients to get to know each other, but passing along your knowledge as a family member can help with the transition.

If a caregiver is aware of a senior’s housekeeping and personal care preferences in advance, the job will go more smoothly. Some things you can share with a new caregiver include:

  • Personal habits. Does your loved one like to eat at the dining room table or in front of the TV? Does your mom dress up and wear makeup each day?
  • Housekeeping hang-ups. When a senior has maintained their home for decades, it can be hard letting someone new take over — small differences may feel like a big deal. If your mom always folded towels a certain way, or washed her china by hand, those are good preferences to note.
  • Food choices. In-home caregivers often help with meal preparation, and are generally familiar with senior nutritional needs. Let the care aide know your parent’s likes, dislikes, and habits. If a caregiver knows your dad’s eaten sunny-side up eggs for breakfast for years, they’ll be less likely to serve him scrambled.
  • Activities. Is your relative more likely to spend time watching sports or reading novels? Do they prefer going on walks or gardening? Engaging in hobbies a senior enjoys encourages caregiver bonding.

4. See the caregiver as a person, not just an employee

Seniors may become isolated aging in place, and an in-home caregiver can act as a companion and confidante to prevent loneliness. Through their relationship with your loved one, a caregiver is likely to learn a lot about your family. But getting to know each other is a two-way street. 

Take the time to learn about your parent’s caregiver and connect with them on a personal level. If you spend time in the home with them, this can happen naturally. If you live further away and communicate mostly via phone or video chat, it may be more difficult to develop that rapport.

Everyone enjoys feeling appreciated and seen. Remembering to ask about a caregiver’s child, wish them happy holidays, or chat about a TV show you both enjoy can show you care about them. Building strong relationships with your family’s caregivers will reduce caregiver turnover and enhance the attention they provide to your loved one.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is the cornerstone of a good caregiver-client relationship. It prevents incorrect assumptions and helps to ensure your loved one is receiving the best possible care.

Communicate about the good things. If the caregiver is doing a good job, let them know. Whether it’s noticing your aging relative is livelier after their part-time aide has visited, or seeing that your parent who needs full-time care is well-groomed and nourished, it’s important to note accomplishments.

Talk about the bad things, too. If something’s going wrong, don’t wait to bring it up. Maybe your parent thinks their caregiver makes food too spicy, or notices that they’ve been taking personal phone calls at work. Communicate the problem early, so it doesn’t become a big issue later on.

Learn from the caregiver. Over time, your loved one’s caregiver may become an important part of their life. In particular, if you live far away or don’t have a close relationship with your relative, a caregiver can become their primary support. One way to show you value a caregiver is to ask for their advice and listen to their contributions. Some questions you can ask include: 

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  • What can I do to help you out most?
  • Have you noticed any changes? Has Mom developed any new interests or tastes?
  • What’s the best advice you can give me to help support my mom?

6. Develop trust

In-home care can be deeply personal: activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and hygiene may be uncomfortable or scary without a level of trust between a senior and their caregiver. It’s important for you to build trust with your loved one’s home care aide, as well. 

Some ways to develop trust include:

  • Asking for referrals from former clients before hiring a caregiver.
  • Clearly setting expectations for communication in the relationship.
  • Getting to know each other and learning more about the caregiver.
  • Talking through tough situations before they occur. For example, if your aging relative has dementia, they may become paranoid and believe things are lost or stolen. If your relative has accused you of stealing in the past, let the caregiver know.
  • Making it clear that the caregiver can reach out to you to talk through any situation that may arise.

7. Be upfront about past problems

Sometimes, stubborn older relatives can make finding a long-term caregiver difficult. If your parent has rude or abrasive tendencies toward you and your family, it’s likely they’ll treat an aide the same way. This is a common issue for seniors experiencing dementia or cognitive decline.

If former caregivers have quit because of your relative’s behavior, let home care agencies know upfront, so that they can recommend someone who’s comfortable and experienced working with challenging clients. Some seniors go through 10+ care aides before finding someone willing to work with them long-term.

8. Problem solve together

Home care aides are familiar with elder care and know how to handle situations that may be new to you. But you know your aging loved one best. Maybe your mom has lost interest in eating and is having trouble getting proper nutrition — a home care aide may have tips and tricks to encourage appetite, while you’re the expert on your mom’s favorite foods, which set of dishes she prefers, and the time of day she likes to eat.

If you’re ready to partner with an in-home caregiver to help your loved one age in place safely, reach out to our free Senior Living Advisors to learn more about home care agencies in your area.

Claire Samuels
Claire Samuels