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
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
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
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
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."