Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be immensely rewarding, but equally as challenging. The sheer number of “hats” one has to wear would impress even the best multitasker, which is why we like to remind caregivers not to feel guilty if they want (or need) to ask for help. Like Alzheimer’s disease itself, the support a caregiver may need will change as the disease progresses. There will likely come a time when you know you need help, but how do you safely bring a stranger into your home?
The struggle is real. Windward Foundation recently heard from a caregiver that feels they need help but are afraid. Who can they trust with their safety when considering an in-home caregiver? Do they need to worry about theft of their prized possessions? This caregiver is generally a trusting person, but this is new territory, and it’s scary for them. We know they are not alone.
My first response was to advise them to hire a Licensed Home Care Organization (LHCO) because these professional caregivers are regulated. Then I paused and realized that was the easy answer to a difficult question. They need more information to make an informed decision. After all, the role of a family caregiver is to be the protector of their loved ones. Windward Foundation’s mission is to ease the burden of caring for a loved one at home with Alzheimer’s disease. We need to educate families on how to vet companies who are diligent about their employees’ integrity and the caregivers that families in our community let into their homes.
Pam Reynolds, Director of Strategy at Care Advantage, Inc., recommends that families ensure that they are using a Licensed Home Care Organization (LHCO). It’s important to note that licensing varies by state, so check with the Department of Health in your area for more information. Pam also advises against hiring privately or from a referral agency or Registry, and it’s essential to know the difference.
Unlike an LHCO, a referral agency or Registry only suggests in-home caregivers; they do not hire them. A Registry may charge a finder fee, but there is no further involvement with them once you employ the caregiver. You have no proof of the caregiver’s experience, criminal background, reliability, or trustworthiness. You may assume certain risks and liabilities, and the burden of employer/employee taxes is also on you. The in-home caregiver is only accountable to you, unlike an employee of a Licenced Home Care Organization who has oversight from their employer.
Ask your friends, family, and physician if there is a Licensed Home Care Organization they would recommend and start there. Then, have a solid list of questions and requirements. We suggest that you ask the following:
- Is your organization licensed, bonded, and insured for liability and Workers Comp?
- Do you do national financial and criminal background checks and sex offender registry checks on your caregivers, and how often?
- What kind of training does your staff have related to the needs of my loved one with Alzheimer’s disease?
- What is your policy if my paid caregiver misses a shift?
- If the personalities don’t mesh, can we find a different caregiver for my loved one?
- Are there procedures in place if I suspect my caregiver isn’t entirely trustworthy?
- What precautions does your agency have in place during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Unfortunately, we live in a world where scams against seniors are at an all-time high. I just listened to a presentation from the Virginia State Attorney’s Office, where the speaker laid out several “grandma” scams that will make your head spin. It’s vitally important that we educate our family caregiver communities and provide them with the tools necessary to make educated decisions throughout their journey.
There are excellent home care agencies that provide fantastic caregiver services that can enable you to step away from home and get a break from caregiving, even if only a few hours a week. Their services can allow you time to take care of yourself, schedule a doctor’s appointment, visit with friends, or get some much-needed respite by simply escaping to the next room with a good book. Suppose you are concerned about finding a trustworthy paid caregiver. In that case, Windward Foundation can help you find licensed company’s and make informed decisions as you are vetting a home care organization you may want to hire.
Oh, and the nanny cams that are all the rage for parents these days? They can come in handy for you, too, by providing an extra layer of peace of mind when you are away from home. It’s a good idea to make the care provider aware of the camera upfront as it sets a more trusting tone for the relationship.