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Need a Caregiver for Your Mom? 8 Things to Consider Before You Hire

This is part of Cake's collection of Advance care planning articles. Create a Cake profile for free to discover, document, and share your end-of-life wishes.

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and Certified Master Guardian

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As your mom ages, you may feel like you’re waiting for the right time to decide whether or not she needs a caregiver. Her health can change gradually over time, or at the drop of a hat. Without a doubt, this can feel like a big, stressful decision to make, but being prepared can help make the experience less stressful. You may have friends, other family members, or health care providers who make caregiver recommendations, but in the end, the decision is still yours and your mom’s to make.

You want to make the best choice possible for her as her child. After all, you are entrusting someone you may not know with her safety and care. Take the time to consider all of the options available and you can be confident that you are making the right decision based on the information you have. With hiring a caregiver, it is important to be flexible and being willing to change if things don’t work out.

1. Determine What Mom Needs

Everyone’s caregiving needs are different depending upon their circumstances. It may be helpful to make a list of the tasks your mom needs help with for both you and the caregiver.

This list can guide the caregiver and keep everyone focused on what is important. For example, your mom may need help with activities of daily living such as taking a shower or getting dressed following an accident or illness.

Here are some other possible reasons for needing a caregiver:

  • If your mom has dementia, she may need help with activities to keep her engaged and calm. If your mom wanders, you may need a caregiver to be with her so you can leave the house.
  • You might need a caregiver to shop and prepare meals or pick up prescriptions if you are working.
  • Some older adults are very lonely and socially isolated. Companionship from a caregiver can keep someone feeling connected and mentally active. Your mom may appreciate being driven to the park or to some other outing of her choice. She may prefer playing games or watching movies together.
  • Your mom might need medication reminders.
  • Safe exercise, whether walking or practicing physical therapy activities, can help someone regain independence. It can be very challenging for older people to keep active on their own.

In addition, reviewing required caregiver duties can help you in deciding who and how to hire.

2. Think About Your Mom’s Personality Style

Personality style and type are often overlooked when hiring a caregiver. This can lead to costly mistakes and caregiver turnover.

Think about how your mom likes to communicate. Is she more introverted or extroverted? Does she prefer to talk or play games? Take some time to think about her hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Would your mom prefer a female or male caregiver? 

A good agency will consider your mom’s personality style and preferences when choosing a caregiver and develop a good care plan that takes these preferences into account. 

3. How to Handle Resistance

Before you even get to the point of hiring a caregiver, your mom may stop you dead in your tracks by refusing to accept help. This is very common but can be overcome with some strategies.

  • Find out what the specific concerns about a caregiver are and address those in a respectful way. 
  • Give your mom control by letting her know that at any time during the process of having a caregiver she can discontinue. One reason so many people want to stop once caregiving has started is that they don’t like the caregiver.  Let your mom know that she is in charge and keep communication open. 
  • Negotiate by agreeing to start low and go slow. Your mom may need several hours of caregiving per day, but agree to begin with half that to see how things go.

4. Private Hire

There may be no more important decision than whether to hire privately or through an agency. There is one simple reason for this: liability. To be fair, many people hire privately and are very satisfied and happy with their decision. It is a personal decision, but understanding the risks and benefits of both will help you make an informed decision. 

Your mom may have a trusted friend who recommends someone in the neighborhood, or they know someone who hired a caregiver that they loved.

Here are some of the risks that may be associated with a private hire:

  • You can be sued for harassment or injury. 
  • If a caregiver steals or abuses your mom, you may have little legal recourse except to contact Adult Protective Services and you may have to incur hefty legal fees.
  • What if your caregiver can’t make a shift or unexpectedly quits? Who will fill in as caregiver for you mom? You could be left with a very stressful and unsafe situation.
  • Don’t forget about payroll and taxes.

By contrast, here are some of the benefits of hiring privately:

  • The biggest benefit is the cost to you as the consumer and is the main reason people hire privately. You can expect to pay less per hour and the caregiver makes more.
  • Some people like the control that hiring privately brings. Caregivers can perform tasks that agency caregivers may not be allowed to do according to state regulations. 

5. Agency Hire 

There are hundreds of home care agencies to choose from across the country. If you don’t live in an urban area, your choices may be limited. Many home care agencies are franchises and are independently owned and operated.

Cons of hiring through an agency:

  • Due to state regulations, caregivers may not be able to perform the tasks that your mom needs. This can be frustrating and stressful. In these cases, you may have to hire a private nurse or rely upon family for caregiving.
  • Costs can be high when hiring private caregivers. Per hour costs range widely depending on where you live, but expect to pay on average about $30 an hour. Those costs can add up.
  • Depending on the agency, they may not have many available caregivers and you might not get the best person for your mom.
  • Turnover is very high. You find the perfect person for your mom, and then they move on to another job or educational opportunity.

Pros of having an agency hire:

  • A licensed, bonded agency will have liability insurance to cover any legal claims
  • A good agency will fill in when a caregiver doesn’t show or can’t make it.
  • An agency handles all scheduling, payroll, and taxes.
  • An agency will replace caregivers if your mom doesn’t like a particular person.
  • Most good agencies develop a flexible plan of care that guides caregivers on their duties. Each caregiver fills out a report on what they did for the day and any issues or problems that came up.

6. Online Hire

Online companies have made some inroads into the traditional brick and mortar agencies. The most well known is Care.com, and others such as Joinhonor.com.

These agencies allow caregivers to post their resumes and hourly costs. Check on liability insurance as you may be responsible for that. The pool of caregivers may be small depending upon where you live.

7. The Family Caregiver Hire

Some families decide to hire a member of the family to provide caregiving. This can work out very well or can cause problems. If your mom is more agreeable to a family member providing her care, this might be your only option.

Be aware that it can be difficult to set boundaries or criticize family caregiving because you don’t want to hurt feelings and damage the relationship. Have an open and honest discussion about this ahead of time.

You may want to consider having a contract in place that spells out how problems will be handled. Address pay and the need for a vacation or fill in caregiver if the paid family member can’t make a shift or needs time off.

The biggest advantage of hiring a family member is that you can usually trust the care that they provide. However as always, consider keeping your eyes open and monitor care as you would for a professional caregiver. Make sure that you cover how payroll and taxes will be handled.

8. How to Choose and What to Ask

If you decide to use an agency, consider asking the following questions before hiring them for your mom:

  • Can you provide references I can call?
  • Am I able to meet the caregiver before they are hired for my mom?
  • How do you handle absences?
  • What regular training do your caregivers receive?
  • What if I want to replace the caregiver? How long will that take on average?

If you are doing a private hire ask the following:

  • Provide at least three references.
  • What did you train in and what is your specialty area? If you have certifications provide copies of those.
  • How long have you been doing this and do you have plans to eventually pursue something else?
  • What do you like about eldercare?
  • Will you sign a contract spelling out how vacations and absences will be handled?
  • Do you handle your own payroll taxes and do you have your own liability insurance?

Needing a Caregiver for Mom Can Be Less Stressful

Regardless of what path you take, remember to manage and monitor the care she receives. No one choice is right for everyone and the decision you make now may need to change later.

Making sure to have an open conversation and line of communication with your mom can make all the difference. With a flexible and informed attitude, you can hire a good caregiver for your mom.