As you consider bringing in a caregiver to help you or your loved one at home, you may be wondering what kind of questions to ask. People generally hire caregivers for in-home help either through an agency or an online company like Care.com. Some people decide to hire caregivers that friends or other family members recommend who have no affiliation with a company.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Essential Interview Questions for Caregivers
- Essential Interview Questions for Dementia or Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Hiring outside an agency can be complicated. If you choose to go down that route, you are responsible for background checks (except in the case of online companies that offer that service), liability insurance, and replacing someone who quits or misses a shift.
If you are hiring through an agency, you might be tempted to skip too many questions assuming that the agency will pick the right caregiver for you. Most agencies will be very willing to let you interview caregivers and make your own choice.
Regardless of which avenue you choose, here are some important questions to keep in mind when selecting someone as a caregiver.
Essential Interview Questions for Caregivers
Caregiver training and certification vary across the country. Expecting a caregiver to perform tasks that they aren’t allowed to by law complicates the caregiver situation. Try and be clear about what a caregiver can and can’t do to help your aging adult. That way, you can tailor your questions to the skill set they have and not one you expect.
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1. What is your experience working with older adults?
Older adults have complex needs and personalities. If a caregiver has worked primarily with younger adults or children, working with an older adult can be a shock. Are you willing to overlook experience in this area to get a good caregiver?
Answer you’re looking for: Yes, I have had years of experience working with older adults.
Years of experience aren’t necessary, but some knowledge is helpful. Ask specifics about the type of clients the caregiver has worked with and the type of caregiver duties they have performed. Has the caregiver worked with more independent clients? Or, have they also assisted clients with complex medical needs?
2. What is your training?
As mentioned, state training requirements can vary. What you want to know is what additional training the caregiver has pursued. Most caregiver agencies offer additional training throughout the year, but it is often not mandatory.
Answer you’re looking for: I explore and have training in several areas.
Some states have minimal training requirements, and you will want to know specifics about the training this caregiver has. Examples include how to safely transfer someone, CPR training, emergency protocols, basic first aid, ethics, and recognizing elder abuse signs.
A caregiver who has taken the time to maximize their training within state requirements shows that they are motivated and have a higher skill level.
3. Have you had a background check and a drug test?
Most good agencies will take care of this as a condition of employment. If you are hiring outside an agency, you will need to get permission from the caregiver to conduct a background and drug test.
Answer you’re looking for: I would be happy to provide a background and drug test.
If a potential caregiver refuses a background or drug test, move on. It is not worth taking a chance on someone who may have a criminal or drug use history. Any caregiver with integrity and nothing to hide should be happy to provide a background and drug test.
4. Why did you choose this line of work?
Professional caregiving is not a high-paying job. The average base hourly rate in the U.S. is $12.63 an hour. Some agencies pay more and some less. If you are hiring privately, you can negotiate a salary with them. The fact is, some people do have better-paying job options, and most people choose caregiving because they enjoy working with older adults and helping families.
Answer you’re looking for: I love working with older adults.
It is common for caregivers to tell personal stories of taking care of a grandparent or another aging family member and get hooked on working with this age group. Caregivers working with older adults express empathy and a connection with this particular group.
5. Give an example of an ethical breach
Most caregivers are honest and loyal workers who care deeply about their clients. It is not unusual for a caregiver and client to grow close, and this is where crossing boundaries can sometimes occur.
Answer you’re looking for: An example of an ethical breach is where my client offers to give me gifts or pay me extra.
Accepting gifts or money outside an agency agreement or one made by you is not acceptable. There are other ethical breaches, like a client asking the caregiver to provide a service that is outside their scope of practice or what has been previously agreed upon. If in doubt, the caregiver should come to you for guidance.
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6. Do you have reliable and clean transportation?
Caregivers are often asked to transport their clients to appointments or leisure activities. If the caregiver doesn’t have a car, then the situation may not work out.
Answer you’re looking for: Yes.
Why a clean car? Because anyone may be offended by a dirty, cluttered car. You also want to make sure that the caregiver’s car is reliable and safe. If you are hiring outside an agency you can negotiate mileage and other expenses incurred by providing transportation.
7. How do you handle emergencies?
Emergencies and unexpected problems do happen. It is impossible to anticipate every situation, but a good caregiver should be calm during a crisis and have a plan in mind to follow.
Answer you’re looking for: When in doubt call 911.
It isn’t often that calling 911 is the wrong thing to do. You might also want to ask for an example of a time when the caregiver had to handle an emergency and what their decision-making process was.
8. What would people say are your positive qualities?
The answer to this question might seem pre-planned so do what you can to determine whether the caregiver is authentic in their response.
Answer you’re looking for: Compassionate, responsible, trustworthy, patient, and empathetic.
These are just a few of the core qualities it takes to be an outstanding caregiver. What you are looking for is some self-awareness of what working with an older adult requires.
9. What are your cooking skills?
Not every aging adult will need someone to cook for them, but most do. Cooking is a core skill that every caregiver should be prepared to do either now or in the future.
Answer you’re looking for: I understand good nutritional principles and adapt my cooking to whatever an aging adult needs.
An older adult might have specific dietary requirements like a diabetic diet or particular likes and dislikes, including vegetarian or gluten-free. You aren’t expecting a great chef, just flexibility and basic cooking skills that can be adapted to what your loved one needs and wants.
Essential Interview Questions for Dementia or Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Working with an aging adult who has dementia or Alzheimer’s takes a special person. Part of the caregiving challenge is that these older adults have varying degrees of impairment manifested in many different ways.
10. What is your experience working with older adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s?
Hiring a caregiver who has no experience working with someone who has dementia is risky. The behaviors and safety issues are very different from working with someone who does not have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Answer you’re looking for: I have had experience working with older adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
When receiving an answer to this question, ask specifics about the length and breadth of the caregiver’s experience. What is the level of impairment of the adults they have worked with? How many clients have they worked with who have dementia or Alzheimer’s?
11. How would you handle a client who is aggressive or inappropriate?
It is not uncommon for some people with dementia to be aggressive or inappropriate. These behaviors can be a real challenge to manage. You can’t expect any caregiver to put their own safety at risk, and liability is a concern in these situations. Discussing these behavioral problems upfront with a potential caregiver is the best approach.
Answer you’re looking for: I have had experience working with clients who are aggressive and inappropriate. I know techniques for diffusing and distracting these behaviors.
Talk in detail about what the caregiver would do in this situation. Be clear that you want to protect the caregiver from unwanted behavior, but ask about specific techniques to distract and redirect someone from these behaviors.
12. What activities do you think are appropriate for people with dementia?
Spending time with an aging adult who has dementia is not just about personal care needs and other activities of daily living. Those are important but keeping someone with dementia stimulated and involved is equally crucial. An aging adult with dementia will have unique needs depending on their level of impairment.
Answer you’re looking for: I know a variety of activities for people with dementia.
Talk in detail about the types of memory care activities that the caregiver knows that appeal to people with dementia. Sorting laundry, music, simple games, sensory activities, gentle exercise, and cooking are all appropriate, dementia specific activities.
13. How would you handle someone who refuses care?
Perhaps you have already experienced handling a parent with dementia who refuses help and you want to know how they would manage such a situation. Refusing care or even asking a caregiver to leave are typical behaviors for someone with dementia and can be very challenging to deal with.
There is always the possibility that your loved one has a legitimate dislike of the caregiver, or it wouldn’t matter who the caregiver is.
Answer you’re looking for: I approach these situations with patience and compassion.
Redirecting, engaging in other distracting activities can be helpful. Also, having familiarity with approaches that use sensitivity while maintaining the client’s dignity can be very beneficial for clients who refuse care.
Also, the caregiver should come to you with any of these problems if they arise. Then the two of you can talk about whether there are some alternative approaches to care.
Interview Questions for Caregivers of Aging Adults
Interviewing caregivers for your loved one requires a focus on what is important to you. As you interview potential candidates, remember to be flexible while also trusting your intuition.
Try not to be rigid in your expectations, but also don’t compromise your standards. Leaving a loved one in the hands of a caregiver can feel daunting, but asking the right questions can leave you feeling a bit more at ease.
- “How Much Does a Caregiver Make in the United States?” Build a career you’ll love, Indeed, www.indeed.com/career/caregiver/salaries.