How to Choose Home Care: Other Qualities of a Quality Caregiver
What Are Some Other Qualities and Characteristics to Look for in a Home Health Aide?
There are a number of essential qualities that a home care provider must have. These are qualities that are critical to the function of the job. But there are other qualities that you should consider when searching for home caregivers.
These are also very important, falling just below the “essential” list. These qualities or characteristics might be thought of as qualities or characteristics that are more practical in nature. Some might argue (rightly so) that these are not practical at all; that they, too, are essential.
Some of these qualities and characteristics might not apply in all cases. While it would also be fair to argue that on some level, they do apply to all, it is also fair to say that certain qualities are more relevant in some cases than in others.
As you weigh your options in home care, take these additional qualities and characteristics into consideration. Decide how important they are to you. Checking all the boxes and finding all the right qualities in a home care provider such as a home health aide or certified nursing assistant will ensure that you and your loved one have the best possible experience with private home care.
Communication is crucial to securing safe, quality, successful home care. That means that you or your loved one must be able to speak or communicate with your care providers. Language barriers will be a barrier to successful home care.
Do both the caregiver and the care recipient share a common language? Is the recipient hard of hearing? Can they hear, understand, and communicate with the caregiver to the extent that is reasonable? Are there other communication considerations, alternatives, or accommodations that can be made to manage or overcome a communication problem?
The job of a caregiver is one that can be quite physically taxing. This is one of those characteristics that may vary depending on the case, the care that is being contracted for, and the needs and expectations of the client and their family.
For example, some care receivers might require only minimal assistance such as cooking and light housekeeping. Others may require extensive care that will require a higher level of strength and fitness. Consider whether the recipient might require physical lifting and transfer from a bed, wheelchair, etc. Certified caregivers will be trained in how to safely perform these tasks (safely for the caregiver as well as the client), but this is a conversation that needs to be had. The care that you hire must be on par with the demands of the job and the needs of the care recipient.
Look for a comfortable level of experience from the caregiver or caregivers you are considering for the position. Keep in mind that in the case of at-home care, the caregiver is likely to be the only person with you or your loved one for many hours of the day; perhaps all. That means that you need to be comfortable with the level of experience that person has, and that that person should be comfortable and capable of providing that care without direct supervision.
Certainly, this does not mean that there is no place for a newly certified caregiver in the world of personal care, but it might mean that your case may not be the best start for a newcomer. A nursing home or supervised home care position with more direct oversight may be a better place for a newly certified caregiver to start. For a less directly supervised in-home care position, it would be better for that caregiver to have some experience under their belt.
Keep in mind, too, that experience gained in a nursing home, supervised care, companion or private assignment within an assisted living or care facility might be a good experiential lead into a private home care position.
Again, the type and extent of a caregiver’s expertise is dependent upon the condition and type of care that the recipient needs. For example, if the need is primarily in providing companion care, oversight, and assisting with activities of daily living, then any qualified Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Personal Care Attendant (PCA), or Home Health Aide (HHA) will be well qualified to deliver that care.
If the care recipient has other issues or conditions, however, your needs may require a caregiver with a specific type and/or level of expertise. Consider what specialty or expertise the caregiver brings to the table. What has he or she gleaned from working on a similar case that that caregiver can bring to this assignment? Orthopedic or trauma care? Pediatric care? Senior care or experience working with elders? Dementia care?
If you think about the time that you spend with other people, whether friends, family, co-workers or acquaintances, and you think about what makes that time pleasurable, one of those things is sure to be that people take an interest in you. That you have someone with whom you can share your life, your thoughts, and your experiences, even if only on a friendly level.
Now think about the many hours that a home care recipient spends with a home care provider. Wouldn’t you want to spend that time with someone who can take an interest in you? Who is happy to have a conversation with you? Surely, we cannot expect to be the center of that person’s life, but we can expect that the caregiver brings a warmth and an interest to the position, at least enough to make the days more enjoyable.
The level of certification that you require of a caregiver will depend on the complexity of the case. For example, a more independent senior with low limitations may require more of a set of eyes and ears and assistance with household tasks, cooking, and light cleaning, while one with ongoing medical conditions may require a caregiver with mid-level non-clinical training or even a higher level of care such as a private duty nurse for trachea care, feeding tubes, paralysis, IV, etc.
Some cases may require both. For example, a trauma injury that needs the most assistance with meals, housecleaning, and activities of daily living but requires the skilled nursing care of a wound care nurse.
At the very least, certification shows a level of dedication and training. It also shows that the person has been trained in important areas such as confidentiality, safety, and ethics. Before you begin looking for care, decide what you need in a provider. Learn what providers of varying certification levels can and cannot legally be expected to perform . Then, choose your home care provider with that as your base level for certification and training.
As with any job, there are bound to be times when something needs clarification, modification, or times when both parties don’t quite see eye to eye, and the situation will need to be addressed. For those times, you need a caregiver who is manageable. You need a caregiver who will take direction, listen to suggestions (reasonable suggestions), execute correction, and will be open to discussion, praise and criticism.
Of course, you owe it to this person to keep requests and discussions professional and reasonable and focused to the job at hand; you owe it to them to listen as well as talk. Caregivers cannot be expected to work outside their job description and scope of practice, either. But you should be able to work maturely and manageably through an issue together.
Lastly, look for a caregiver or caregivers who can work collaboratively as a part of the care team. Yes, every home care situation has a team—even if there is only one caregiver employed. At the bare minimum a care team will consist of two—employer and employee. In most cases the team will be larger—a family advocate or representative of the care receiver (in some cases the care recipient themselves), a home care agency in charge of staff and hiring, other clinical staff (depending on medical conditions and needs), and other aides and caregivers (such as second or third shift caregiver staff).
Your caregivers need to be able to work as a part of this team. This is how good care happens. Staff need to communicate between shifts for smooth transitions and continuity of care. Likewise, they need to be able to communicate with clinical and agency staff. But more than just talking, they need to work with you and these other staff to get the job done.
There may be days when the day shift was not able to complete all tasks if something unexpected occurred or the client was having a bad day; there may be times when the regular schedule is interrupted. There will be times when caregivers need time off for vacation, personal, or sick time. All of these—and more—are scenarios in which another member of the team will be called upon to provide care, coverage, and services that might veer from their typical day-to-day. In the interest of the person being cared for, members of the team must be team players and must be willing to work cooperatively with all members of the team to provide the best possible care and achieve the best possible outcomes for the person they are caring for.
The Process of Finding Good Home Care Workers
Identifying the qualities of a quality caregiver is only the first step in finding quality care. These qualities are important to a positive experience and good outcomes for the person being cared for. It is important to note, however, that this is only one piece of the hiring puzzle. Background checks, thorough vetting, and employment, human resources, and payroll issues are other pieces of that puzzle—crucial pieces of the puzzle that must also be attended to. These are tasks made much easier by working with a high-quality home care services agency (and with a much-reduced level of risk and liability). Working together with the right team will make your experience with private home care a positive one.