Hiring in-home help

Few decisions are as important – and daunting – than finding the right homecare either for yourself or a loved one. Here are some things to consider.

Define your needs

The first step in determining both how much and what kind of help you will need to find is to assess the situation as clearly as possible.

There are two categories of help: skilled help is usually under the direction of medical professionals — a visiting nurse for wound care, for example. In-home support services include housekeeping and meal preparation, and possibly a few personal care activities such as helping with dressing and bathing.

To assess your needs, evaluate your loved one’s situation carefully. This evaluation will not only be helpful as you begin your search, but can form the basis of a job description once you are into the hiring process.

Here is a checklist of potential needs and issues to get you started:

Around the house
• Help needed with laundry
• Light housework
• Meal preparation
• Pet care

Personal care
• Understands own needs
• Asks for help
• Gets around independently
• Needs help to eat
• Needs help to bathe/shower
• Needs help to use toilet
• Needs help with mobility
• Is incontinent
• Is bedridden
• Needs supervision
• Needs help fixing meals
• Needs help with medications
• Visually impaired/hearing impaired
• Confused/disoriented
• Depressed/anxious

Particular needs
• Special routines
• Safety issues
• Difficult behaviours
• Favourite activities or “vices”(smoking, drinking)

If your elder does not require hands-on care and the work is more along the lines of housework, you may feel more comfortable hiring on your own than if personal care issues are involved.

Accessing resources

Home care help varies widely from province to province, both in terms of what services are provided at low or no cost and how they are structured. If you are looking for home-based care, another great place to start is a local seniors’ centre. The Canadian Caregiver Coalition also has a good list of web links sorted by province at http://www.ccc-ccan.ca/links/index.php#regionalservices

Another approach is to use your personal network. This is especially appropriate if the services you are seeking are less skilled. Try asking fellow church members, local friends and family members, neighbours, and even coworkers if they know of individuals or agencies they can recommend. The advantage here is that you are able to get the client’s own point of view.

If you find yourself advertising in a newspaper or online, keep the ad brief and focused.

Before you interview

Be sure you have a detailed job description before you start to speak to candidates for the position, or approaching an agency. This will save time in screening unsuitable candidates and help you to really focus on the job that needs to be done. Be as specific as possible: hours, expectations, and duties should all be a part of it. Here are some of the tasks that might appear on a job description:
• Companionship
• Supervision (eating, bathing, medication)
• Personal care
• Light housekeeping
• Laundry
• Food preparation
• Shopping

Interview tips

Do some screening over the telephone to save time and energy. Keep a list by the phone of some of the aspects of the job — specific expectations, hours and wages — as well as a few basic questions about qualifications and experience. Ask about references at this stage as well. If you feel the candidate may be a good fit, invite him or her for an interview — preferably at the home at which he or she will be working. Some questions to ask at this stage include:
• Where have you worked before?
• Why did you leave your last position?
• What were your duties?
• What are the reasons you chose this type of work?
• How do you feel about caring for an elderly/disabled person? Or a person with memory problems?
• How do you handle people who are stubborn, angry, or fearful?
• What classes or training have you taken for this type of work?
• How have you handled emergency situations in the past?
• Would you be able to transfer someone from a wheelchair into a car or unto a bed?
• Is there anything that you are uncomfortable doing?
• What time commitment are you willing to make to stay on the job?
• Can you give me two work-related and one personal reference?

It’s also a good idea to ask applicants how they would handle hypothetical situations that relate to your family member. For example: Dad falls sometimes. What would you do if he fell while you were caring for him?

Contracts and taxes

Once you’re at the hiring stage you will need a work contract that outlines all the specifics – and expresses how to deal with things like absenteeism. Your contract should contain:
• The job description
• Salary and when and how it will be paid
• Hours
• Paid vacation or not
• Paid sick leave or not
• Caregiver’s meals will be provided or not
• Caregiver’s visitors are permitted or not
• Work rules (use of drugs will result in dismissal, for example)
• How many times late or absent will result in dismissal
• Giving of gifts and money between caregiver and elder allowed or not allowed
• Social Insurance Number of care provider
• Signatures of all parties, and date signed (make sure job description is signed as well)

If you’re hiring privately and not through an agency, you will also have to make sure you are aware of your responsibilities as an employer. Contact the Canadian Revenue Agency for details, or visit their website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/.

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