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Choosing a Home-Care Worker

When did you realize that your loved one needed help? For some people, the recognition came with a phone call—"Mom has fallen and broken her hip," or, "Dad has had a stroke." For others, the awareness comes gradually—they might notice that Mom can't get around like she used to, or that Dad's forgetfulness has gotten progressively worse.

Whether the need for you to play a caregiving role comes quickly, slowly, or in fits and starts, you really are better off not trying to provide all the care by yourself. You need help! Why? Because when you share the care, you can be sure that your loved one gets all the attention he or she needs. For many caregivers, hiring a home-care worker is a good solution. A trained home-care aide can help you meet the needs of your loved one while he or she remains safely at home.

But hiring someone can be a tricky business. So, here are some tips and resources to consider if your loved one needs assistance at times when you can't be there.

Defining the Purpose

You know your loved one wants to remain independent. However, before you run out and hire a person to provide home-care services, sit down with Mom—and her doctors if appropriate—and discuss her needs. Does she need help with any of the following?

  • Household chores, such as cleaning, laundry, and preparing meals
  • Non-medical personal care, such as bathing, dressing, and moving about the house
  • Transportation to get her to doctor's appointments and to the grocery store
  • Trained medical assistance, such as monitoring a health condition, administering medicine, or providing physical therapy

Before hiring someone, you'll have to know how often your loved one will need the services listed above.

After you've determined the kind of help Mom or Dad needs, you'll be in a better position to look for a home-care worker to support your family member on a regular basis.

The Screening Process

It can be scary to think of a stranger coming into your loved one's home. The aide will have access to everything in the house and may be helping your Mom or Dad with intimate needs, such as bathing or dressing.

The worst fear for most people is that the home-care worker might take advantage of your Mom or Dad with abusive behavior or theft. The article, "Who's Helping Your Parents?," details an extreme example, and yet the story affirms why it's important to be thorough in the hiring process.

There are lots of steps you can take to ensure that the person in your loved one's home is providing quality, professional care. Some families select an aide on their own; others use an agency. Here are some ideas for selecting an independent home-care worker.

Hiring an Independent Home-Care Worker

You can search for a home-care worker in a variety of ways:

  • Use your social network by asking friends, neighbors, co-workers, or other caregivers you know for references.
  • Post an ad on the bulletin board at your place of worship or community center.
  • Run an ad in your local newspaper.

If you post a job opening, be sure to fully describe the position and its hours, and give your name and phone number. Be sure to list your phone number—not your loved one's—so that you can ask basic questions about the aide's previous work experience, special training, and their ability to get to work on time. And before you interview any candidate, you'll need to know how much you can pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these workers generally earn about $10.25 an hour.  

At the Interview: Discuss your parent's needs, health concerns, and likes and dislikes. Be friendly but professional. Remember, you're trying to determine whether or not this is the right candidate for the job, so you'll want to know the following:

  • The worker's name, address, phone number, Social Security number, and driver's license or id-card number
  • The reason why the aide is seeking the position
  • How to contact the worker's references
  • Any former experience or special training the person has had in providing at-home care


After the Interview: Be sure to check references. Take no one at his or her word when it comes to providing care for your family member. In addition, consider paying for a criminal background check. A recent AARP research report concludes that taking this step can keep the wrong people from gaining access to your loved one's home.

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