One of the ramifications of extended life is the rapidly increasing population of seniors who need varying levels of care. While business and government have responded to this development with some standards and protocols, ultimate responsibility remains with family, friends, and institutions that select caregivers.
Previous generations had fewer older relatives to care for and more people in the home to care for them. With two-breadwinner families prevalent and older children often away at school or themselves employed, the presence of paid help has become a frequent necessity. The marketplace has responded with agencies and freelancers dedicated to home care, but the quality and cost of this care varies across the nation. With the regulation of this segment of the health field largely in the hands of state authorities, the result is sharp differences in standards and accountability of practitioners and employers from place to place.
A family seeking the services of a caregiver will normally have access to basic relevant information as to licensing of agencies and the experience and references of referred individuals. Often, a potential caregiver will have been recommended by neighbors or relatives on the strength of a successful care episode. However, it is essential that the written record and recommendations be supplemented by a meaningful interview because a happy care outcome is so sensitive to the relationship that develops between the caregiver and the cared-for.
Much will depend on the level of care required. For some, medications and doctor visits will loom large. For others, basic hygiene support and companionship will be more dominant. Regardless of these crucial details, the selected caregiver must be a person who provides alert, conscientious, efficient care that meets the physical, emotional, and security needs of the senior.
The interview is the opportunity to evaluate the motivation and warmth that the potential caregiver will bring to the assignment. Realistically, many people employed as home caregivers are in the field because of the lack of more rewarding employment opportunities, whether their fault or not. And yet, many have just the giving traits and family experiences that make for caring support.The following suggested questions are designed not only to elicit useful answers but also to subjectively judge the human feelings that will underlie their efforts:
- What care-giving experience has given you the most satisfaction?
- What have you found most frustrating in your experiences?
- Do you keep in touch with any of the families you’ve worked with?
- Have you had any care-giving experiences in your own family?
- Have you learned about the backgrounds and life stories of people you’ve cared for?
- How do you stay cheerful with people who have many things wrong with them?
- How do you stay alert with someone who hasn’t much to say?
- How do you stay friendly with someone who might be disagreeable?
- Do you have any interest in advancing in the health field?
These questions should be supplemented with others specific to the care-giving situation under discussion. It is not only the answers but the seriousness and passion that may accompany some of them that will be valuable indicators of success or the opposite. Professions of love for old people must be backed up with experience and/or perceived sincerity.
Although there is no foolproof way to read the heart of a potential caregiver, a well thought-out interview and careful listening can eliminate some of the inherent uncertainty in taking on a highly sensitive and vital relationship.
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