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Getting Help from Other Caregivers

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When hiring caregivers, check references carefully. Personal recommendations are best. When speaking with past employers, ask about the biggest mistake the person ever made, especially if the caregiver is getting a glowing overall report. No one's perfect.

Call elder care agencies in the morning, when they seem to have more time to give you their attention.

Don't let any caregiver just "take over;" your loved one should remain in charge as much as possible while getting necessary help.

Be clear from the beginning as to your expectations of a caregiver. Be specific about duties: answering the phone, watering the plants, handling mail, dealing with pets, shopping, cooking, and so on. Also, find out about the caregiver's expectations for the job. What tasks are they trained to do? Are there tasks that they cannot (or will not) do?

Dad will no doubt have complaints about his caregivers, and some of these complaints may be quite serious. You need to take all complaints seriously. Even if the exact version your father gives you may turn out to be only part of the story, your investigating will assure him that he is being respected, and caregivers will know that you are paying close attention.

If you've accused a caregiver of bad behavior and it turns out you were wrong, let him know. This is really important. Good caregivers take pride in their work, and being wrongly accused of something can be devastating to anyone.

Consider using one of the many concealed video "nanny cams" that are on the market.

Make sure caregivers understand your instructions. Don't just write them on notes; discuss them as well to make sure the instructions are clear and to determine agreement.

If you are supposed to relieve a caregiver and you're running late, always notify her. Have a backup plan in case this happens. Remember that the caregiver has a life and possibly a family, too.

Make out (private) "report cards" for each of the caregivers you hire so you can refer to these later if you need them. If there's something a caregiver does especially well, note that. Keep notes on the objections you had to prospective caregivers you didn't hire.

Have regular meetings with all caregiving staff. If there is more than one caregiver, you'll be better off if they know one another and can communicate, especially when there are scheduling problems. Now and then, try to extend the hours of one or another so that they overlap. They might have a lot to teach each other.

Make sure your father is familiar with anyone who will take care of him. Dad should always have a say in who cares for him. Remember that caregiving can be a very intimate process. It will all go best if you agree up front on the personnel involved, to the extent that that's possible. At a minimum, introduce caregivers to Dad before they actually begin work.

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