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What To Look For In A Home Care Aide

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If you are a senior or the caregiver of a senior, and you need help to perform activities of daily living, then it is time to look into a home health aide. Home health aides can help with many activities of daily living all in the comfort of the home so that seniors can continue to enjoy a high quality of living.

But what to look for in a home care aide? A home care aide should be experienced, well trained, patient, compassionate, and a good communicator. Most importantly, look for someone who has been a home health aide for a long time, can give you a list of references to call, and cares about the people they are assisting.

Finding the right person to spend a significant part of the day in your home or the home of a loved one is important. The home health aide you choose needs to be a good fit with the personality of the person they are caring for. Continue reading to find out why home health aides are important and what qualities you should look for when selecting one.

What Makes a Good Home Health Aide? (What Qualities Should You Look For In A Quality Caregiver?)

Selecting a good home health aide may take some time but finding a good fit for yourself or your loved one is irreplaceable. When interviewing a home health aide prospect, make sure you hit upon each of the following characteristics.

Experience

A good home health aide will be experienced. The more experience a home health aide has, the more likely it is that they will know exactly how to handle the needs of the person they are caring for.

Ask: What kind of experience do you have as a home health aide? What kind of tasks have you performed previously?

References

Along with ample experience, a home health aide should also be able to provide several references. If the home health aide has good references, then you can be sure that they are good at their job and they are good at supporting seniors.

Ask: Do you have a list of references that we can call?

Training

Not all home health aides, even those hired through an agency, are required to undergo any significant amount of training. If you only need a home health aide to run errands, cook meals, and perform light housework, then training may not be required.

If you need a home health aide to give medication or provide more in-depth care, you may want to ensure that they have been trained to perform these tasks.

Ask: What kind of training have you received? Do you have any certifications?

Compassionate And Patient

The personal qualities of a home health aide are just as important as their training and ability to perform their duties. A home health aide needs to be patient and compassionate with the person they are caring for.

You wouldn’t want someone to run short on patience or understanding with a senior who is already dealing with health challenges.

This goes double for seniors who may be experience memory loss or other cognitive issues.

It is hard to get at whether a person is patient and compassionate in an interview setting, but you could try one of these questions to give them a chance to reveal these qualities to you.

Ask: What do you think makes a good home health aide? Tell me about a time when you were in a challenging situation and how did you deal with it?

Communication Skills

A home health aide absolutely must have good communication skills. Part of their role is to provide companionship to the person they care for and they will need good communication skills to fulfill this role.

In addition, good communication skills are an important part of figuring out what a senior needs either through what the person is telling them or what information other caregivers provide.

You do not need to ask any questions to assess whether a person has good communication skills. You can usually assess communication skills as you go through the interview process.

If the senior receiving care speaks a language other than English, you may wish to ask the home health aide about their proficiency in that language.

Why Are Home Health Aides Important?

Home health aides are an important part of providing care for people who need extra support at home. They provide a wide variety of services and support independent living for seniors which improves their quality of life.

  1. By hiring a home health aide, seniors are able to live in comfort and safety at home longer or indefinitely. Home health aides can support seniors in the areas that they need it while allowing them to perform tasks independently that they are still capable of doing safely.
  2. Home health aides will give seniors peace of mind, knowing that someone is there with them to help if they need it. They will also give the rest of that person’s family peace of mind when they are unable to be with that person.
  3. Activities of daily living can be supported at home with home health aides. Grooming and bathing can be provided by a home health aide. This increases a person’s health, their quality of life, and their enjoyment of it.
  4. A home health aide can ensure that a person is eating well and eating enough. By monitoring a person’s diet and cooking for them, home health aides can ensure seniors are getting proper nutrition, and they can relay important information to doctors or other caregivers.
  5. Home health aides also provide companionship. This is especially important for seniors who are unable to get out of their home or who do not have many friends or family nearby who can visit. Companionship can help improve their quality of life and ward of loneliness and depression.
  6. A home health aide can also help with keeping the home environment hygienic and safe by doing light chores like doing the dishes and vacuuming.
  7. If more extensive medical care is needed, some home health aides can provide these services to ensure that seniors are well taken care of and receiving their treatments.
  8. Home health care is also typically more affordable than a facility or hospital care. We don’t want to think with our wallet when it comes to health care, but in this case, quality care in the home can be provided at reduced costs. It is a win-win.

Does A Home Health Aide Need Certification?

Home health aides are not required to hold any specific level of education, and they are not required to get any certification.

However, most states have training programs that must be completed to be an official home health aide. The number of hours of training required varies by state but generally runs between 75 and 120 hours (source).

Home health aide certification is available through many local community colleges.

Home Health Aide Skills Checklist

The list of skills required for your particular situation will vary greatly depending on the needs of the person the home health aide will be caring for.

If a home health aide has gone through a training or certification program, they likely have some knowledge of these tasks, but what you really want to look for is someone who has experience performing them to back up that knowledge.

Skills Checklist

  • How to perform personal hygiene tasks like bathing, teeth brushing etc.
  • Physical strength if lifting is required
  • Understanding of medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes
  • How to use any necessary equipment like oxygen tanks, nebulizers, or wheelchairs
  • How to perform necessary basic medical tasks like changing bandages or changing a colostomy pouch
  • How to cook healthy, well balanced meals
  • How to keep the home environment clean and safe

How Do I Prepare For A Caregiver Interview?

If you are going it alone and are not choosing a caregiving agency to provide you with a home health aide, you will need to conduct interviews with potential caregivers. Be sure to ask the candidate lots of questions so you can get an idea of whether they are the best person to take care of your senior loved one.

An interview also will help you determine things like how the person might get along with your parent or whether they can handle an emergency situation. After all, you don’t want someone taking care of your mom if they don’t have enough experience – or don’t have the right experience. For example, if your parent has dementia, you will want to hire someone who has taken care of a person with dementia in the past.

In order to prepare for such an important meeting:

  • Ask for both personal and professional references from prior jobs or from people they have taken care of in the past.
  • Check to see what certifications the person has and from where and ask for contact information for the program director.
  • Ask if they are licensed and bonded. Get the contact information.
  • Assemble a list of interview questions beforehand.

Before Hiring: Questions To Ask A Caregiver For Elderly People

Be sure to choose “tough” questions that will help you eliminate candidates who have memorized the answers to the more “standard” interview questions. Also, try to choose several questions from a range of the four following categories so you can get a well-rounded idea of how the candidate would perform on the job.

Hypothetical Questions

These are those kinds of questions that we all dislike when we go on a job interview, however they can help you determine how the potential caregiver might act in an emergency. They can also shed some light on how the person would apply their skills in a given situation.

A hypothetical question could be something like, “In what scenario would it be okay for you to be late to the job?” or “My mother has dementia. How would you handle it if Mom became combative?”

Direct Answer Questions

Direct answer questions require a direct answer. They should be along the lines of, “What prior experience do you have in taking care of someone with dementia?” or “What was the hardest part of your last job?”or “What experience do you have with transferring a person from a bed to a wheelchair?”

These are also the “tell me a time” questions you have likely been asked in your own job interviews. You could ask such questions as, “Tell me what was the most rewarding thing about caring for your last senior?” or “Tell me a time when you worked with a combative patient. How did you resolve the problem?”

Questions About Skills

Again, these should be pointed questions, like “What skills do you have in caring for someone with Parkinson’s?” or “Tell me what you have done in the past to aid someone who is in a wheelchair (or forgets to take their medication… or cannot dress themselves…or refuses to eat, etc.).

This is also the category for questions like “Have you had to give CPR to a former client?”

Problem Solving and Interpersonal Relationship Questions

The questions in this category can tell you how the candidate might handle different scenarios or if they would be a good personality fit with your loved one. Ask things like, “What made you become a caregiver?”, “What is something negative (or positive) that your last employer would say about you?”, or “What are your hobbies?”.

After The Interview

When you find a candidate that you are interested in, there are several step that should be completed before you hire them:

  • Before ending the interview, tell them you would like to run a credit check and a background check. Ask them to provide their full name, address, phone number and social security number. Snap a picture of their current photo ID with your phone.
  • Contact their personal and prior job references.
  • Also contact the school or institute that has certified them and verify that the person did actually get certified (and to verify that the school actually exists).
  • Similarly, if they are licensed and bonded, use the contact info they gave to verify this.
  • Run a credit check and a background check on the person, using the personal information the person gave you.

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