Finding a Geriatric Caregiver

If the time has come for you to find a caregiver for your aging relative, Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Healthcare (a national caregiving franchise) has the following recommendations:

Start with the Basics

Begin your search with the fundamentals every provider must have -

  1. Insurance
  2. Licensing from the state in which caregivers serve
  3. A thorough screening procedure for all employees

Potential caregivers should be screened via

  1. Drug testing
  2. Personal interviews
  3. References
  4. Customary background and criminal checks
  5. Ask if the same caregiver provides services or if there are rotating groups of service providers.

Determine Loved One’s Needs

One of the biggest decisions clients have to make is choosing medical versus non-medical care.

  1. Non-medical care is a great option for clients who need some help running errands or someone to keep them company during the day.

    WHN TIP: Multi-Situational Agencies and Aides

    One factor to consider - non-medical patients often turn into clients who need medical assistance. In order to offer continuity of care, look for an agency that provides aides qualified to work in all situations.

  2. Here's more information on finding senior housing.

Understand the Agency's Structure

  1. At a minimum, caregivers should be Certified Nurse’s Assistants (CNA) under the direction of a Registered Nurse (RN.)
  2. CNAs help with the tasks of daily living – bathing, dressing, and monitoring vitals, i.e. blood pressure, temperature, heart rate – but they cannot administer medication or offer medical care.
  3. People who require on-going, in-home medical care should work with an agency that has nurses available.

WHN TIP: Agency Employed Caregivers - A Must!

In home caregivers must be employed by an agency, instead of working for you as an independent contractor. Why? If your independent contractor gets hurt on the job, you could be sued and most homeowners’ policies do not cover a claim like that.

According to Loretta Worters, Vice President, Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)

  1. “The big issue for a caregiver would be any liability if he or she were injured on the homeowners premises. Although a homeowner's policy covers a guests’ injuries, caregivers are excluded from coverage because they are employees."
  2. "While most homeowners' policies cover the people you pay to occasionally work for you, such as a teenager who baby-sits or cuts your grass, they specifically exclude anyone eligible for workers compensation coverage, including caregivers (it is mandated in some states, such as California).”
  3. Worters recommends when using caregivers unaffiliated with an agency, purchase a workers compensation policy to pay the medical bills relating to injuries the caregiver receives on the job as well as coverage for lost wages if the caregiver is temporarily or permanently unable to work due to the injury. The policy will also prevent the caregiver from suing you for pain and suffering.
  4. If you are planning to hire a caregiver, call your insurance company first because there may be other aspects (such as the caregiver residing in your home or using your car) that could impact your insurance.

    To be on the safe side, adds Worters, ask your insurance agent to add a liability rider to your existing policy, to cover any claims the caregiver may make in case of accident or injury.

Conduct Your Own Interviews

  1. Your gut instinct is an invaluable factor in selecting a caregiver.
  2. Sometimes the first candidate is the right choice, and other times finding the best person can take time.
  3. You should never be charged or limited to a certain number of interviews.
  4. If for some reason the first person doesn’t work out, you should be able to request a different caregiver.

WHN TIP: Questions for Caregivers and Agency

Click here for our Get Prepared – Senior Housing info – you'll find questions to ask the agency and the caregiver.

Ask About the Contract Duration

  1. You should expect to sign a consent for care or service agreement.
  2. Keep in mind that health needs can change weekly, especially when in elder years.
  3. Some agencies request a weekly or monthly commitment, which can be a costly decision if a patient decides to stop receiving care or enters a nursing home or hospital.
  4. According to Ms. Sun, “The consent for treatment/service agreement typically entails the payment arrangements, whether a DNR (do not resuscitate) is in place, how holidays and overtime are handled, insurance coverage, cancellation less than 6 hours in advance, live-in work conditions required, patient's rights and responsibilities, and advance directives.”
  5. “The biggest item to be aware of are clauses that require long periods of time of advance notice for cancellation or minimum usage clauses,” she adds.

    “BrightStar Healthcare clients can cancel with 6 hours notice. Some of the non-medical service care provider companies require 2 full weeks notice and charge regardless of whether the service is desired or not.”

    5/2009