A woman sitting in her home with a legal pad interviews several different people for caregiver positions.

Finding Qualified Care for Alzheimer's: Tips and Navigating the Process

If you or someone you love has Alzheimer's disease you may find that, at some point, you need some extra help in getting through the basic activities of daily life. This is when your qualified Alzheimer's care comes into play, but before that, you need a game plan.

For some this care may be limited to a few hours a week helping out with the housework or shopping. Others may need full-time assistance to eat, dress, get around, and other instrumental activities of daily living. Understanding what qualified care is when it comes to Alzheimer's and how they can help will determine what level of care you need and what questions to ask as you embark on the search.

Caregiving is hard work

The old adage, "good help is hard to find" is fitting when seeking qualified care for Alzheimer's. Putting together the right team can be a challenge. Many people are fortunate enough to have a close network of family and friends to support them. Others may not have the same support to take on the burden.

In the months or even early years following a diagnosis, people with Alzheimer's may need little or no assistance to go about their normal routines. As with other progressive or long term illnesses, however, it can get increasingly more difficult to manage, as symptoms get worse. Movement may be restricted, the capability to understand may be diminished, and thus a need for more care can develop.1

Being a caregiver is complex

It is nearly impossible for one person to be a full-time caregiver, 24/7. There can be a physical and emotional toll on both the person needing care and those providing it, especially for family members.

To be reliable, familial or informal caregivers must be committed but must also get relief, having time to take care of themselves.

The varieties of Alzheimer's care

There are many different kinds of caregivers. At any point in time, these can be family members, friends, or individuals hired from the outside.

The basic categories include:1

  • Primary – those who have day-to-day responsibility;
  • Respite – those that provide back-up and relief for the primary caregivers;
  • Agency – paid caregivers that are hired by an agency with whom you subcontract;
  • Crisis – provide care in an emergency situation;
  • Volunteers – schools, religious organizations, volunteer agencies may be able to identify people in your community who can help.

Potential sources for qualified Alzheimer's care

There are a number of different avenues available to you when exploring potential qualified care options, including:

  • Personal referrals
  • Home health care agency
  • Nursing agency
  • Hospital/medical referrals
  • Elder care/geriatric care managers

Articulate your asks and expectations

It can be difficult to know who you can trust when hiring professional care for yourself or a loved one. A good way to begin is to assess the home care needs and prepare a job description for exactly what you are looking for and your expectations.

Next, try getting personal referrals from friends and family. A caregiver who has done a good job for people you know is a good place to start.

The questions and categories below can be used to evaluate candidates from any of the sources listed. You can ask questions about the experience they have in addressing the needs that you have identified.

For example:

  • If you need someone to provide transport, do they drive?
  • If you have specialized medical needs, do they have the training and qualifications to meet these needs?
  • Are your needs changing? If so, what skills may be required later?

What are your needs and the needs of your loved one?

This can include things like:

  • General mobility
  • Personal hygiene
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Meal preparation
  • Transportation
  • Exercise and recreational activities
  • Medication assistance
  • Hospice care
  • Dementia care

Quaified care hiring strategies

Screening – check for experience, hourly rate, gender preference, and strength.

Interviews – meet the candidates, ask your questions, listen to and evaluate their answers and demeanor, look for common interests.

References – speak with past employers, find out about the levels of care they are familiar with providing. Are they compassionate, reliable, and honest?

Background check – investigate any criminal record, confirmation of information provided, and evidence of being insured and bonded if desired.

Expenses for qualified in-home care

In-home care can be very expensive. The level of care that is needed will vary from person to person. Both the amount and type of care will determine the level of expertise required and the cost.

Therefore, the skill level of the people you are considering will vary. There are non-certified aides, certified nurse's aides (CNA), home health aides (HHA), licensed practical nurses (LPN), registered nurses (RN), and many different kinds of therapists.1

Some caregivers specialize in caring for people with Alzheimer's. They have either received additional training or have hands-on experience that is helpful in navigating Alzheimer's care. People with Alzheimer's may have other medical conditions that might require more specific nursing training.1

Make a budget. Find out what your insurance might cover, any financial assistance you may qualify for, and any support services in the community.

Would you like to talk to others in the Alzheimer's community about navigating and finding qualified care? Reach out in our forums.

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