What Can In-Home Caregivers Help With?
Last year I found an in-home caregiver to help my mom living with dementia. My mom had recently moved to live with me and my family of five and I needed help - big time. We decided to start looking for a professional caregiver.
I thought the hard part would be looking for and interviewing candidates, and the general hiring process. But then I had to decide what to ask for help with.
What was okay to ask a caregiver to do?
What can I ask an in-home caregiver to help with?
Start by asking yourself what your loved one with dementia needs most. Or, what you - their family caregiver - need most. For me, I desperately needed help driving.
I previously wrote about juggling driving around my three kids and my mom's great love of errands (she no longer drives). I was haggard and exhausted from trying to drive everyone around all week long.
So I made sure to mention "driving help" in the interviews. I also made sure to factor the standard IRS mileage rates into the caregiver's pay.
Mileage covers wear and tear on an employee's vehicle, gas, insurance, registration fees, and depreciation. To give you an idea, the rate in 2022 is 58.5 cents per mile.
Ask the care provider and other caregivers for ideas
I am in an online support group for dementia caregivers. They gave me lots of ideas for things our caregiver could help with.
For example, I knew I wanted my mom to get to know someone other than my family. Someone in my group mentioned the term "companionship" and that gave me a good description to use in interviews.
I also asked the care providers during the interview what they had helped previous clients with. They mentioned taking their clients to the senior center, going for walks together, and playing games to keep cognition sharp. It was helpful to hear what they had done in the past and I wrote it all down.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
I looked on the internet for other ideas, like asking for help folding laundry, light cleaning, organizing projects, running errands.
Sometimes I feel guilty asking for help with things that I feel I should be doing myself, like cleaning my mom's bathroom or taking her to a nail appointment. It's hard for me to ask for help.
Someone in my support group reminded me that my time with my own family is important, and I need to rest too.
It's okay to ask for help with what you need.
Set clear expectations and consider a contract
An agency of caregivers will likely create a contract for you and have a backup policy for what happens when a caregiver is sick. Since we found our caregiver privately, I made sure to clearly write out expectations in a contract.
Not everyone needs to be so formal but I like having things written down ahead of time. You can find sample contracts on the internet. This is also a good opportunity to discuss forms of payment, holidays and time off, and sick policy.
Remember that this person is a human being and also has a life. I respect our caregiver's personal life and sometimes have to make arrangements last minute when sickness, bad weather, or family emergencies have come up.
Our caregiver told me in the interview that she stays with clients until they enter a facility or they pass away. I really appreciated her commitment and dedication and that was a big part of why we hired her.
Especially for a caregiver, the role can evolve and shift based on your loved one. It's good to be upfront about what you expect to avoid confusion or conflict later. Make sure to talk over all the job details, even if they can be uncomfortable to think about.
What our in-home caregiver helps with
Our caregiver has helped us with all kinds of tasks. When my mom first moved into our house, she was leaving her old home that had a pest infestation. Our caregiver helped me disinfect and organize all my mom's clothing and belongings, and safely pack up precious heirlooms that we didn't have room for in my mom's new room.
Our caregiver drives my mom to her exercise classes four times a week, and takes my mom on errands to the grocery store, to buy birthday presents, and to her beauty appointments. She helps us fold laundry while she's waiting for my mom to get ready.
When our family is out of town, she checks on my mom and brings her dinner. She helps deep clean my mom's room and bathroom, and even occasionally walks my mom's dog when I am too busy with the kids and Mom is out of town.
Most importantly, she is warm and patient and cares about my mom and how she's doing. She respects my mom and is committed to helping her stay independent. She communicates well and is clear and open about what she can help with and her schedule.
In the future, I might ask our caregiver for help with bathing, dressing, feeding, meal preparation, and medications, so my mom can continue to live at home. Our caregiver is a CNA [certified nursing assistant] and has experience with many of those needs.
If this is something you also might need, it might be good to think ahead and plan to find someone who can meet the needs of your loved one later on, so you can stick with the same caregiver.
There are great caregivers out there
I am so grateful we found a caregiver who is thoughtful and professional. I was worried about the whole process and anxious about a stranger helping care for my mom, but we found a good one. She is a big part of our family's life now and no longer a stranger.
If you don't find someone you like right away, keep trying. There are some excellent people out there who are ready to help you take care of your loved one and you deserve to have some help.
Have you and your family utilized an in-home caregiver to assist with managing Alzheimer's? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
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