If you need someone to provide companion care for an elderly loved one, you will need to know what to look for. Seek out a caregiver committed to maintaining the elder's dignity, experienced with his specific conditions, willing to do menial tasks. You should also look for a caregiver who is employed by a certified agency. Even though companion caregivers are not medical professionals and cannot administer medications, when you know what to look for you, you can ensure you'll get someone who will ensure your loved one is comfortable, safe and happy.
A good companion caregiver should be committed to maintaining your loved one's dignity. Many older people are embarrassed that they can no longer fully care for themselves. To ensure dignity, include your loved one when you interview prospective caregivers. Good caregivers will address your loved one by his name of preference and include him in the discussion. If the prospective caregiver speaks to your loved one as she would speak to a child, or talks about him as if he isn't there, it means you should keep looking.
The right companion caregiver should also be experienced with your loved one's condition as well as how that condition expresses itself. For example, if the elder suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and tends to become hostile, the caregiver you select needs to know how to defuse tense situations. A caregiver experienced with Alzheimer’s patients who only become forgetful or disoriented may not have the necessary skills. Similarly, if you need the caregiver to assist with bathing, toileting or dressing, she should have experience with those tasks.
Willingness to do menial tasks is another important trait to look for in a caregiver. Maintaining a clean and neat living environment is crucial to the health and safety of your loved one. When interviewing caregivers, be up-front about the amount of housework the job will entail and watch the caregiver's reaction. If she balks at tasks such as cleaning the toilet, she may not be the right person for you. A good caregiver should also be honest about any agency rules that limit how much and what type of cleaning she is allowed to do.
Knowledge of professional limitations is another important trait in a companion caregiver. Because companion caregivers are not medical professionals, they are not allowed to dispense medications, apply medicated creams, or do wound care. When you interview prospective caregivers, ask them what role they anticipate playing in the management of your loved one's medications. A good caregiver will tell you that she can remind the elder to take his meds, but cannot do tasks such as filling his pill box for him or sorting his pills.
Finally, the right caregiver should be employed by a licensed or certified care-giving agency. Though it may seem less expensive to hire someone without going through an agency, doing so is risky. Even the best caregivers can and do make mistakes. You want your caregiver to have enough insurance coverage to pay any bills that might result from a mistake. Few individuals can afford this kind of insurance, but a caregiver employed by an agency will almost always be covered by the agency's corporate or group liability insurance.