When you devote so much love and energy to caregiving, it may be difficult to entrust your family member to strangers. Whether you engage a provider directly or work through an agency, you can allay your fears by conducting some basic research.
Using independent providers
Although you are anxious for relief, taking time to find the right person is essential for your peace of mind and your loved one’s safety. Make sure you:
- Conduct an in-depth interview with each candidate. Screening applicants on the phone should always be followed with a personal interview.
- Be specific about all of the tasks, skills, and schedules involved.
- Discuss compensation and payment schedules. Do not pay for services in advance.
- Request several work and personal references, then check them carefully. Verify the information provided, and ask all references about reliability, trustworthiness, punctuality and the care provider’s ability to handle stress.
- If possible, consider a background check. Professional services cost between $100-$150 and can alert you to potentially serious problems. Check with your local police department, legal aid service or attorney for referrals to reputable investigators or search for “background checks” on the Internet.
Always include the potential care recipient in the screening process if he or she is able to participate, to ensure that both parties are comfortable and that your loved one’s needs are respected.
Working with agencies
Although independent providers are generally the least expensive, home care agencies and referral services are often easier to use. Use your planning lists to help these professionals better serve you.
- An agency finds and places providers, handles payroll, and usually provides substitutes for sick or absent personnel. If problems occur, you also have specific avenues of recourse (complaints, mediation, or arbitration) that are not available when working with individuals.
- Referral services work to match your needs with local program options. Use online registries, check newspaper ads or the yellow pages to find specialists who know local programs and can help you navigate their systems.
Choosing off site programs for respite care
When you have identified potential out-of-home programs, plan to visit at least three. Observe the care participants and their interactions with the staff. Try to picture your loved one there, and check your instincts to see if you’re on the right track.
Be sure to ask the following questions:
- How are care providers screened?
- What is the training and level of experience of the care providers?
- Will care providers need additional training to meet specific family needs?
- How, and by whom, are the care providers supervised?
- What procedures does the program have for emergencies?
- Are families limited to a certain number of hours of services?
- Does the program provide transportation and meals?
- What is the cost of services? How is payment arranged?
If you can spend a day at the center that seems best to you, so you can get a “feel” for the people and environment. Be sure to bring a site checklist with you and ask plenty of questions. You may wish to return a few times to see whether your experience on different days confirms your initial impressions.