Tips For Finding A Qualified Caregiver

If you or someone you love has Parkinson’s disease (PD) you may find that at some point you need some extra help in getting through the basic activities of daily life. For some, it may be a few hours a week to help out with the housework or shopping. Others may need full-time support for assistance to eat, dress, and get around. These tips for finding a qualified caregiver can help 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 a caregiver. 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 or want relatives to take on the burden.

In the months or even early years following diagnosis, people with PD 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 there 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, caregivers must be committed but must also get relief, having time to take care of themselves.

Different kinds of caregivers

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:2

  • 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

How to find a caregiver for your home

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

It’s hard to know who you can trust when hiring someone to care for yourself or a loved one. A good way to begin is to assess your home care needs and prepare a job description for what you think will be required. 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, does s/he drive?
  • If you have specialized medical needs, does s/he have the training?
  • Are your needs changing, and if so, what skills will be required later?
  • Does s/he have experience in the particular areas of care often needed including:
    • General mobility
    • Personal hygiene
    • Housekeeping and laundry
    • Meal preparation
    • Transportation
    • Exercise and recreational activities
    • Medication assistance
    • Hospice care
    • Dementia care

Hiring selection 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 level of care provided, compassion, reliability, honesty

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

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 caregiver 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) and home health aides (HHA), licensed practical nurses (LPN), registered nurses (RN), and many different kinds of therapists.3

Some caregivers specialize in caring for people with Parkinson’s. They have either received additional training or have hands-on experience that is helpful. People with Parkinson’s may have other medical conditions that might require more specific nursing training.4

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

Many useful resources for finding caregivers are on the websites of the Parkinson’s Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and right here in our own community,

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