Families of children who have disabilities like intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), cerebral palsy (CP), or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy have a lot to consider regarding the logistics of day-to-day life as their children grow. Oftentimes, families consider hiring a caregiver to assist the family and ease the daily life of their child. Caregivers come in a variety of types, and vary in their responsibilities, time commitment to the family, and specific training and experience. Due to this, there is a lot to think about when hiring a caregiver to assist your child with a disability.
Assessing Areas of Need
First, it is important to think over the daily life of your child – and of other members of your family – to determine situations where you will likely need outside assistance. This can help specify what type of caregiver you would like to hire, what tasks they will be doing, and what qualifications you would like them to have. There are several domains in which families often find they need help from a caregiver, including:
- Personal Care: Includes tasks like bathing, eating, dressing, and using the restroom.
- Health Care: Includes medication administration or management, and transportation to and from physician or therapy appointments.
- Emotional Care: Includes companionship, play, and conversation.
- Household Care: Includes general tasks like cleaning, laundry, and shopping in addition to the care of the individual with disabilities.
You may find that your family needs help with activities across one or many of these areas. Identifying what you need a caregiver to do is critical when beginning the search for a caregiver.
Finding the Right Applicants
Now that you have a grasp on what your child or family will need help with, you can begin to look for applicants that fit this description. The options for types of at-home caregivers are extensive, and each has its benefits and limitations depending on their ability to suit your child’s needs. In addition, there are several types of schedules these caregivers may work, depending on your employment agreement. Commonly, at-home caregivers follow one of three types of schedules:
- Day-time Caregivers: Daytime caregivers will typically provide care for your child during the workday, allowing you to work a standard work schedule.
- 24-hour Caregivers: in 24-hour care, there will likely be more than one caregiver. They will work together to fulfil designated caregiver duties around-the-clock.
- Live-In Caregivers: Live-in caregivers remain in or near the family home during all hours of the day and night. These caregivers are allotted a certain amount of time for sleep and downtime.
As caregivers are going to be in your home, caring for your loved ones, proper screening and vetting it needed. The best caregiving agencies will conduct background checks, for criminal history, driving records, and other areas of moral character to ensure that your loved ones are safe.
Conducting a Caregiver Interview
Once you’ve contacted a caregiving agency you will begin to hear back from interested applicants. At this point it is appropriate to begin narrowing down the candidates that fit your child’s needs. You can meet with caregivers individually in person to see if they would be a good fit with your family.
If you receive a large amount of interest for your position, it is a good idea to conduct a series of phone interviews with applicants before moving on to face-to-face interviews. During a phone interview you can discern whether the candidate is qualified for the job, and if he or she truly understands the requirements of the job. Some topics you may want to discuss with your phone-interviewee are:
- Detailed description of the job
- List of general day-to-day duties
- A brief introduction to your child, including a description of their needs, age, interests, and personality
- Applicant’s past experience
- Applicant’s references
- Applicant’s questions
Some sources recommend asking another family member or trusted friend to sit in on the phone interview to provide a secondary evaluation of the interviewee. Through a phone interview that roughly covers these topics, you will likely be able to separate the qualified applicants from those who do not fit the needs of your position.
After the phone interview, you can interview your list of qualified candidates in person. An in-person interview can take a variety of different forms depending on your preferences and your child’s needs. During the in person interview it may be beneficial to evaluate more subjective and personal details such as:
- Applicant’s opinions on caring for a disabled person
- Applicant’s reaction to certain situations that are pertinent to your child
- Applicant’s availability and flexibility
- Any parts of the job description that the applicant is uncomfortable with
- Applicant’s interactions with the individual they will be caring for
Once you have completed your in person interview with a candidate, write down your initial reactions and make an assessment of how well this applicant fits into your desired care situation. From here you and also check references and do any further background screening you feel is appropriate. The goal is to find a qualified individual that you feel comfortable with.
Assessing Your Home Care
After you have decided on a caregiver for your child and worked out the finer points of their employment contract, it is time for them to begin providing care. It is important to note that your assessment of the caregiver does not end when they begin care.
The relationship between a child with a disability and their caregiver is crucial, and because of this it is important to routinely evaluate how well your caregiving situation is working for your family.
Some sources suggest scheduling regular meetings to discuss problems or changes in care, and others advise constant communication between families and their caregiver as a place for open dialogue. Whatever your means of communication may be, the comfort and happiness of your child and family should be a priority in the assessment of your caregiver’s success.
Note: Agencies Can Help Cut Down on the Work
The process of finding and vetting applicants for a caregiving position can be very time-consuming and difficult, especially for parents who’ve never come into contact with the process before. Sometimes it can be helpful to work through a home care agency, which can help with the preliminary process of vetting applicants and conducting background checks to make sure that your family is safe. By hiring through an agency, you also avoid the hassle of having to figure out the caregiver’s taxes, as the agency handles this for you.
- More Information on Hiring In-Home Help
- Michigan Guide to Hiring Paid Caregivers for In-Home Care [PDF]
- Agency vs. Independent Contractors: Getting a Caregiver