Today’s guest post is by Gary Simmons, a Senior Care Advisor for A Hand to Hold in Atlanta, posted with his permission.

So, you’ve decided to hire a caregiver to take care of an elderly person in your life. Now comes the hard part: deciding what qualities the right caregiver will possess in order to provide the best care. If you were car shopping, you would simply research vehicles that fit your criteria, visit a few car lots, test a couple, and buy your new wheels.

Finding a suitable caregiver that you entrust a loved one’s care to is not as easy. Extensive research must be done, interviews must be held, and all parties involved in the care must be in agreement. So, what qualities make a good caregiver? Better yet, what qualities make the RIGHT caregiver for your loved one?

The Statistics

According to Timothy L. Takacs, a Certified Elder Law Attorney: “Most people who need help with their daily activities rely on unpaid care provided to them by family members and friends. More and more, however, seniors and their families are recognizing the benefits of hiring caregivers, to help stay in their homes longer, in comfort and safety, and to give families peace of mind. Likewise, many states and the federal government are now setting aside some funds to allow people who otherwise could not afford it to pay for outside help.”

Assess Your Needs

The first step, he says, is to make a list of what your loved one will need in terms of care and availability. He adds: “Evaluate the help that is needed in the areas of health care, personal care, and household care. Do you need home health care, such as physical therapy or medication management? Do you need non-medical personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing, toileting, and meal preparation, or are you looking mainly for a companion or sitter? Do you need help with house cleaning, shopping, home maintenance, and running errands, or with bill-paying and managing your money?

Have Great Expectations

You will need to be very clear and concise with what you expect out of a caregiver. Do you need one that is able to provide around-the-clock care, or only a few hours a day? Will the caregiver need to provide total care, or will they be responsible for certain needs?

You must also consider the expectations of the person needing the care. Fall River Jewish Home writes: “Make a list of expectations. These expectations will not only come from you, as the adult child, but also from your family member or friend that is receiving the caregiving. Anytime someone is hired to do a job, there are expectations by the one doing the hiring. It is important to get these expectations down on paper, and then go over them with the caregiving agency during the initial interview. Knowing up front the expectations will help you find the right caregiver.”

Agency vs. Independent Contractor

While there are high-quality independent caregivers, Fall River Jewish House believes you should obtain services from an agency. Why? Independent contractors, while usually less expensive, according to Fall River, often do not come with the same protections that an agency provides, such as “background checks … (including) fingerprinting, proof of residency and TB tests. Having these things done are vital for your loved one’s protection; previous employment screening and verification of references; and worker’s compensation coverage.”

Fall River also mentions that caregivers from agencies are usually bonded caregivers. This means they possess “a type of insurance taken out from a bonding company that covers theft by an employee,” according to Whether you choose an independent contractor or a caregiver from an agency, make sure you interview each candidate personally.

Make a Job Description

This is a job, with real responsibilities and real consequences from actions taken. Just as you wouldn’t hire an accountant that didn’t match the qualifications you require in a candidate for the position, you certainly wouldn’t entrust someone’s health (and life, of course) who wasn’t 100% qualified to handle the responsibilities the job requires.

Takacs believes the following should be in any job description you create:

  • Health care training needed (level and what type: Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse)
  • Driving (car needed or only a valid driver’s license)
  • Ability to lift care recipient and/or operate special equipment

Sign on the Dotted Line

This position is a job, and, as such, the salary, benefits (if any) and any other compensations must be outlined completely before work starts, and the caregiver must agree to all stipulations. Takacs continues: “The job contract is based on the job description and should include:

  • Wages (when and how payment will be made)
  • Hours of work
  • Employee’s Social Security number (you must report wages paid to the caregiver to the IRS)
  • Job description
  • Unacceptable behavior (such as smoking, abusive language, tardiness, etc.)
  • Termination (how much notice, reasons for termination without notice, etc.)
  • Dated signatures of employee and employer.”

Fall River writes: “Make sure to interview each candidate and include your loved one and other family members, if possible. If you and your family members follow these guidelines before hiring a caregiver, you can make sure that you make the right hire decision. This will give you peace of mind knowing that you have taken the right steps to finding the right caregiver for the job. This will also make all the difference in the world to all of you knowing that your loved one is in safe hands.”

Finding the right caregiver for a loved one is one of the most important “jobs” you will ever have. By using pre-determined qualifications that address the unique needs of the patient, you will ensure they receive the best care.

Gary Simmons, Senior Care Advisor, works for “A Hand to Hold”, Atlanta’s leading provider of in home care services and in home care assistance and can be found at

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