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Caregiver Credentials and How To Check Them

Hiring a caregiver can be easier said than done. This article guides you through the interview process, referrals, and checking credentials.
caregiver credentials

If you’ve decided to hire a private caregiver to take care of your loved one, it’s vital that you have peace of mind and know that your family member is going to be safe and in good hands. There are many private companies and individual professional caregivers out there and their quality of care can vary widely. Because you want to provide your loved one with the best care possible, it’s important to check your potential caregiver’s credentials thoroughly.

Here is some advice on how to do so. 

Get Referrals from Other People 

get referrals as part of caregiving credentials

Your caregiver is going to be spending a considerable amount of time with your loved one on a daily basis, so it’s important to know how they operate and what experience they’ve had. Talking to families who have had experience with professional caregivers and can give you recommendations is a good place to start. 

You may be surprised to find out how popular home care is these days. Just asking friends and neighbors can be helpful. Talking to someone who has first-hand experience can give you valuable insight and give you an opportunity to ask questions. If you are struggling to get referrals from friends, asking your family physician or another medical professional can give you a head start. 

Get in Touch With Potential Candidates 

get in touch with potential caregiving candidates

Once you have drawn up a list of professional caregivers and found out which ones are available, the next step is to contact them. You can reach out over the phone and schedule in-person interviews. Be sure to explain your loved one’s state of health and their personal needs, so that you can make sure the caregivers have appropriate experience. You should also be clear about how many hours you expect them to work and how often. 

When you have decided which candidates you would like to interview, explain that you will need to do a background check and ask them to provide their social security number, driver’s license number, home address, and details of references as well as their resume. 

How to Conduct In-Person Interviews 

conduct caregiver interviews

It’s much better to perform face-to-face interviews than to conduct them over the phone as this will give you a good feel for each candidate’s personality and experience. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking your interviewees:

  • How long have you been a caregiver?
  • What level of experience do you have working with older adults?
  • Why did you choose caregiving as a career and what do you enjoy about it?
  • Do you have any areas of specialism?
  • What aspects of the job do you find most discouraging?
  • What personal values are most important to you?
  • Do you have any experience working with older adults with dementia?
  • Describe an experience working with a difficult client and how you resolved the issue.
  • What is the most important thing you have learned during your career as a caregiver?
  • Which caregiving skills do you feel most experienced and least experienced in?
  • What do you believe are the most important qualities for a caregiver to have?
  • What do you feel that employers can do to make you feel most fulfilled in your caregiving position?

During the interview, you should also explain the duties that you expect from your caregiver and any special needs that your loved one may have. You also might want to ask about their experience communicating using an app like WayWiser that can help you coordinate with your paid caregiver. It will be important to be sure communication isn’t an issue.

How to Perform a Background Check

perform a background check on a caregiver

Performing a background check on each potential caregiver is an absolute must. Before performing a background check, you must have written consent to do so. There are several types of background checks you can do. A background check can include:

  • DMV records
  • State and criminal records
  • Credit reports

Getting these records for yourself can be complicated and time-consuming. For a fee, you can contract a law office or online agency to perform background checks for you. 

Some online background check options include: Care.com, Background Checks for Nannies, or SentryLink.

One trick if you start searching for other options is to search for “background checks for nannies” or “background checks for babysitters” as these will be similar services, but might come up more commonly with local agencies.

Assessing Caregiver Credentials

assessing caregiving credentials

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to your favorite caregivers, it’s time to check their professional credentials. This will enable you to narrow your list down even further. Here’s a rundown of the most common certifications and licenses. 

  • Basic Caregiver: This type of caregiver is certified to teach you how to help your loved one manage day-to-day activities such as bathing, dressing, and preparing meals. A Basic Caregiver is skilled in managing relationships between family members and the loved one they are caring for. They are also trained to know what to do in case of a medical emergency.
  • Home Health Aides: HHAs have certified training, which differs slightly from state to state. Typically, an HHA is trained to assist an individual who is unable to fully care for themselves or needs some assistance with day-to-day activities such as bathing, cooking, or light housekeeping. HHAs also have the skills to check vital signs. A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) has similar training and skills. 
  • Licensed Practical Nurses: LPNs, sometimes known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), have completed a rigorous college program to obtain their nursing license. They have training in biology, anatomy, first aid, emergency medicine, and food and nutrition. They have the skills and experience to provide one-on-one care to seniors in their homes. 
  • Registered Nurses: RNs have longer and more rigorous training than LPNs and are required to pass a standardized national nursing examination. RNs are qualified to deal with specialist medical treatments in the home, such as colostomy care, diabetes, wound care, respiratory treatment, and to administer medications and injections.
  • Occupational therapists: Therapists such as Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, and Physical Therapists are training to assist with the rehabilitation of individuals who have suffered injuries or have been diagnosed with a disease. They can help to restore speech, mobility, balance, and dexterity so that individuals can manage better with daily activities in their home

How to Check Caregiver References

check caregiver references

As part of their caregiver credentials, ask your caregiver candidate to provide you with two or three references that are not from a close family member. At least one of them should be from a previous employer. The references should be recent and at least one of them should be from someone who has worked with the candidate within the last eight months.  

Here are some suggested questions to ask the referees:

  • How long did the individual work for you and for how long?
  • What were their duties?
  • Were they punctual?
  • How old was the person they were caring for?
  • Did the care recipient have any special needs?
  • Were you satisfied with the caregiver’s performance and if not, why?
  • Why did the caregiver leave?

Feel free to ask questions that will allow you to assess your candidate’s past performance, such as:

  • What would you say are the caregiver’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Were you always able to get hold of them during working hours?
  • Do they work well independently or need a lot of supervision?

It’s also important to try and develop a picture of their personality traits and personal values. These questions may be helpful:

  • How did your loved one feel about the caregiver?
  • Was the caregiver enthusiastic about doing their job?
  • What did you like most about working with this person?
  • What did the caregiver do to help stimulate your loved one mentally or keep them physically active?

You may sometimes get a reference that is unhelpful, perhaps from someone who does not remember their experience very well or cannot offer much information. In this case, it is best to request additional references.

Hiring a Caregiver Through a Professional Agency

Although you don’t get to choose your individual caregiver, hiring a professional through a home care agency, such as Right At Home, Visiting Angels, or  Home Instead can be easier, in the long run. All the caregivers at professional agencies have already been vetted, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle or expense of running background checks. They are all licensed, so you don’t have to concern yourself with checking credentials, and they are all insured. Hiring from an agency can sometimes also make it easier to find caregivers with specialist skills. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Caregiver Credentials

Is caregiver certification required?

Certification is not required for home caregivers who provide non-medical services such as housekeeping, companionship, and meal preparation.

Is caregiver certification important?

Yes, because it shows that a caregiver has received training to provide a high standard of care.  In some cases, such as LPNs and RNs, it also shows that these professionals participate in continuing education to update their licenses. 

If I hire from an agency will I get a more specialized level of care for my loved one?

 It is possible, but this will depend on the level of care that you need and the agency you approach. If your loved one needs specialized medical care, then you will need the assistance of a Registered Nurse.

What kind of background checks do I need to perform?

You will need to conduct the following background checks before you hire an independent home caregiver:

  • Criminal background check: this will reveal any state or federal felonies or misdemeanors. 
  • Education and employment: this will verify the information about credentials and experience as highlighted in the candidate’s resume. 
  • Driving records: this will reveal any driving offenses.

You may also wish to conduct a drug screening test before hiring a caregiver. You can also perform ongoing background checks while the individual is in your employ, to see if anything changes. 

Create a Caregiver Agreement

If you do choose to hire a caregiver yourself, rather than go through an agency, be sure that you draw up a caregiver agreement for both parties to sign. This will ensure that both you and your caregiver are on the same page about duties, hours of work, and compensation, so that you won’t have difficulties down the road. 

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