How to Get the Real Story from an In-Home Caregiver

Ah, wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall sometimes while a caregiver is looking after mom or dad? You're not alone. Many of us rely on outside caregivers to take care of our older loved ones. Yet, we are unable to be there day-to-day to oversee how things are really going.

If you've ever wanted to make sure you're getting detailed information about your loved one's day from the helpers, follow these three guidelines:

  1. Create a Sense of Teamwork. Some caregivers might be wary of the CKIC (Chief Kid in Charge), expecting you to position yourself as the big boss. Counter this expectation by creating a sense that you're on the same team. "The key is for the family caregiver to develop and express trust in the professional," says Judy Santamaria, MSPH, Director of the Family Caregiver Support Program at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. "Establish that you are not looking to control your parent's life, but instead just want to be there to offer any support that is needed."

  2. Provide Them with Medical Support and Resources. If your parent faces a specific ailment -- such as dementia, depression, Parkinson's -- "connect the caregiver to a doctor or medical professional in that specialty," says Santamaria. Include them in appointments when you can. Or, provide them with resources (e.g. online, book, seminar) on the ailment. This way, you can help them understand and better manage your parent's condition.

  3. Keep the Caregiver Connected. Caring for someone else's parent can be a lonely business, especially if the parent is in frail condition or just not capable of or interested in engaging. Do what you can to make sure the caregiver gets to interact with others. "Offer companionship through social day care, or driving them to a friend's, or to your own house for visits," says Santamaria.

Since there might be particular situations in which a lucid parent instructs the professional, "don't tell my kids," you have to weigh the pros and cons of inserting yourself if you get wind of it. "In some ways, you have to respect a parent's right to self-determination and just continue to be there and offer support without trying to make caregivers feel you're trying to run their lives," says Santamaria. "That will build trust."

The bottom line is that you want to build a strong bond with caregivers so they'll feel comfortable being frank with you. Engage them with consideration and fairness. "I think most home health aides and home care staff would be happy to talk openly with you about their observations," says Santamaria. "This is true especially if they feel you'll handle that information with a level head."

About the Author

Dave Singleton is an award-winning writer and Caring.com author. If you're looking for help in pre-screening home caregivers, see Home Care Checklist: What to Ask When Hiring an Agency.

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