Back in New York, the Forresters had a great caregiver for Phil’s aging mother—“irreplaceable,” they always said about the woman who went above and beyond to help Grandma lead an active and joyful life every day. But when Phil’s job brought the whole family to San Francisco, they had no choice but to replace the irreplaceable. Phil’s wife even put off her new job search until they could find the right person to join the family and become the perfect companion for Grandma.
Starting out in a whole new city, the Forresters had to ask, “How do you find reliable caregivers in San Francisco?” In New York, they had relied on an agency, and they really wanted to continue to benefit from the accountability and reliability of that kind of relationship. Perhaps even more important, however, was the need for a caregiver who really clicked with their aging mother—someone who could genuinely share in her interests of urban food gardening, long walks, and talking about the grandkids.
Without exception, our aging loved ones need more than just routines and impersonal assistance. Don’t we all? They need connection and care, so they can continue to thrive and grow each and every day.
How can you find this exceptional level of care amidst the wide selection of home care options throughout San Francisco? By getting clear on the personalized kind of care that would benefit your loved one, and then asking thoughtful questions of your candidates, you can make the most of your search efforts and narrow down the caregivers who are really right for your family.
What Does a Reliable Caregiver Look Like for Your Loved One?
When it comes to such a personal match, the perfect caregiver will look at least a bit different for each family. And there are a lot of criteria to consider in your search. Drug testing, criminal and background checks, and licensed and bonded agencies are very important pieces of the puzzle—but they’re only a few pieces. It’s not as straightforward to run a check for compassion, kindness, or positive approaches to care. Your best opportunity is to meet these caregivers in person to get a sense of their personalities, their values, and their personal investment in the exceptional quality of life for those in their care.
A simple Internet search will show you that there are plenty of avenues through which you could connect with caregivers—likely enough to overwhelm you at the start of your search. You may be collecting recommendations from other family and friends, browsing profiles on websites for home care connections, or evaluating some of the many local agencies. You may even be reaching out to the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services for guidance or considering a comprehensive care management assessment. In any case, you can first look for encouraging qualities and values in these organizations themselves. Do the websites speak to your understanding of a reliable caregiver, and do they paint a picture of a reliable higher-level relationship with the organization?
Keep in mind that when you consider hiring someone directly—perhaps through a matching website or personal referral—you will also need to consider having a reliable backup (or more than one) as well for short-notice situations. A home care organization in San Francisco has the infrastructure to offer a substitute caregiver when yours is ill, and they’re able to help troubleshoot in other ways so all the stress doesn’t fall on you.
Before you can move forward with your search, you and your family really need to sit down and develop a complete sense of some of the important qualities you’d like to see in a caregiver. It’s definitely a good idea to speak with your aging loved one since their opinions and preferences are the ones that matter the most. Consider the logistical skills and experience you’d expect from the ideal caregiver (first aid and CPR certified, strong enough to help lift an older adult, able to manage bills and other financials, for example). Also think about certain personality traits you’d like the caregiver to have (such as good listener, patient, or forward-thinking) and the interests they could share with your aging loved one (musical or into sports, for example).
How Can You Narrow Down San Francisco’s Truly Reliable Caregivers?
Once you’ve spent the time to consider your family’s needs and hopes for a caregiver, and you’ve reached out to set up interviews with candidates, how can you get a sense of your fit from just a short conversation? Consider being prepared with some thoughtful questions that will draw out some of the more personal details that don’t always come through in a first meeting. We’ve developed a list of some example questions. Feel free to revise these and expand on them based on what you’ve decided is really important to you and your aging loved one.
- What experience do you have caring for individuals who _________ (have dementia, arthritis, diabetes, depression, or any other challenges relevant to your aging loved one)?
- Do you have any favorite activities to do with older adults to help keep their minds and creativity engaged?
- What are some ways you can help an older adult to stay connected socially within a community?
- What are some ways you can help an older adult to stay active when mobility or balance are challenging?
- What are some of the ways in which you commit to your own self-care and prevent caregiver burnout?
- Do you participate in any trainings or even caregiver support groups that help you continue to learn and grow as a caregiver?
- What kind and frequency of communication do you prefer to keep an aging adult’s family members aware of and involved in their loved one’s care?
- Do you have any organizational resources and tips that could help us to be better prepared for the regular and unexpected challenges of caring for an aging loved one?
- Do you have experience advocating for an aging adult with a doctor or other representative for their health and well-being?
Still, questions and answers are only pieces to a larger puzzle. Pay close attention to your intuitive or gut sense of each individual. Pay attention to how they interact with the older adult in your family. And then communicate with your aging loved one about how they felt in that caregiver’s presence. Are they interested to get to know that person better? The time you spend opening up to this thoughtful selection process will lead to more reliable results as you find the right match in a caregiver.
We know that a caregiver is much more than just an experienced service provider; they are a friend and an inspiration, and they often become a part of the family. At Institute on Aging, we’re here to help you access the best possible home care for your loved one, as well as other programs and resources that can bring support and empowerment to the whole family. Reach out to us to learn more.