Formal Caregivers: 3 Reasons Your Elder May Need Qualified Professionals

When it comes to deciding how to care for your elder, you know you want only the best. Still, it’s tempting to go with an informal caregiver – a close friend perhaps, or someone you trust enough to hire “under the table.” After all, you are putting a loved one in the hands of another person; it’s human nature to want to be completely comfortable with them. You also want someone who already cares about your family member, and (ideally) feels as strongly about their well-being as you do.

However, these well-intentioned strategies can backfire, and there are many reasons your elder may benefit from a formal caregiver. Read on to find out three of them.

young nurse
Formal caregivers are held to a higher standard.
Image source: Flickr user Walt Stoneburner

Your elder has complicated medical needs

Some elders need what we call “custodial care” – help with feeding, bathing, and other activities of daily living (ADL’s). But what about those with complicated medical needs, like diabetes monitoring or stroke recovery? In these cases, a formal caregiver is likely the best person for the job.

Remember – well-meaning isn’t synonymous with professional. For instance, you may trust and love your best friend, but do you want her fixing your car if she’s not a mechanic? It’s unlikely she would be able to do an adequate job, no matter how badly she wanted to, or how adept she was in other areas.

You want a formal caregiver who knows what to look for

By having a formal caregiver (such as a nurse or certified home health aide) visit your elder, you gain another set of eyes to look out for potential problems. These professionals can help you decide if a higher level of care is called for, or if your elder is in the beginning stages of a serious medical issue (such as a wound infection or Alzheimer’s). They will likely be able to do this before an informal caregiver realizes such issues are even a possibility.

Home care is a specific field requiring years of training and experience to master. As a Social Services Director who did discharge planning for patients, I can’t tell you how many times family members wanted to take care of seniors after they left a nursing home or sub-acute rehab. All these relatives (and sometimes wonderful friends) were intelligent, compassionate, and yet completely unsuited to the role of formal caregiver. This was through no fault of their own, mind you. They simply did not have the expertise needed to properly look after their loved ones.

You need to reduce liability

One factor many people don’t consider when hiring or choosing caregivers is liability – both theirs and yours. Formal caregivers are often insured, bonded, and have certification in their chosen field. Informal caregivers, on the other hand, offer no such credentials. As such, you may find yourself in unpleasant circumstances in which you have to sue – or are sued by – those you placed in a position of trust.

What will you do if your informal caregiver accidentally injures your elder and causes them harm? Even if recovery is possible, it may involve thousands of dollars’ worth of medical expenses that must be sought in court. In addition, an informal caregiver can claim they were injured in the elder’s home, or even by the elder themselves. Hiring a formal caregiver is a great way to minimize the possibility of these things happening, if not eliminate it entirely.

The bottom line is, there are probably more than three reasons to use a formal caregiver for your elder. But the biggest ones involve safeguarding their health, providing peace of mind, and giving them the most comfortable home care experience possible.

If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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