A caregiver is a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a sick, elderly or disabled parent.

The realization that our parent needs outside care sends an unsettling feeling through every adult child’s heart and mind. We think to ourselves, “It’s not supposed to be this way; our parents are our caregivers, not the reverse.”

Our emotions run from sadness and worry to fear of the unknown. Many of you, like me, may eventually be faced with this question,  “How can I provide the very best care for my parent?”

I am the daughter of a 95-year-old mother, who no longer is able to walk unassisted. A terrible accident left her wheelchair bound, leaving me no choice but to hire outside care.

I set my mind to doing the very best for my mother, learning the ins and outs of the process of hiring live-in “companions.” Please bear in mind it is far more dignified to call a caregiver a companion.

Here is a list of questions I used to fine the best possible companion for my Mom:

  • Did they have excellent references, not reference?
  • Did they drive? Did they own a car?
  • What would be their salary?
  • Could they cook the way my mother preferred?
  • Were they able to administer drugs?
  • Were they neat and tidy?
  • Were they intelligent? After all, I was leaving them to care for my mother.
  • Were they committed to a young family?
  • Were they loving and kind?

Here are the important things I have learned through this process:

  • When searching for competent caregivers, I suggest you ask your friends or your parent’s friends for referrals.  Your next choice is to ask a friend or physician for an accredited agency. Personally, I do not care for agencies and they are very expensive.
  • I learned the hard way about salary. Do not pay by the hour. Pay a weekly salary.
  • I suggest the caregiver owns a car and knows how to drive. An automobile gives our parents mobility. Very uplifting.
  • With two or more caregivers there should be a coordinator in the group, coordinating everything such as, who will cover if one is ill or has vacation time? Who will be in charge of grocery shopping, make doctor’s appointments with no overlap, keep a calendar for all dates, etc.? A hundred different issues will arise. A coordinator is a must.
  • The children’s role:  Support. Support. Support. Support your parent and the caregiver. Be available at all times through cell phone, e-mail and text messaging whether you live in or out of the area.
  • I think one child should be in charge, but, all children should be involved.
  • Remember to do a background check and ask for a Social Security number and driver’s license number.
  • Be in charge of hiring your parent’s companions.
  • Be present at all interviews between parent and companion. You want to observe ‘if this will be a good marriage.’

My mother has had the same companions for three years. I could not ask for more caring and intelligent women. My mother is blessed and so are her loving and devoted children.

It was not luck that brought these women into my mother’s life. I did my due diligence.

Do your due-diligence. You will have peace of mind and your parent will live a life of dignity.