Caregiving: How to Help New Caregivers Succeed & Get the Care You Need 

Summary: Being a caregiver can be a beautiful gift to another and a wonderful insight and gift to the self. Although, some people may not be ready to jump into the caregiving role without some guidance and help to learn the most important aspects of care and may be new to the caregiving company you have hired. Taking steps to ensure that your new caregiver succeeds is not only beneficial to you as the patient, but for the caregiver to know they are doing their best for the patient. Here you can learn how to plan for caregiving situations and ensure that all aspects of care are being covered.

Being a caregiver can be a beautiful gift to another and a wonderful insight and gift to the self. Although, some people may not be ready to jump into the caregiving role without some guidance and help to learn the most important aspects of care. Taking steps to ensure that your new caregiver succeeds is not only beneficial to you as the patient, but for the caregiver to know they are doing their best for the patient.

There are certain important aspects of caregiving that should always be talked about in an open discussion forum between yourself, the caregiver, the medical care team, and the patient’s family. Using this information below, you can cover each point and item right from the beginning, and anytime you need to bring it up during the care. Most all misunderstandings between a caregiver and a family can be avoided by covering these topics before the caregiving begins.

  • Outline the Tasks. Write down and present your caregiver a specific list of what you need him or her to do. Simply saying, “Take care of mom,” is not enough. And it is equally important to make sure your caregiver knows what NOT to be doing.
  • Define Expectations. Everybody’s standards are different, and yours may be different from the caregiver’s or from other families for whom they have worked. For example, if meal preparation is part of the caregiver’s duties, offer examples of what your expectations are for meals. One family might consider bologna sandwiches every day for lunch to be just fine. Another might expect a hot meal. The more guidance you can provide, the better your caregiver can do his or her job. Be specific!
  • Document the Pay Rate. On or before your caregiver’s first day, put in writing the agreed upon hourly or live-in rate. This should be done annually regardless of whether you elect to change the rate each year, and some states require a written notice. If you are a spouse or family member not working for a company, consider scheduling your own personal time and “alone” time so that you can take on self-care, as well.
  • Agree Upon Extra Pay. Aside from statutory overtime requirements, determine from the beginning whether you will be paying time-and-a-half for holidays and if so, which holidays will be covered. This too should be documented. The six major holidays when families typically offer holiday pay are New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Of course, extra pay, such as an end-of-year bonus, can be offered any time without advanced notice.
  • Spell Out When Your Caregiver Will Be Paid. Your caregiver is a professional who is entitled by law to regular, consistent paydays. Be clear about how often your caregiver will be paid, what day of the week they will be paid, and how they will be paid (direct deposit, hard check, etc.). In addition, you should have your caregiver complete a weekly time sheet for your records.
  • Arrange for Petty Cash. If your caregiver will be purchasing items on your behalf like groceries, supplies, etc., be sure to define which expenses are okay and which are not. Furthermore, it is unlikely that your caregiver will have sufficient personal funds to lay out their own cash and wait for reimbursement. Consider creating a separate “petty cash” fund and a policy that requires receipts for all expenditures. If you prefer not to use cash, get a reloadable debit card that you can track online.
  • Determine a Time-Off Plan. Caregivers go on vacations or have family events that require them to take time off. Discuss with them how much time off they plan to take each year and how much advanced notice you’ll need to find a replacement.
  • Set a Work Schedule. Some families are flexible with time, others are not. For example, if your caregiver is scheduled to work from 9am until noon, is it okay if he or she arrives at 9:15am but stays until 12:15 pm? This sort of flexibility is usually determined by both the duties that need to be performed as well how the family perceives time.
  • Create a Communication Plan. It is best if only one family member has the role of being the liaison with the caregiver. That person can then set up a communication plan for whatever reporting needs the family desires. Some like to talk to the caregiver after every shift, other families are satisfied with a weekly check-in. Also decide if a text is okay or if you prefer a phone call or email.

By following these important aspects and communicating about all points, this will ensure that you have a wonderful working relationship with your caregiver, and vice versa.

These are other aspects of caregiving that are often forgotten about until an issue has arisen. By communicating and preparing for any possible outcome this ensures you are comfortable with your caregiver, and they fully understand and are comfortable with the things that you need from them.

  • Transferring and moving patients. Train caregivers on proper transferring and lifting techniques and on the use of any patient lifts, or equipment they may have. Make sure caregivers have the proper training and supplies necessary when called on to transfer a patient from one location to another.
  • Bathing patients. Caregivers must know proper techniques and helpful tips for bathing patients who struggle with various physical challenges.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia patient care. Caregivers need to know how to work with patients who suffer from these illnesses, cancer, and other debilitating diseases. Caregivers need to be aware of the symptoms and know how to provide consistent, reassuring, and compassionate care.
  • Incontinence care. Prepare caregivers for what it may take to keep patients clean, dry and safe, and how to help patients keep their dignity despite potentially difficult or embarrassing situations.
  • Colostomy and catheter training. Offer caregivers training depending on what they can or cannot do, according to your state licensing regulations, when patients need help with these conditions. Caregivers may need to be trained in tasks such as proper and sanitary methods for emptying waste and keeping patients clean and dry.
  • Safety. Caregivers and patients need to be safe in all situations. Safety training can cover on-the-job safety for caregivers and in-the-home safety for patients.
  • Policies, procedures and goals. Educate and update your caregivers about your personal needs, your expectations and your goals. They need to know how valuable they are to you and how they can help you succeed. Caregivers also need to know your policies for overtime, scheduling, reimbursements, communication, etc.
  • Cooking for the patient. This may seem like a simple thing, but sometimes patients mention, during interviews with us, that their caregiver was supposed to cook meals, but she could not cook or did not know how to cook their favorite foods. Caregivers may need basic cooking tips or simple menu plans to help them learn what patients like to eat. Caregivers from other nationalities may need tips on how to cook basic American cuisine.
  • Death and dying. Caregivers may have to deal with a patients terminal illness or death. It can be difficult to lose a patient who has become a good friend, and they may benefit from training to help them deal with their emotions in these situations. Perhaps also train them on how to assist a patient or a patients family who is dealing with shock, grief or loss.

If you are still struggling or having questions about any aspect of caregiving, simply reach out to your local health department for further resources and information with options.

Resources Used:



Reclaiming Intimacy

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