As a new parent, you were terrified at the thought of allowing anyone to care for your infant out of your presence. Perhaps you would consider as a babysitter a pediatrician, who handed you a certified criminal background check from the FBI, along with three references — with one being from the Pope, but even then you would hesitate until they could memorize the telephone number to poison control.
And as your child grew, your distrust of others never wavered. Did you smell alcohol on that bus driver’s breath? Did your daughter’s prom date leave the house with a full tank of gas? Is that a tattoo you see on your son’s roommate? Is he part of a gang?
Paranoia and distrust can be a good thing. In fact, one might say it is part of being a responsible parent.
Unfortunately, the same attention to safety is often not applied to hiring someone to care for our parents. People often hire caregivers from the internet, making cost the deciding factor. We assume that anyone who is willing to work as a caregiver must be a good person. Who else would want to change adult diapers and constantly monitor someone who is no longer independent? Sadly, this is not always true.
How can you tell whether the person you hire has your loved one’s best interests in mind or their own?
Check their references. It would be nice just to trust someone’s word, but the time spent verifying if they indeed did a good job is invaluable. Do not feel you are embarrassing the prospective caregiver or signaling that you don’t trust them by calling their previous employer. When they provided references, they knew there was a possibility you would check them.
Another priority is to do a criminal background check. Go to the Hawai‘i Criminal Justice Data Center for more information on how to perform a Criminal History Records Check online or in person. You can call them at 808-587-3100.
Also, make sure that the caregiver’s experience is appropriate. If their previous clients could walk, does the caregiver know how to transfer a person in a wheelchair? What about bathing them?
Additionally, write down your expectations for care. This checklist will be helpful when you interview caregivers and can serve as a contract or written agreement. A list of duties that you and the caregiver agree upon also avoids miscommunications that could give you an impression of poor job performance or laziness.
It is said that a drowning man will grab the blade of a sword to save himself. When people find that they need to hire a caregiver, they are often desperate and overwhelmed with the decisions they have to make in caring for their family member. Don’t let these feelings force you to hire just anyone who answers your call for help. Take the time to hire the right person to care for your mom or dad. They did the same for you when you were young.
To report suspected elder abuse, contact the Elder Abuse Unit at 808-768-7536 | ElderAbuse@honolulu.gov