Last time out, we left Dad wondering if an in-home care agency would be the best fit for his needs. With his health deteriorating and consequently, his needs increasing, it just might be time to at least explore the need for a caregiver.

Dad's income and assets preclude him from being eligible for Medicaid programs, so he will be paying out of his own resources. Dad's thoughts - as we left him last week - ran along the lines of another option: What if I find an individual that seems to fit, or I don't want to deal with an agency?

As mentioned previously, there are some real pitfalls to avoid in that instance. A caregiver will be in your home - maybe a lot. Just a few questions and considerations might be:

? How well do you know the individual? Their history?

? What's the limit of personal information you're willing to share?

? Do they have any experience providing care?

? Does their day-to-day personality mesh with yours?

Like I said, just a few considerations, but ones that can easily spell success or a truly dismal mess. Though relatively rare, there have been some pretty negative experiences along this particular road.

One scenario: Dad meets someone or hears about someone who might be a possible candidate. As he gets to know her (the same scenarios also occurs with "Mom" and a male candidate) he finds her to be caring and willing to help. The caregiver starts off just helping out a few hours a week, but soon is coming almost daily - just to keep Dad company. As they become friends, Dad opens up a little more, and pretty soon he feels comfortable enough to talk about everything. The caregiver offers to help pay bills and run other errands, and pretty soon it seems easier to just add her to his accounts.

Yep. Over a period of time, Dad becomes more and more dependent on his caregiver/friend/companion, and generally less independent. And, sadly, his funds begin to dissipate. The end of that experience is that Dad's resources have been used and he's no longer financially independent - and possibly owes a lot more money. And his caregiver/friend/companion is down the road.

As I said, this is relatively rare, but it does happen. It's critical when hiring an independent caregiver that several steps be taken, including a background check, interview, reference check and so on. As noted above, this person will be in your home, and if Dad is vulnerable, the family needs to be involved in the whole process.

Now, if Dad has a family member, or close friend, that he knows very well, the whole process can become pretty streamlined. Written agreements, schedules, timesheets, etc., should still be a consideration, however, if only to keep the relationship surrounding caregiving on a professional level. And there are many, many times when an individual works out better due to flexibility in scheduling, dealing with only one person, and so on.

Sound complicated? We can help. Contact our offices and ask for a cool little booklet entitled "How to Hire In-Home Help." It's in the process of being updated, (contact numbers to be added, forms updated, etc), but the general information is all there - including sample interview and reference questions. It's all about information, which can make the process a little more professional, a little more organized, and a little safer.

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