What are the characteristics of a good caregiver? Whether you are hiring a private caregiver or one through an in-home care agency, you want to know. I owned an in-home care agency and hired hundreds of caregivers over the years. Some were good, some were great and then there were those who were clearly not cut out to be a caregiver.
Experience is important but…
It’s easy to assume that the main things you’re looking for is training or education (i.e., a Certified Nurses Aid or Home Health Aid). And, that they should have several years experience as a caregiver. While these are definitely a plus, I can tell you from experience that those are not the most important.
I interviewed many caregivers who had years of experience and training, but they lacked the core characteristics that made them a GREAT caregiver.
Here’s what to look for in a great caregiver
Kindness and Compassion
This makes your loved one feel safe and understood. It protects the person’s dignity. Caregivers with this characteristic bring a sense of understanding of what the person is going through and can connect at a different level.
You can determine the level of kindness and compassion during the interview by just noticing how the caregiver answers questions. And how she tells stories about other older adults she’s cared for.
Willing to Just “Be”
A good caregiver is one who is willing and able to just sit still. One who can sit there and touch the older person’s hand. Can look into their eyes and smile, laugh and listen. Or, just be there in silence.
They shouldn’t feel like they have to be doing something all the time. Sometimes just sit there and listen to the person’s stories. And, for goodness sake, stay off of their cell phone!!
Things don’t always go as planned. The relief caregiver may be running late and you want to understand if this would be a problem. Many older adults can’t be left alone, even for a minute, so you want to make sure they are flexible in the event something like that happens.
Oftentimes the caregiver is the only person who sees your loved one each day or each week. Minor changes, such as the color of their skin, their eating habits or even facial expressions, can be a sign of a more serious condition.
It’s important that your caregiver is able to pay attention to those changes and notifies the appropriate person. Even if they don’t have a lot of medical training, noticing little changes is important.
Not Afraid to Dance in Public
In other words, can they step out of their own shell? Can they let go of their ego and handle some uncomfortable stuff? If your loved one has an accident in a restaurant, can they let go of that and handle it with grace and dignity? It is what it is and they’ll need to let go of stuff like that.
No Drama Mama
You know the type…they have all sorts of personal drama going on in their life. They share inappropriate stories and bring all of their baggage to work. It’s easy to become close with the person you’re caring for and caregivers with this “drama” personality will share a lot of personal stuff.
Oftentimes, the older person starts taking on the caregivers problems as their own and wants to do something to help. It just adds to their emotional burden.
How to identify if your caregiver has these characteristics
The best way to identify if your potential caregiver has these characteristics is by conducting a thorough behavioral interview. There is an inexpensive book that you can get on Amazon that will teach you the basics of behavioral interviewing. I’ll put a link at the bottom of this article if you’re interested.
Also, I created some interview questions for hiring a caregiver and I go into the behavioral interviewing process a little bit in this article. These are the same interview questions I used when hiring caregivers for my in-home care agency. I hope you find it useful as well.
You can also check out these other resources.
Please comment below if there are other characteristics you have found to be important. I’d love to hear your experiences.