Ten Topics to Discuss With a New Caregiver

Posted on January 9, 2022

The success of your new caregiver is one of the most crucial roles you'll play as you juggle the home care needs of your loved ones.

Use the checklist below to go over each point from the get-go when you employ home caregivers. If you follow these ten simple tips, nearly all misunderstandings between a caregiver and a family can be avoided. 

#1: Explain the tasks in detail - Write down and present your caregiver a specific list of what you need them to do. Simply saying, "Take care of mom at all times," is insufficient. And it's even more critical to ensure your caregiver knows what is NOT to be done.

#2: Outline your Expectations - Everybody's standards are different, and yours may differ from the caregiver's or from other families they have worked for. One family might consider roasted chicken sandwiches every day for lunch, but you might expect a three-course meal. The more instructions you can provide, the better your caregiver can do their job.

#3: Decide the Pay Rate - On or before your caregiver's first day, put in writing the agreed-upon hourly or live-in rate done yearly. Regardless of if you elect to change the rate each year, in some states, a written notice is required.

#4: Agree Upon Extra Pay - Aside from permitted overtime limits, decide from the beginning whether you will be paying extra for holidays and, if so, which holidays will be covered. Typically offer holiday pay for Labor Day, Fourth of July, New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. 

#5: Pay Your Caregiver Timely - As a professional, your caregiver is entitled to standard, fixed paydays. Mention how often your caregiver will receive payment and how it will be delivered, e.g., direct deposit, hard check, or cash, and the week of the day they will be paid. Additionally, it would be best to have your caregiver complete a weekly timesheet for your record.

#6: Keep arrangement for Petty Cash - If your caregiver is buying items on your behalf such as groceries, medical supplies, etc., define which expenses you are OK with and which you are not. Consider making a separate "petty cash" fund and a policy that requires receipts for all expenditures or get a reloadable debit card that can be tracked online.

#7: Determine a Time-Off Plan - Caregivers go on vacations or have family events that require them to take time off. Discuss how much time off they plan to take each year, and you'll need advance notice to find an alternate.

#8: Fix a Work Schedule - Some families are flexible with time; others are not, which is mainly determined by the duties that need to be performed and how the family perceives time. For instance, if your caregiver is scheduled to work from 9 am until noon, is it OK if they arrive at 9:15 am but stay until 12:15 pm?

#9: Make a Communication Plan - It is best if only one family member is the contact person with the caregiver. That person can then set up a plan for whatever family's reporting needs, whether daily or weekly. Communication is essential to clear misunderstandings, whether by text, on-call, or email. 

#10: Discuss How You'll Deal with Meals - You'd be amazed how many problems arise regarding food, especially when a caregiver prepares meals. The primary decision is whether caregivers should be preparing food for themselves and the care recipient or if they should be bringing their food. With a live-in caregiver, the family is generally expected to cover meals for the caregiver. With an hourly caregiver, that person typically brings lunch or dinner.

Addressing each of the above points directly with your caregiver and reinforcing them with reminders throughout your caregiver's employment will go a long way to creating a healthy and functional relationship.