Questions to Ask a Potential Homecare Worker

By Helen Frank

You made the decision to hire someone to help care for your parent, based on a needs assessment and in conjunction with family members and medical professionals. You created a home care plan and know that you need a reliable healthcare worker, one who is experienced in a situation like yours.

If  a person is aging in place, and remains in their own home, it is likely that at some time they will need assistance to stay safe and as independent as possible.  This help may be temporary, following an illness or hospitalization, or permanent, to provide them with ongoing support.

While many people are able to rely on family members to meet their care needs, others must seek help from outside the family, and finding suitable help, particularly, if you live in a rural area, may not be easy. 

The simplest thing to do is to contact a reputable local home care agency to set up a care consultation. A member of staff will meet with the potential client to assess their needs and discuss options.  Carers provided through an agency will be trained, licensed, and bonded, and all employment responsibilities will lie with the agency.  Most agencies can provide staff around-the-clock, and the more hours of service you have each week, the less expensive the hourly rate will be. 

Keep in mind that, if a person requires help with taking medications, changing wound dressings, administering shots, and other medical-related procedures, a home carer cannot help with these functions, and it will be necessary to hire a qualified home health aide.  State laws relating to hiring in-home help vary greatly, and it is important to familiarize yourself with local regulations, prior to hiring anyone.

For many people hiring help through an agency is cost-prohibitive, and they take the route of directly hiring a carer.  This may be a family member, a friend, neighbor, or someone they have heard of by word of mouth.  While this will be cheaper than hiring through an agency; the person hiring the helper will be responsible for all employment, tax, and workers’ compensation matters related to the carer.  Many choose to ignore this, thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong with what is initially an amicable arrangement, but, all too often, the carer has an injury, or runs into tax issues, which soon become problematic for the employer.  Take the time to understand the responsibilities of direct hiring before doing it.

If deciding to find someone through direct hire, it is essential to interview and vet them thoroughly, prior to hiring them.  It is also a good idea to do a background check on the person you are considering. 

Before the interview, ascertain if the person can legally work in the U.S., and has any appropriate State-required certification.  There is no point interviewing someone that is not legally qualified to work as a carer.  You will also want to ensure that the person has been inoculated against tuberculosis, and is free from other communicable diseases. Many states require candidates to provide a doctor’s certificate attesting to this.

During the interview, break the ice by having the candidate talk about themselves, then, having outlined what the job entails, there are key questions that should be asked:

  • What experience do you have as a caregiver?
  • Have you provided care for someone with similar requirements?
  • Are you familiar with adaptive equipment - Hoyer lifts, bath transfer benches, transport wheelchairs? Remember, that if a carer is required to life a person, appropriate mechanical help is required by law.
  • Is there any part of the job description that you are not prepared to perform?
  • Do you have any scheduling needs or requests? It is vital to find someone reliable, who can work when you need them, not as and when a caregiver can fit you into their busy schedule.
  • Do you have any questions?

Once an interview has been conducted, and a candidate selected for a job offer, ask them for at least three references, follow up on them, and do a background check.  This can be done online.  Additionally, ensure you have paper copies of the person’s driving license/state ID, work permit, if they are not a citizen, and TB clearance/fitness to work certification.

Once hired, ensure that you comply with all state and federal employment regulations, and keep strict records as to wages paid.

- Written By

Helen Frank

Retired and award-winning gerontologist with more than three decades of domestic and international experience in the science of aging.