Geriatric Care – How to Hire a Caregiver

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Geriatric Care – How to Hire a Caregiver




Guest:  Mary Peters – Founder, Care For Life

Host:  Sally Hughes Smith - Artist, Author; The Circle – A Walk with Dementia


Sally Hughes Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  We have with us, today, Mary Peters, President of Care For Life.  She is going to tell us, from her vast experience, how to hire a caregiver.  Mary, what would you say, from your great deal of experience, are some of the key factors?


Mary Peters:  Well, let’s say that your doctor says that you need surgery, and maybe you’re going to be out and unable to do for yourself for, say, six weeks.  You live alone, or your spouse is older and can’t take care of you, so you’re going to hire a caregiver.  You can go two ways.  You can hire a caregiver from a private agency, or you can hire someone your church knows, or you can hire someone from the newspaper ads.  And, what I recommend is that you hire a caregiver from a private agency.  That will cost you more, but in the long run, it will be a lot safer.


You don’t know where these people have been; where they’ve worked, and what they’ve done.  There is a South Carolina law that was passed several years ago that all facilities must do background checks on caregivers.  Now, imagine, before this, the kind of people that were working in nursing homes.  And I don’t mean to say that all of them were suspect.  However, these people who don’t pass the test at the nursing home are out looking for work, and they’re looking for people that they can exploit.


Sally Hughes Smith:  I see.  So, if they don’t make it when they take the test at the nursing home, and they don’t pass the requirements; and the background check, they can still put themselves out there as an independent caregiver.  So, you run that risk.


Mary Peters:  Sure.  And I’ve known people that have lost a lot.  For example, a little lady living in an apartment by herself hired two caregivers to take care of her; one in the morning and one in the evening.  And one of them comes to her and tells her that she’ll have to get another job because she doesn’t have enough money; she has to get a new roof put on her house.  And this lady is attached to this caregiver, so she tells her not to do that and she’ll pay her more money.  So, this goes from paying more money to giving the Belks card, to buying a Cadillac.  You have to be careful.  Sometimes I tell people who want to hire a private caregiver, or who know someone from their church, to let me do a background check for them, because you just don’t know.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Can you do that?  Say I knew someone through a former employee who says that she’s [the caregiver] a wonderful person.  She sings in the church choir and has worked in Sunday school for many years.  Could someone hire your agency, Care For Life, to run a background check?


Mary Peters:  Right.  We do national background checks, because somebody could be doing something in one county, and one state, and something in another.  However, you can’t just bring someone in and do a background check.  You have to have permission from them.  If they don’t give permission, there’s a problem.  But, you need their birthday and, possibly, their Social Security number.  This is all done through the computer and produces a report which shows whether or not there’s a record of arrest.  It has a big stamp across it when it comes out:  Arrest Record.   


Sally Hughes Smith:  If someone were in a dire situation, is this a turnaround of a couple of days that you could get a report such as this, or does it take months to get?


Mary Peters:  Immediately.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Immediately?


Mary Peters:  We can do it immediately.


Sally Hughes Smith:  That’s a good resource for people to know about.  One of the first things, as I thought about this topic today, was, one, going through the agency, but if you went the private route, how to nail down that background history.


Mary Peters:  Yeah.  Sometimes they work together; like a mother and daughter.  The mother will distract the elderly people while the daughter does something else.  However, I know people, and have friends here; downtown, who have hired private caregivers.  They hire us for some shifts and private caregivers for others, and they know them, and they’ve had good references.  It can work, but we suggest not doing it.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Right.  Well, I think when you have a real history with a family; we had a real history with someone that took care of my mother and father, it can work, but not always.  You mentioned that you know some people who have lost a lot.  You were talking about the Belks credit card and the money, and the valuables.  What would suggest for anybody who is getting to this stage?  I remember that my mother didn’t wear her ring because she’d lost it several times.  And she wore a beautiful clip earring that she liked as much as her beautiful wedding set; which was so poignant.  So, do you recommend that people do an assessment of the house and take those things out?


Mary Peters:  They take those things away.  The children put them in the safe deposit box.  They leave only cosmetic jewelry out.  They put checks, and all the kind of stuff, away.  It’s kind of like having a contractor in your home.  You know, you have people in your home to paint; things like that.  You just don’t know.  So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Mary, thank you so much for being with us today, to discuss how to hire a caregiver, and some of the pitfalls, and things, to watch out for.  Once again, this is Sally Smith, thanking all our listeners for joining us.  We welcome your suggestions and comments on our Web site.  This is Age to Age saying good-bye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey.  We are all connected.


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book; The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia.  Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the health professionals tab on the podcast homepage.  All profits from sale of The Circle support research at the Center on Aging.  Thanks.


If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at:  (843) 792-1414.


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