Finding Caring Caregivers: Helpful Questions to Ask When Researching Assisted Living Homes for your Loved One
How do know that your loved one is in good hands when moving into an assisted living home? Simple answer: you don’t. One of the biggest concerns when searching for an assisted living home for your loved one is caregiving. You will wonder how your loved one is going to be cared for. You will wonder how often your loved one will be attended to. You will wonder who is caring for your loved one. The following article will provide you with helpful tips to utilize in your search for caring caregivers in an assisted living home.
While researching assisted living homes and going to tour the home, this is the first thing to keep in mind: DO NOT judge a home by its flair. There are some places that LOOK amazing. They are new and spotless, have a Starbucks in the lobby, have an indoor pool with a swim-up bar (okay, maybe not that fancy but you get the idea). Sure, it’s nice to walk through these facilities to see all of the amenities offered but is that really the most important thing you are looking for? Some might say yes but most will say no. These amenities offered in many large assisted living facilities have nothing to do with the sort of care that your loved one will receive while living there. The best thing for you to do is research the kind of care that will be provided to your loved one by asking questions about the caregivers.
One of the best questions to ask about an assisted living when it comes to the actual care that your loved one will receive is “what is your caregiver-to-resident ratio?” Anything over 1:10 during the day is insufficient. This means that if one caregiver is caring for more than ten residents at a time, your loved one will not receive adequate enough care. The quality of care provided to elderly residents of an assisted living home suffers when caregivers have too heavy of a workload. This may also lead to caregiver stress, burnout, and depression (Lopez-Hartmann, Wens, & Remmen, 2012) and leads to a high rate of caregiver turnover in the home. Not only will your loved one’s quality of care suffer, but the continuity of care and comfort familiarity of certain caregivers may cease to exist.
This brings up another great question to ask when touring an assisted living home: “what do you do to care for your caregivers?” Providing care to others is not an easy job (in most cases). Caregivers, in my professional opinion are often underappreciated, underpaid, and overworked. Studies have shown that when it comes to overall health, caregivers of elderly are more prone to certain chronic diseases. One study in particular concluded that caregivers have higher risks of reporting osteoporosis, depression, arthritis, and bronchitis than non-caregivers (Ho, Chan, Woo, Chong, & Sham, 2009). It is important to understand what kind of care is given to those who are caring for your loved one whether it be physical, emotional, or otherwise. Important things to look at (along with caregiver workload) are caregiver reward and recognition programs in the assisted living home and simply asking the caregivers about their job. A simple “how do you like working here?” or “what made you want to work here with the elderly as opposed to other places?” or something along those lines could give you a decent idea of how those caregivers are being treated. A different study done by Lopez-Hartmann, Wens, & Remmen concluded that providing emotional support, group support, and other interventions to caregivers greatly improves their coping abilities, knowledge, social support, reduces depression, and improves overall performance (2012). This, along with a decreased workload will improve caregiver performance in an assisted living home.
The final series of important questions to ask while touring an assisted living should revolve around the caregiver hiring and training process. Ask about the credentials of caregivers; are caregivers CPR certified, experienced, or have a CNA/HHA certification? Does the assisted living conduct background checks; are those background checks limited to the state or are they complete national background checks? What does training of the caregivers entail and is there any follow-up (performance-based reviews) afterwards? If you are placing your loved one in a home, it is important to know that they are under knowledgeable and safe care. For example, as a registered nurse and college professor of nursing, I have many standards when it comes to the process of hiring and training those who will care for our elderly population. In order to work at my residential assisted living home, my employees undergo a national background check, must be CPR certified, and most are experienced caregivers with over five years of experience. The caregiver class that I conduct is a five-hour course (for experienced caregivers and longer if unexperienced) with a 95-question exam at the end in which each caregiver has to receive a 90% or better in order to work with our residents. The caregivers also have to perform hands-on training. I’m not saying to look for these exact standards while searching for the perfect assisted living home for your loved one, but I do want you to be aware that those standards do exist and your loved one deserves nothing less.
In conclusion, do not hesitate to ask questions about caregivers when searching for the right assisted living home for your loved one. Know that when caregivers are happy in their place of employment, when they are physically and emotionally cared for, and when they are well-trained and knowledgeable, your loved one is more likely to receive the excellent care they deserve in an assisted living home.
By: Janel M. Robilotta RN, MSN
Ho, S., Chan, A., Woo, J., Chong, P., & Sham, A. (2009). Impact of caregiving on health and quality of life: A comparison population-based study of caregivers for
elderly persons and non-caregivers. The Journals of Gerontology (64A, 8).
Lopez-Hartmann, M., Wens, J., & Remmen, R. (2012). The effect of caregiver support interventions for informal caregivers of community-dwelling frail elderly: A
systematic review. International Journal of Integrated Care (133).