Qualifications in Caregivers

Photo:  Gerog Arthur, Unsplash

Informal caregivers often ask how to know that a caregiver that they’ve hired to provide care for their loved one is qualified.  When they do succeed in obtaining some respite relief through an in-home care provider, they’ve commented on the differing quality of caregiver.  How do you know how to screen potential caregivers who will spend time with your loved one?

This is a common question and we hear it from our caregivers often.  Many have experienced uneven quality of care, or frustrations with the reliability of the paid caregiver. We know that it is so important for caregivers to take care of their own health.  Part of that is regular respite breaks and time away from their loved one.  When informal caregivers experience stressful interactions, or uncertainty about the quality of the care when they leave their loved one, they note that it adds stress.  The reality is that in Canada, there is not one universal qualification that caregivers must meet in order to be “certified” to provide quality care. Thus, it is not as simple as finding a roster of “certified” caregivers, because there is no certification commonly recognized in Canada.

Much like childcare, the fit between the care provider and care recipient is important.  Good quality care can still go wrong if there isn’t a good fit.  Take the time to meet with potential caregivers, and see how they interact with your loved one.  As a caregiver, you will feel more confident knowing that there is a good relationship between the care provider and your loved one.  The other element that helps is consistency.  Having the same caregiver assigned to a loved one goes a long way towards establishing a solid relationship.  When your loved one has dementia, consistency and familiarity are very important.  These reduce the number of overwhelming changes that they are experiencing in their lives.  Check references, and find out what others say about a potential caregiver.  Much like a babysitter, you want to feel confident that your loved one will be treated respectfully, will be safe and well cared for during your absence.  This also speaks to the importance of having the caregiver provide a police record check, for peace of mind.

Depending on your loved one’s condition, it may be comforting to know that the caregiver is certified in standard first aid.  To know that they will act in accordance with their training in an emergency can provide some peace of mind.  Depending on their condition, there may be other specialized training needed to cope with their medical conditions, and caregivers may need specific training (for example, oxygen administration) to deal with the medical condition.

Some organizations provide external certification for having obtained specialized learning in issues related to aging- legal, financial, health and/or social aspects of aging.  There is no legal requirement for caregivers to obtain this training.

In Canada, there is a CPCA designation, which stands for Certified Professional Consultant on Aging.  To earn the designation, individuals must demonstrate a solid understanding of the health, social and financial aspects of aging.  Some homecare organizations have this designation, and require that their employees maintain it in order to provide services.  You can research this aspect of a potential in-home care provider.

In the absence of a particular qualification, caregivers have to trust their gut.  If, in addition to dementia, the loved one has a special condition, it has to be considered.  Do the diligence required to determine who you are comfortable hiring to spend time with your loved one.  Establish routines, and consistency wherever possible.  Spend time getting to know the candidates and choosing who will be a good fit with your loved one.  Establish routines and manage expectations with the caregivers, for the comfort of your loved one while you are away, and for your peace of mind.  Respite breaks are important for the mental health of caregivers, and having quality backup care makes that possible.  There are lots of organizations that can help provide quality care.  Check out Tusk to find a more comprehensive listing of respite options in Alberta.