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Day 1 With a New Caregiver in Your Home

You’ve done the interviews and chosen an in-home caregiver that seems right for your parent or loved one. Now it’s time for him or her to arrive for their first day on the job.

It’s normal for everyone—you, your loved one and the caregiver—to have butterflies and questions. To start everyone on the right foot, I sought advice from a professional care advisor, Sarena Virani, of Home Care Assistance.

Setting the Stage For a New Caregiver

“Do as much as possible in the days or weeks before the caregiver arrives. It’s so important to discuss the new caregiver, care goals and expectations with your loved one as soon as possible.”

Bring the caregiver alive as a person, with experience, warmth and personality. “Share details like the caregiver’s name, why they’re arriving and what they’ll be doing,” Virani says.

Virani suggests providing a clear picture for the person receiving care.  If your parent or spouse met the caregiver during an interview, talk about what you liked. For people with memory issues, it’s helpful to have this conversation a few times.

Introducing the New Caregiver

If the new caregiver arrives alone on their first day, make them comfortable. Re-introduce the caregiver to your family member – they should have met before this day.

If you hire a caregiver through Home Care Assistance, the caregiver will arrive with your dedicated and expert care manager. Virani says, “Having a care manager arrive for initial introductions makes a big difference. You already have a relationship with the care manager. And, they are trained to make smooth introductions and review the care plan.”

This is your opportunity to add depth and nuance to your instructions. Your caregiver will likely be paying close attention.

House Rules and Family Customs

The customs of your home are different than mine. Don’t be shy about stating your preferences.

Does your mother respond best to using a linen napkin when eating? Should the dog never be let out of the house? Your parent may be averse to bathing in the morning, but prefers the evening. You may want the caregiver to not change the channel on the television while your mom naps. Or, you may feel that’s completely acceptable.

“Different families have different preferences. These small behaviors make a difference for each family.  “Feedback is very important. This is often a trial and error situation that needs more than one day or even week to find an equilibrium,” says Virani. “We find that it takes about four weeks for everyone to feel comfortable and get into the right rhythm/schedule, especially when in-home care is new to the family.”

Virani suggests making a list of the top five behaviors you want the caregiver to use in your home. These are not related to health care, but habits and customs. For example, not changing the TV channel when dad is watching his shows, or taking their shoes off when they enter the home.

“The list will grow over the first few weeks. An experienced caregiver will expect those changes. When you have a new person in your home, they can’t anticipate everything that is important to you.

“Provide feedback and say your expectations out loud. Our goal is to ensure that both our clients and caregivers are happy and safe – timely feedback allows us to reach that goal for each family.” says Virani.

Building a Bond with Your Caregiver

The level of bonding between an elder and the caregiver depends on the person receiving the care.

Virani reports that some clients resist any friendly relationship with a caregiver. Other people crave a close personal relationship.

“Caregivers find common ground by talking about mutual interests. The care manager will identify common interests during the assessment stage and the interview.”

“Mention your father’s love of baseball or fishing. This helps the caregiver have topics to discuss with him throughout the day,” Virani added.

What Activities Are Best for the First Day?

Experienced caregivers arrive prepared to perform everything written in the care plan.

The care manager will ask your preference – to start slow or dive in. There is no reason to limit or restrict activity on your first day with the new caregiver.

You may want your caregiver to start with a task that is not personal. For instance, the caregiver can help in the kitchen, prepare a meal, or do the laundry. This is less personal than helping a person get dressed. As the day progresses, the caregiver will work more directly with their client.

If your parent is accepting of care, go ahead with your typical routine. Schedule medical appointments, haircuts or grocery shopping on the first day.

“It truly depends on the person receiving care and their resistance to having a caregiver,” says Virani.

Caregivers Bring Meals

“Caregivers generally bring their own meals,” says Virani.

Depending on the family’s preference, they may eat with the client to provide some company, or eat on their own.

“Some families prefer to provide a meal for the caregiver. Breaking bread together is a way to bond with the caregiver but it is not necessary.”

Read our 19-Page Manual: What Is Home Care?

End the Day With Constructive Feedback

Virani stresses the importance of providing feedback about a loved one’s first day. Families and people receiving care should be vocal about what went right, and what to change.

On the first day, provide your feedback to your agency’s care advisor. They can be a useful intermediary.”They are very experienced at this type of communication,” says Virani.

“Too often a family might feel it’s impolite to talk about something they want changed. I understand. We’re not always accustomed to having people work in our home on such a personal level.

“Your caregiver is a multifaceted, caring person. They want to provide the care you want, in the way you want it. You are helping everyone by giving feedback.” says Virani.