When you open the door to greet your loved one’s new caregiver — the fourth you’ve hired in two months — you may have one question on your mind before you even say hello: Will this one stay?
If you and your family hire new caregivers constantly, or an agency frequently replaces the regular caregiver with a new one, don’t be too quick to blame yourself or another family member.
The caregiving industry has long been plagued by high turnover, according to the 2019 Home Care Benchmarking Study from Home Care Pulse, a research and quality assurance firm serving home care businesses in the U.S. The median caregiver rate in 2018 was 82% — a 15% increase from the previous year — according to the study.
Reasons for high turnover include low pay and lack of training in Alzheimer’s and dementia, along with competitive wages from restaurant and retail industries luring caregivers away. Sometimes, however, caregivers leave for client-specific reasons.
Situations that send hired caregivers running
Conflicting instructions, family dysfunction and a host of other behaviors can drive caregivers away, says Louise Weadock, founder and CEO of Access Nursing, a clinical nursing staffing and home care agency headquartered in Westchester, New York. “When a client has six or seven turnovers in a short period of time, there is often a problem going on in the home,” says Weadock.
Some caregivers quit because they’re not trained for the type of care required, says caregiving expert Pamela D. Wilson, author of The Caregiving Trap. “A caregiver who lacks training and experience may leave when the care needs of the client get worse and she’s in over her head with medical tasks.”
Are you unwittingly causing an aging loved one’s caregiver to consider leaving your employ? Here are 8 behaviors that can drive caregivers away and how to prevent or correct them.
1. Making the caregiver feel unwelcome
When clients treat a caregiver like an intrusion or don’t treat him or her with dignity, that caregiver won’t feel welcome, says Weadock.
Do your best to help caregivers feel like they’re an integral part of the family caregiving situation. “When the caregiver arrives, smile and greet her graciously,” says Weadock. “She’s there to help.”
2. Failing to provide a proper orientation
Telling a new caregiver, “Mom’s in the bedroom. See you later” is a sure way to set the caregiver up to fail, says Weadock.
Give the caregiver a thorough tour of the house, explaining which rooms she’s allowed in and which are off-limits. Show her how different appliances and devices work and how they relate to her duties.
3. Downplaying care needs
If you tell an agency that your dad is 83 with a heart condition but then leave out that he weighs 300 pounds and is frequently incontinent, the caregiver who shows up may not only be frustrated but also possibly untrained or unable to meet his care needs.
It’s better to be upfront about care needs than to repeat the hiring process because the caregiver quits.
4. Providing conflicting instructions
When the daughter says Mom can’t have salt or sweets, but the son tells the caregiver to let Mom eat whatever she wants, that’s stressful and confusing for the caregiver. “When the kids disagree on what Mom needs, the caregiver may not have the skills to negotiate that conflict,” says Wilson.
To sort things out for clear directions, call a family meeting and come to a consensus on caregiver instructions.
5. Erratic scheduling
If you’re frequently changing a caregiver’s scheduled shifts, you’re sending a message that her time is not as valuable as your own. Maybe the caregiver’s life doesn’t allow scheduling flexibility.
Find out during the interview when the caregiver is available and try to stick to agreed-upon shifts.
6. Allowing an unsafe environment
Lack of heat, air conditioning or electricity is unacceptable to any caregiver, and those conditions are also unsafe for your loved one. Hazards such as holes in the floor, broken windows or faulty electrical wiring will also scare off caregivers.
Before you hire a caregiver, figure out a way to correct these situations. If money for repairs is an issue, contact local organizations that may offer skilled volunteers or income-based assistance.
7. Tolerating volatile family members
No caregiver wants to be around family members who yell, slam doors and storm around the house. Besides, that kind of drama takes the caregiver’s attention from your loved one.
If you have a hothead family member, try to guide him or her toward developing better coping skills or contributing to caregiving in ways that require less time in the home such as scheduling, running errands or driving to doctors’ appointments.
8. Hiring someone who isn’t trained for dementia
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia and you hire a caregiver who isn’t trained or familiar with those conditions, certain behaviors can be misunderstood. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s might make lewd comments, which can be a symptom of the disease.
Interview potential caregivers about whether they’ve worked with clients who have your loved one’s condition or care needs and how they handled specific situations. If you’re hiring a home health agency, inquire about training and request caregivers trained specifically for your loved one’s condition.
The key to keeping good caregivers is treating them with respect, being upfront about your loved one’s needs and making sure the caregiver is trained properly to work with your loved one, says Weadock. Then allow the caregiver to do his or her job.
“People enter this profession because they care,” says Weadock. “If they didn’t care, they would work at Target or McDonald’s, probably making more money than they earn in home health care.”