Senior Care

I think that my family is on the cusp of hiring outside help for my mother. My mother is reluctant to concede this point. I am not going to push her on this topic yet, but I am going to prepare for the eventuality. I have tried to have conversations with her about this and experienced limited success. I expected this though.

My strategy is to bring this topic to everyone’s attention early so that we will be prepared when the time comes. I started this conversation with my mother by asking her “if you were to develop a need for assistance, what would this person or company do for you?’ I tried to leave the topic open ended so that she would think about where she might have a need or needs. I did not want her to get defensive about the subject and I explained that I was trying to be proactive. I got a small dose of defensiveness and the admonition that she could “by golly” take care of herself.

My mother has always been self reliant and independent. These characteristics are both good and bad. Good in that I don’t worry about her too much. Bad in that it makes these conversations more difficult. As a result, I don’t tiptoe around too many conversations with her. However, we all know that outside help will be required for her to continue her independent lifestyle.

That being the case, what criteria should we have in evaluating outside help. In previous postings, I mentioned Activities for Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities for Daily Living (IADLS). The IADLS are pretty straight forward and include:

  • Using the telephone
  • Light or heavy housework
  • Preparing meals
  • Shopping for groceries or personal items, and
  • Managing money.

My family will be looking for help to address needs in one of these areas.

So, what do we look for in a person or a company that may be coming in to help?

  1. Our first consideration is getting my mother to agree that the time has come to bring in outside help. Without this agreement, bringing in help will be doomed to failure.
  2. Our second consideration is an inventory of assistance that we can provide from a distance and how frequently this assistance will be needed.
  3. The third consideration is knowing what information we will need to know as an employer about a potential employee. This is important in order for all of us to be comfortable with that person or company.

There are several services that for a fee will provide background checks. The fee will vary based on the search criteria. Basic employment, driving and criminal background checks are available at reasonable prices. An online search for “background checks” will yield several options.

Another option is to work with licensed companies. Companies that are licensed to perform the services that you are considering should perform background checks on their employees. We will not make an assumption on this last point but will ask specifically about background checks that have been performed and their results. A company may have a good reputation but at the end of the day it is the person actually doing the work who is most important in fostering trust and satisfaction.

We will want to know specifically who will be working with my mother. We will want to meet and interview this person or people to arrive at our own conclusions and comfort level. We will check references and we will explore in greater detail the individual’s background. This will be done for our benefit as well as for the future employee’s benefit.

I love my mother but she can be a handful at times. I am hoping that Ben Franklin is right in saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I am hoping that by planning proactively and interviewing diligently that we will be successful with our selections of outside help. It goes without saying that after an individual or company has passed our test that my mother will then have an opportunity to cast a vote.

I will keep you informed…


We hope you will take some time and look through our podcast resources for more helpful insight and education on caring for your elderly adult loved one.