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Elderly/Companion Caregiving Jobs

What Are Employer-Families Looking for?

There are a variety of traits and skills that employer-families may seek in an elder companion / caregiver. A brief list follows.

* patience

* tact

* kindness

* empathy

* emotional stability

* discretion

* honesty

* trustworthiness

* dependability

* good communication skills

* ability to follow directions

* ability to respond well to constructive criticism

* ability to handle stressful situations well

* ability to work independently

* ability to multitask

* ability to problem solve

* ability to provide transportation for self and elder

* ability to monitor and record physical and mental functioning of elder

* ability to administer medications and perform medical-related services for elder

* interest in the elder, his/her life and stories, what he/she thinks, and how he/she feels

* liability insurance to cover professional errors, etc.

* certification by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice

You may not need to possess all these qualifications (i.e., the ability to administer medications). There may be other qualifications that you need instead. However, the list above is a general list that most families use in the "typical' situation in which an elder companion / caregiver is hired.

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Pay Rates for Elder Companions and Caregivers

If you will be working through an agency or institution, the agency or institution will set your pay rate. If you will be working as an independent contractor, you will need to assess how much to charge.  This text is, consequently, targeted to independent contractors.

For home care aides, rates vary significantly according to: geographical location, job requirements [type of care provided, number of hours, and time of day (day-time vs. overnight)], level of skill or experience required, and whether or not a person is certified.   

According to AARP, the average pay rate for home care services for adults in 2008 was $19 an hour for home care aides, versus $38 an hour for Medicare-certified health aides. 

Therapists (physical, occupational, speech, and mental health) who come to the home generally charge between $50 and $125 a visit.

Licensed nurses who treat a senior at home generally charge between $50 and $100 a visit. One senior hospitalized in Manhattan paid $5,000 for three days of 24-hour private nursing care, averaging approximately $70 an hour.

To determine the wage rates in your specific geographic location, you can contact your local Department of Labor, Chamber of Commerce, or a major provider of edler comparion/caregiving your area.


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How to Interview for an Elder Care Job

You've chosen to be an elder companion/caregiver.  You want to work directly for a family or elder, not through a company that supplies elder companions/caregivers.  How do you prepare for an interview with a family or elder in need or a companion/caregiver? 

Put yourself in the position of the person who will be interviewing you.  Think about the characteristics that he/she will be looking for.  Commonly sought characteristics include:

*  trustworthiness

*  reliability

*  compassion

*  competence

*  experience and a proven track record 

*  enjoyment in caregiving

*  a positive attitude

Determine how best to present your qualifications relative to the characteristics that are likely to be sought.  How can you phrase things that will put you in the best light?  What points do you want to emphasize? 

Prepare for interview questions: anticipate the questions that you will likely be asked and plan responses that highlight your qualification for the job.  Your interviewer will likely ask you questions about:

*  why you want to work as an elder companion/caregiver

*  why you want to work in that particular job

*  your previous clients

*  what your job tasks were

*  why you left those positions

*  what you liked and didn't like about the jobs

*  what the most difficult situations you dealt with were and how you handled them

*  what your strengths and weaknesses are

*  your references 

*  your willingness to sign authorizations for background checks

During the interview, you too should ask questions.  Questions that you should ask your interviewer include:

*  what the particular needs of the elder are

*  if the elder and the employer (assuming they are not the same person) have the same expectations regarding this job and the person who will be performing it (if the interviewer acknowledges differing expectations, ask questions to clarify what those differences are)

*  if the elder prefers a specific personality and, if so, what that personality is

*  what the elder's likes and dislikes are

*  how the elder enjoys spending time

*  what the elder's experience has been with previous caregivers 

*  exactly what you will be expected to do and on what schedule (you may wish to ask to see a written job description)

*  any special precautions you would need to take with the elder

*  the possibility of your visiting with one or more of the previous caregivers so that you can assess the job and what it takes to do well in the job

*   the possibility of your visiting with both the elder and your prospective supervisor (if not the elder him-/herself)

*  the date by which a new caregiver is expected to be hired

After the interview, you should consider whether or not you will be comfortable with the:

*  supervisor

 * elder

*  working conditions

*  job tasks

*  work shift  (days, evenings, overnights, etc.)

*  pay rate

*  benefits

You will also need to notify your references that they may be expecting a telephone call from the family or elder that just interviewed you.  Ensure that your references know what the job is and why you are well suited for the job.

And don't forget to write a thank-you note to your interviewer for the time and consideration given you thus far in the selection process.

Once all these are done, simply wait for further contact from your interviewer.  If you have not had a follow-up contact from the interviewer within a reasonable timeline, you may wish to place a call to the interviewer to prompt the follow-up.  Follow-up contact includes job offers, invitations to second interviews, and rejection letters.  If you receive a job offer, and if you are comfortable accepting the job, you are ready to negotiate the terms of your employment!  Congratulations!

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How to Create Job Satisfaction and Success

You've accepted a position doing work that you love.  You are comfortable with your job tasks, pay rate, benefits, work environment, and other terms and conditions of your employment.  You feel that you can work well with the elder you will care for as well as the elder's family members.  What steps can you take to ensure a positive work experience between you, the elder, and the elder's family?

*  Ask for a written employment contract that will specify expectations for everyone involved.  A typical employment contract will cover:  a listing of exactly what you are expected to do and on what schedule, what your work hours and days will be, if your work hours and days will vary from week to week, whether you will be on call at any time, how much notice either party requires for rescheduling work days and hours, what your pay rate will be, how often you will be paid, when or if you can expect to receive raises, when you can expect to receive performance evaluations, what your employment benefits will be, when you will become eligible for those benefits, what terms will be required to end the contract, and whether the employment begins with an "introductory period" (which is like employent on a trial basis)

*  Ask for a written job description that will specify the job duties that you are being asked to perform.

*  Set up a communication schedule (i.e., a weekly in-person meeting) with your supervisor so that you two can routinely share information about how the elder is doing, how you are doing in your caregiving, what expectations are/are not being met, what to expect for the future, etc.

*  Ask about when telephone calls to your supervisor are considered warranted . . . for example, under what circumstances should you communicate something immediately rather than wait for your weekly meeting?

*  View yourself as part of a team . . . your teammates (the elder, his/her family members, and perhaps others) are all striving for the wellbeing of the elder.  As a part of good teamwork, communicate clearly, directly, and tactfully.  Don't expect subtleties to come across clearly to others.  If you have questions or concerns, speak directly and politely about them. 

*  When there are differences in perspectives, consider why others think/feel the way they do.  Be empathetic to the perspectives of others.  Seek to resolve differences in a calm, fact-finding, solution-oriented manner.  Know that your supervisor's primary goal is the long-term best interest of the elder, so decisions that temporarily inconveniece you are not mean-spirited but are merely necessary to meet the needs of the elder in the best way possible.

*  Don't share information about the elder and his/her family to people who are not in a need-to-know position. 

*  Be responsive to requests from the elder and family to the best of your ability.

*  Remain supportive and nurturing at all times. 

By following these tips, you are taking the steps to ensure a positive work experience between you, the elder, and the elder's family.

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