Asking right questions when hiring an in-home caregiver

February 25, 2015

Whether you need someone to provide short-termIn-home caregiver job interview care during your absence or you are looking for a reliable individual to provide permanent in-home care, placing your loved one’s well-being into the hands of a relative stranger will always be stressful.  Home care services range from personal non-medical care provided by in-home caregivers to skilled medical care, from nurses or therapists. In either case, you want quality, reliability, compassion and someone who’s a good fit for you and your family. The following is a look at the types of questions you can ask during an interview to help determine if an individual is the best fit to fill the job you are hiring for.


Nothing will spell disaster faster in a care arrangement than hiring someone quickly and then later finding out they’re unwilling or unqualified to do the work.  Review qualifications to ensure you’ll both be happy with this care relationship!

.   Before you do anything else, make sure the person you are interviewing is qualified for the job at hand. You want to have a thorough list of tasks that need to be done and ask if the person is capable of doing them. Things to ask about include administering medications, hygiene, feeding, toileting, any special food preparation needs and experience working with dementia or behaviors if that’s the case.

  • Don’t just take the person’s word for it when they tell you they can handle the job. Ask about education and previous work experience. Ask, in particular, for them to describe previous situations that required similar levels of care to what your situation requires.
  • If the individual works through an agency, make sure the agency is licensed (if required by your state), is certified by Medicare, and screens its employees thoroughly including a comprehensive background check.  .   Ask how long the provider has been serving the community in which you live and, specifically, how long he or she has been working with a particular patient population (e.g. elderly, disabled, etc.).
  • Tell the potential hire that you plan to do a background check and ask if there is anything he or she would like you to know first.  Remember, not all background checks are created equal and “criminal database” searches are often incomplete or not current.  Make sure to follow through with a background process that includes direct county inquiries to ensure a thorough screening.   


Before hiring that applicant with the glowing employment history, be sure to check references thoroughly!  They may look amazing on paper and interview well, however a recent survey on found that 58% of hiring managers discovered exaggerations or outright fabrications by applicants!  Also remember, in caregiving not all incidents of abuse or neglect result in criminal charges.  A background check won’t tell you that your applicant was recently fired for failing to administer medications as ordered.  It’s up to you to ensure that you diligently screen and verify the history of each potential caregiver! 

  • Ask for references from past employers. This is the most critical piece of information you can obtain because it will tell you the most about the person’s work ethic and behavior. The more verifiable references you can get, the better off you will be.
  • Ask your doctor, family, and friends for recommendations. Your doctor or health care provider may know the person you are considering hiring.
  • State health boards keep records of all licensed individuals. Don’t be afraid to check with the state board to determine if there were any past infractions or if the person you are considering hiring is (or ever has been) under investigation.

This may sound like a lot of work at the front end but will definitely pay off once you find that perfect caregiver and avoid negative and potentially disastrous care arrangements.  Companies like can also help with screening caregiving applicants.


Accountability through organization, documentation and care planning are critical to a successful and healthy care arrangement.  Not only will it help you monitor and understand what’s happening on a daily basis but it can help avoid a potentially deadly mistake in the caregiving process.    

  • Paperwork is probably far from your mind, but it is important in any health care setting. Ask your potential hires how they document the services they provide. You want to know how tasks are detailed, if you will receive a copy of work performed, and how changes in care are kept track of.
  • A written care plan is a must. Ask how the person will construct and document a plan of care for your loved one. A good plan of care will be specific about the treatments to be provided, who will carry out each task, and what is to be done in cases of both foreseeable and unforeseeable complications.
  • Will a supervisor or senior health care provider be reviewing the care plan and other documentation? What kind of oversight/quality control measures are in place?
  • How will they hire handle emergencies?

Financial & Practical Matters

Makes sure that you and your caregiver or caregiving agency have a clear understanding of how the employment process will be managed and have it in writing to avoid any misunderstanding.

  • What billing procedures are in place?
  • Are written statements of services rendered provided?
  • Are payment plans available?
  • Ask about requirements for vacation, holiday, sick leave, and time-off needs.
  • Ask if the person has a car and is comfortable driving your loved one around if that is part of the job requirements. If so, verify that they are licensed and have insurance. 

Philosophy of Care

Though this is a soft category, it is probably the most important. When asking about a person’s “philosophy of care,” you are really trying to understand how they are going to treat your loved one. Are they interested only in the rigid, medical aspects of care or are they also interested in things like comfort and quality of life? You may be in a situation where highly complex or technical medical care is most important. Alternatively, you may be in a situation where missing a dose of medication to ensure quality of life is more important. You want to know how the person you are hiring is going to make judgment calls in situations that aren’t clearly defined. Here are a few questions you can ask to explore a person’s philosophy regarding the type of care you are seeking for your loved one.

  • Do you consult with the patient’s family or personal physician when decisions regarding care need to be made?
  • How often do you update the patient’s family on his or her status?
  • What interested you in this type of work?
  • Are you comfortable dealing with my loved one’s emotional/mental state?
  • How will you handle situations where my loved one is difficult or engaging in behaviors?  

The Importance of Face-to-Face Interviews

Regardless of how you ask the questions above, what is most important is that you ask them in person. Nothing can substitute for the kind of non-verbal feedback that an in-person interview can provide. Taking the time to meet each candidate personally can be a burden, but the information and impressions you gain from a face-to-face interview are invaluable. You’re better off doing things right the first time, and hiring the best person for the job, than having to return to the hiring process again and again when things don’t work out. Expect the process to be involved and more than a little frustrating on occasion. If you expect a challenge, you won’t be put off when one arises.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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