Good care includes ensuring safety and meeting basic needs; it also means finding care providers that treat the whole person with respect, dignity and compassion.  Additionally, it includes providing an environment that allows the person to feel independent and safe, while respecting the needs of anyone else in the household.

Getting started: assessing care needs

The first step in choosing the right care provider is determining the care needs of the person at this point in time. Whenever possible, involve the person with the care decisions.  How much the care a person needs depends on many factors, including how independently he or she can walk, eat, use the restroom and bathe. During the early stages, the person with dementia may still live independently, but in the middle stages, 24-hour supervision will be needed. In the late stages, round-the-clock care becomes more intensive.

Ask yourself:

  • Safety

Is the person safe? What type of supervision is necessary? Does the person require supervision for some activities such as cooking or using certain appliances? Does the person need 24-hour supervision or care?

  • Health

Does the health of the person require specialized care? Does he or she require help with medications?

  • Care

Does the person need more care that he or she is receiving right now? Does the person need toileting, bathing, dressing or grooming?

  • Social engagement

Is the person engaged in meaningful activities during the day? Would spending time with other people with dementia be beneficial?

Once you have a clear idea of the type of care needed, ask others for referrals. Here are some good places to start:

  • Your family Doctor or any medical facility that has recently seen the person in question.
  • Other caregivers or people in the community who have used providers in the past

Once you have a list of possible providers, call them.  Describe your situation, and explain what you would like from a care service, paying particular attention to the specific types of assistance required, and the times that it is required (hourly shifts or ‘round the clock assistance?  Every day, or just at selected times?  Do you have preference for a male or female caregiver….usually it’s the same gender as the patient.) Ask questions over the telephone regarding qualifications, types of services offered, cost and hours of availability, and questions about how caregivers are screened, insured and whether or not they are bonded…..recognizing that your decisions should not be based on cost alone, since different providers provide different services, qualifications and care-givers with different degrees of commitment… want to assess the “total package” before identifying the few services that you would like to talk to in person. However, the more information you receive over the phone, the easier it will be to identify which service is a good fit.

After you have gotten referrals and narrowed your options, screening care providers and caregivers is the next important step.  You want to find a provider and a caregiver who you can trust and who interacts well. When you interview potential providers, have a list of questions to ask. Here are some basics to get you started:

  • Services needed

Does the care provider offer specific services the person in question needs?

  • Care plans

How care plans created and reviewed? The family and the individual in question, if able, should be involved.

  • Training and experience

Is the staff trained or have experience in working with someone with your needs?

  • Background check

Does the agency, service provider conduct background check on all staff?

  • Backups

What is the procedure if the care provider is sick, on vacation or quits?  How does the agency handle the “hand off” between one caregiver and another should that become necessary?

  • References

Ask the care provider for a reference.