How to Set Expectations When Hiring a Caregiver: 10 Topics To Discuss

By Betsy Gold, Co-Founder, LeanOnWe

senior caregiver tips

Helping your new caregiver succeed is one of the most important roles you’ll play as you manage the home care needs of yourself or your loved ones.

Nearly all misunderstandings between a caregiver and a family can be avoided by following these simple tips.

Why It Is Important To Set Expectations With A New Caregiver

Establishing realistic expectations ensures both you and your caregiver understand each other’s needs and boundaries from the get-go. Failing to have these open and honest conversations can lead to conflicts that affect the quality of care and the well-being of everyone involved. Some potential issues include:

  • Unmet Needs — Without a set of clear guidelines, caregivers may unknowingly perform tasks that are not up to your standards. If your caregiver is unaware of your unique requirements regarding certain duties, this can lead to dissatisfaction since different clients have different preferences.
  • Increased Stress — Seeking care is already an overwhelming situation for many, and the stress will only increase if you and your caregiver are not on the same page. Caregivers may feel uncertain about their responsibilities and worry about making mistakes, while the client may feel anxious about inconsistent care, which can exacerbate trust issues and cause confusion.
  • Litigation Issues — Undefined expectations may lead to problems such as breaches of contract, negligence, and wage disputes.
  • Safety Concerns — Outlining detailed protocols can help avoid safety hazards. Failing to do so can up the chances of improper hygiene, medication errors, fall risks, malnutrition, and incorrect emergency responses.

Set Expectations For Responsibilities

It’s important to remember that everyone’s care standards are different, so even if your new caregiver has many years of work experience, you can’t assume or expect them to know exactly how you want things done.

Outline the Caregiver’s Tasks

Write down and present your caregiver a specific list of what you need him or her to do. Simply saying, “Take care of mom,” is not enough. And it’s equally important to make sure your caregiver knows what NOT to do.

Define Your Standards

Your standards may be different from the caregiver’s or from other families for whom they have worked. For example, if meal preparation is part of the caregiver’s duties, offer examples of what your expectations are for meals. One family might consider bologna sandwiches every day for lunch to be just fine. Another might expect a hot meal. The more guidance you can provide, the better your caregiver can do his or her job.

Set Expectations For Scheduling, Availability, and Management

Establishing a defined schedule helps minimize disruptions, promotes open communication, and encourages an environment of professionalism, reliability, and accountability.

Determine a Time-Off Plan

Caregivers go on vacations or have family events that require them to take time off. Discuss with them how much time off they plan to take each year and how much advance notice you’ll need to find a replacement.

Set a Work Schedule

Some families are flexible with time, others are not. For example, if your caregiver is scheduled to work from 9 am until noon, is it OK if he or she arrives at 9:15 am but stays until 12:15 pm? That flexibility is usually determined by both the duties that need to be performed and how the family perceives time.

Create a Communication Plan

It is best if only one family member acts as the liaison with the caregiver. That person can then set up a communication plan for whatever reporting needs the family desires. Some like to talk to the caregiver after every shift, while other families are satisfied with a weekly check-in. Also, decide if a text is OK or if you prefer a phone call or email.

Set Expectations For Compensation

Caregivers who are overworked, underpaid, and/or burnt out are not conducive to providing quality care. It’s to your own benefit to ensure caregivers are happy with the compensation arrangement. If not, legal issues may arise.

Document the Pay Rate

On or before your caregiver’s first day, put in writing the agreed-upon hourly or live-in rate. This should be done annually regardless of whether you elect to change the rate each year, and some states require a written notice.

Agree Upon Extra Pay

Aside from statutory overtime requirements, determine from the get-go whether you will be paying time-and-a-half for holidays and if so, which holidays will be covered. This too should be documented. The six major holidays when families typically offer holiday pay are New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Of course, extra pay, such as an end-of-year bonus, can be offered at any time without advanced notice.

Spell Out When Your Caregiver Will Be Paid

Your caregiver is a professional who is entitled by law to regular, consistent paydays. Be clear about how often your caregiver will be paid (check state regulations — many require weekly paydays), what day of the week they will be paid, and how they will be paid (e.g., direct deposit, hard check, etc.). In addition, you should have your caregiver complete a weekly timesheet for your records.

Set Expectations For Expenses and Meals

Make sure your caregiver understands what your expectations are regarding expenses and meals so that you can foster transparency, avoid misunderstandings, and prevent excess spending.

Arrange for Petty Cash

If your caregiver will be purchasing items on your behalf (groceries, supplies, etc.) be sure to define which expenses are OK and which are not. Furthermore, it is unlikely that your caregiver will have sufficient personal funds to lay out their own cash and wait for reimbursement. Consider creating a separate “petty cash” fund and a policy that requires receipts for all expenditures. If you prefer not to use cash, get a reloadable debit card that you can track online.

Discuss How You’ll Deal with Meals

You’d be surprised how many issues arise regarding food, especially when a caregiver is asked to prepare meals. The basic decision is whether caregivers should prepare food for themselves and the care recipient or bring their own food. With a live-in caregiver, the family is generally expected to cover meals for the caregiver. With an hourly caregiver, that person typically brings his or her own lunch or dinner.

Addressing these crucial topics directly with your caregiver and reinforcing them with reminders throughout their employment will go a long way toward creating a healthy and functional relationship where everyone is satisfied.

LeanOnWe can talk through your needs so you can create a set of guidelines specific to your case. We’ve been where you are, and want to make the process easier. Schedule a complimentary consultation with our Care Advisors today.

About The Author

Betsy is a LeanOnWe co-founder and leads the Care Advisor Team that provides day-to-day support for their clients. Before LeanOnWe, Betsy was an award-winning journalist and business editor.