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“Help! We need a dementia caregiver. Where do I start?”

by Judy Cornish

How to find a dementia caregiver

Families often ask me how to find someone to help with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Usually a spouse or child has been the sole caregiver and now, with the dementia progressing, they are increasingly overwhelmed. Being anyone’s 24/7 caregiver always results in burnout and less than optimal care, so how do you go about finding someone to help?

Schedule those volunteers

Often there are friends and relatives who would like to help but don’t know how. Respond by being specific. Identify a time when the primary caregiver would most benefit from being off duty. Ask the friend if they would be able to come at a specific time weekly, every Tuesday morning or every Thursday afternoon, for a few set hours. I have several clients who benefit from having a longtime friend come visit for an afternoon each week; I know their friends are glad to be able to be in their lives helping in a constructive way. The secret lies in setting up a schedule. It’s much easier to cancel a set visit when something comes up than to attempt to arrange random visits.

Family first, then referrals

The first place to look for help is within your family. Is there someone who would benefit from a paycheck, who already loves the person with dementia? If not, turn to friends and personal networks such as your church or the organizations you belong to. Put up a flyer; ask for referrals. A number of families I know have found that someone who is already providing household services, such as cleaning or gardening, is happy to add a few visits a week as a companion and helper. Turning to people within your network provides accountability, for a friend’s housekeeper needs a good reputation with you to protect her business with your friend and her other customers.

Dementia care at home with less stress and less anxiety is possible. Learn about our Online Dementia Course for Families (ginkgo leaf: one side fading & the other rainbow colored)

Pay a good wage, always

Whether you hire someone from within the family, or a friend or professional caregiver, set up a schedule for shifts, but also be sure to pay more than minimum wage. Caregiving takes dedication and dementia requires long-term caregivers. Having a constantly changing cast of workers in the home is stressful for the family, but very distressing for the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, because dementia takes away the ability to learn new things and handle change.

Hire a payroll clerk

I always recommend to families that they have an accountant set up payroll so that the caregivers are covered by federal and state employment benefits and workers’ compensation. In some states, payment for care ‘under the table’ creates a gift rather than expense, hence is recoverable when Medicaid is needed later. Payroll clerk services are surprisingly inexpensive and having proper coverage for those who work with your loved one also protects you from possible employment claims.

What should I look for in a dementia caregiver?

When I interview potential caregivers, I look for punctuality, integrity, and compassion. Everything else is teachable if those traits are present. I want someone who is punctual because in the earlier stages of dementia people lose the ability to track time and read clocks and calendars. My clients need to be able to trust us to track time for them; it’s the beginning of learning to feel safe in care. And integrity and compassion are essential when we are caring for someone with dementia in their own home.

Even if you think the caregiving situation is fine right now, always be looking for a good caregiver. One of the kindest things you can do for your loved one is to ensure that his or her primary caregiver has regular, scheduled time off.


Train a dementia caregiver with DAWN HomeCare

Our dementia class for families will help you to create a less stressful environment for your loved one with dementia. You will learn to avoid doing and saying things that create conflict as well as learn simple techniques that can make day to day interactions and tasks easier. As a bonus, you may invite up to 5 other people (family members or in home caregivers) to watch the classes as part of your subscription.

Read more about the DAWN HomeCare Online Dementia Course

We believe families can provide excellent dementia care at home - DAWN HomeCare