How Can I Get My Stubborn Elderly Father to Accept a Caregiver in His Home?

Jacqueline Marcell Health Guide
  • Ohhhh, I had this exact situation while I was caring for my parents, so I know how exasperating it is! Actually I went through 40 caregivers that first year—most applicants only there for about ten minutes as my father would be so nasty they’d run out--or he’d just throw them out of the house. Here’s what I unfortunately had to learn the hard way!


    Keep in mind that any kind of change is often frightening for elders and fear of the unknown can be greatly intensified. Have your father’s doctor sternly advise him that he must have a caregiver to help him in his home—and also write out a “prescription” for it. Also, have the doctor indicate that otherwise he will be required to file some legal action for your father’s safety. This might scare your father into acceptance.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    You can also have a caregiver agency send someone to help convince your father how much easier his life would be if a caregiver came in to help him. Assure your father that you will monitor the caregiver to make sure things are being done properly.


    If none of that works and you think your father is about to injure himself or someone else, contact your county’s Adult Protective Services (APS) and ask them to send a social worker to talk to your father about how they will have to step in soon. Their report goes to the local police department, so a uniformed officer will visit him soon as well, which may be the tipping point for convincing your father of the seriousness of the situation.


    Decide if you want to hire a caregiver from an agency, which is more expensive but the caregivers are supervised and replaceable if there is an emergency. Or, if you want to find someone on your own, understand that it will require a lot more work and on-going supervision. When you talk to agencies, be sure to ask right away if they are bonded and members of any state or national home care organization. Then check them out.


    Some agencies will do extensive background checks and drug screenings, others will not. Inquire as to exactly what background checks have been done on the caregivers you are considering and get everything in writing. Be sure to ask: Are they checking in the county, state or nationwide? What types of crimes do they search for, felonies or misdemeanors too? How many years back do they check? You can check public records on real estate, social security, DMV and taxes. If the agency will not put this information in writing for you, they probably have not done background checks.


    Understand that it is illegal for the police to run a “check” on an individual for you, unless there is probable cause of an outstanding warrant for their arrest, so try this: Over the phone, ask the applicant if they’d mind having their picture taken and if you could take their fingerprints with an ink pad when they come for the interview--as a safety precaution these days. This is enough to scare off any who have a criminal record.


    Before you begin interviewing caregivers, involve your father in the process by making a list together of the non-negotiable qualities you want in your caregiver and stick to it. Include all the caregiver’s responsibilities now and what they might become as your father’s health declines. This should be made available to all family members and friends so it is clear what orders can be given and what will and won’t be expected.


    Don’t waste time interviewing caregivers in-person who did not meet your minimum requirements over the phone. For example: Will they clean up vomit, poop, and change diapers if necessary? Do they have a valid driver’s license and current insurance card you can make copies of? Will they give you their social security number so you can pay taxes properly? How far away do they live? Do they have adequate eldercare experience? Will they give you checkable references? Do they speak, read and write your language at a reasonable level? Have they ever been arrested and/or convicted for anything? Will they sign a waiver to have a complete background check run on them? If you get a lot of hesitancy or refusal over the phone, save yourself the time and aggravation of interviewing in-person.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    Always ask for numerous references from caregivers. If you are using an agency, you want to talk to the families who have caregivers working for someone right now, to get a clear picture of how the agency is being managed right then. Find out if the applicant has been punctual, reliable, what duties they have performed and are capable of doing, and what problems have occurred. Also talk to previous employers, co-workers, landlords, neighbors, relatives and friends. And by visiting the applicant in their own home, you will see the level of cleanliness and organization you can expect in your father’s home.


    Don’t forget to block all 976 and international calls on your father’s phone. And if he has Long-Term Care Insurance and you go through an agency, be sure that the agency will accept direct payment from the LTC company. And always pack and lock up all valuables to remove temptation from those who come into your father’s home.


    Once the caregiving begins, your father will probably make unreasonable demands. Therefore, the written list will assure the caregiver of their real responsibilities. And when complaining about the caregiver inevitably starts, don’t automatically defend the caregiver to your father and get into a heated argument. Simply assure your father that you will get to the bottom of the problem and do so. If the complaints are well founded, report them to the agency or take appropriate action on your own. If the complaints are superficial, strengthen your caregiver’s resiliency on how to handle their difficult patient.


    You can also install a nanny-cam so you can see for yourself what is happening in your father’s home. Make sure the caregiver knows the cameras are there, as it is far better to stop abuse from happening than to see after-the-fact your helpless father being beaten by a vengeful caregiver. There are many systems available these days. Some install a 90-degree camera lens in a lamp, clock radio, smoke detector, Kleenex box, phone, or just about anywhere.


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    You may be surprised at the amount of work caring for an elderly person can require, which will dictate the level of care you need. Some tasks include toileting, diapering, bathing, brushing and flossing teeth, shaving, fixing hair, soaking feet, applying ointments, moisturizers and makeup, cleaning wax out of ears, trimming nails, dressing, shopping, cooking, serving, feeding, administering medications, housekeeping, laundry, running errands, answering phone calls, keeping medical and dental appointments, providing social interaction, chauffeuring, monitoring medical devices, and providing emotional support!


    And with a challenging elder, recognize that you are expecting your caregiver to be a “psychologist” in the trenches, asking them to tolerate behavior from a person who may be uncooperative, manipulative, and maybe even physically combative. And if dementia exists, be sure your caregiver understands how intermittent it can be and how to cope with illogical and irrational behavior. Realize that even mild dementia can cause complaints that are silly and over-the-top, but cause the caregiver a lot of stress, yet the patient may forget about it the next day.


    Be sensitive to the stress and needs of your caregiver. Give praise often, overlook minor mistakes, and allow for a learning curve. Make it clear to everyone that your father does not have the authority to fire the caregiver, or you’ll go through all this many times. And after you’ve had a few caregivers who don’t show up or whom you spend all your time helping them with their problems, you will soon realize that when you find a great caregiver—they are worth their weight in GOLD!


    Learn more about Jacqueline, an international speaker, radio host, and bestselling author at  

Published On: December 23, 2008