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July 09, 2007

Tips on Reference Checks

Here are some questions I typically ask a caregiver's former employer:

Performance

  • What are her strengths, and what about her do you most respect?
  • In what areas could she improve?  (This is a really important question.  I typically let a former employer complete her list before I probe on any one item so that I don't interrupt her train of thought.  If she can't think of anything, I may offer up some negatives that the caregiver raised in her interview.  For example: "She mentioned that she sometimes loses her patience.  Have you experienced that before?  If so, can you describe an incident where that happened?")
  • Note some specific things you may want to probe for:
  • How are the caregiver's communication skills?
  • Does she have initiative?
  • Is she organized?
  • Does she handle stress well?
  • Is she warm and social?
  • How is her energy level?
  • Can she work independently, or does she need very specific directions?
  • If you were to rate her overall caregiving, would you consider it excellent, average, or poor?  Why?

Duties and Fit

  • Other than caregiving, what did her duties entail?  Was she open to other duties?
  • Let me tell you more about the duties I'm planning to give her.  I'd love your feedback on whether this is the right job for her given your own experience with her.

Employment History

  • How long did you employ her?
  • Why did she leave?
  • What was her compensation level?

Closing

  • What advice can you give me on managing her?
  • Do you have any final comments?
  • Please let me know which aspects of the reference check I can share with others and which ones are strictly confidential.

Cheers,

Sheila

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Comments

Carol D. O'Dell

Hi Shelia,

I cared for my mom full-time for close to three years and we had several home health aids ranging from excellent to so-so.

I'd like to suggest two things that might help decide whether a caregiver is right for your family. Have a "day" test where you are there for a day and you moniter the situation.

While they're going to be on their best behavior, you can't "fake" chemistry for eight hours. By chemistry, I mean that amazing hard-to-describe thing that occurs between people--if you "get" one another and can work together with ease.

The other suggestion is to give them several mock "scenarios." Example:
My mother has just soiled her diaper and she refuses to allow you to change her--what would you do?

Or--my mother insists she has a doctor's appointment and you're supposed to take her, but it's not on the schedule. She's becoming confused and agitated. How would you calm her down?

People try to say the right thing, but their choices/demeanor will show through.

I hope this helps.

I wrote every day my mother lived with me--I wrote our truths, frustrations, hurts, resentments and funny/sweet/tender moments--and it became a book.

MOTHERING MOTHER: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir by Carol D. O'Dell
Available on Amazon and in most bookstores.

Lyvonne

Happy Holidays Sheila:

My name is Lyvonne and I am a employer and would like to know the process for requesting CARE.COM to do reference checks? Thanks

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