How do we not upset Mom’s routines if we hire an in-home helper?
Narrow your candidates down to two or three and then invite them into your mother’s house to observe them interacting with her. This should be very enlightening and help you trim the choices further. Look for someone who is kind and attentive. Other things can be taught, such as where things are and where they belong, how routines are run and tips on how your mother likes baths, food, dressing, etc. But if a good spirit and healthy interaction aren’t there between two people, that’s hard to overcome. It’s very hard to force after the fact. Involve your mother as much as possible in the selection process. Even if she has late-stage Alzheimer’s, she can tell you in her own way what she thinks about the candidates. It might be through a gesture such as a wrinkled up nose or a thumbs-up or -down. Or she might resist giving an opinion at all. This is not insurmountable. If she does not consciously want to help you through the selection process, observe her body language around the candidates. How does she respond to each? Once you have hired a helper, bring her or him in one day before the official start of work. Give this person plenty of time together with your mother so they can bond and get to know each other better. By all means, let your mother know what is happening, and that this person is going to be with her for long periods. Be firm but sympathetic. Tell the hired caregiver about your mother’s likes and dislikes with regard to food, activities and other situations. The better the caregiver and your mother know one another, the better the care will be. Some people like to start a new caregiver with just a few hours of work the first day. This helps let your mother know her world has not been suddenly 100% turned upside down. You should keep a good, professional relationship with the caregiver. Encourage this person to call you with information — good or bad — about your mother. Constantly check with your mother on how things are going. Let her express her feelings. If she is unable or unwilling to tell you anything, you still can learn a lot simply by observing her body language. This is vital for determining whether you should keep a current caregiver or move on to another one. For more information, an excellent resource is “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here.