The holiday season is a busy time of year. For many people, care-giving, either for children or older family members, becomes a major issue. Whether the need is for someone to “fill-in” for a few hours and provide care while a primary care-giver goes shopping or attends a holiday function, or a longer term need for ongoing care-giving throughout the coming year, finding and hiring the right care-giver can be tough.
The Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal reports demand for part-time care-givers, especially babysitters, has been surging this fall. The result of increased demand is that hourly wages for part-time babysitters now exceed hourly wages of full-time nannies, although the total part-time wages remain below the total full-time wages.
Babysitters are those individuals hired to watch and care for children for a few hours at a time. They can be anyone from the teenager down the street, to the elderly couple two doors down, to family members. When it comes to holiday babysitters, your first choice should be your regular “sitter,” or among the group of people you regularly call on. If you are away from home and the person you are staying with has a “regular” that’s almost the same thing, just be sure they know where your rules differ from the other person’s.
According to SafeSitter.org, some characteristics to look for in a babysitter are:
- Must like children
- Be trustworthy
- Be able to keep themselves and your child(ren) safe
- Have an attention-span allowing them to actively watch and entertain children
- Have the patience and personality to handle difficult behavior, including whining and crying
- Be capable of remaining calm and in control during an emergency
- Know when to ask for help
- Be willing to accept the responsibility for another’s life.
Babysitters, even teenagers, should always have some basic first-aid and CPR training in case of emergencies. Teenagers should also complete a babysitting preparedness course. These are commonly available through local YMCAs, community organizations, or even scouting groups.
To make the relationship, or if you are traveling, the experience, a positive one for everyone, Dr. Clare Albright, psychologist, parenting coach and author of 100 Tips for Parents of Two Year Olds, suggests:
- Keeping the caregiver’s favorite foods/beverages/snacks on hand.
- Consider letting them watch your child in their home rather than yours
- Leave important numbers, including your cell phone number, neighbor’s phone numbers, and poison control hotline numbers by more than one phone
- Tell the babysitter to have your child in their sight at all times
- If the babysitters bathes or swims with your child, instruct them to ignore the phone when the child is in the tub or pool
- Learn to express you wishes as concrete requests, spelling out exactly what you want done, to avoid misunderstandings.
Children aren’t the only ones needing extra care during the holidays and beyond. Older adults often need some help around the house and during the busy holiday season, and younger family members may find themselves in a time-crunch trying to provide it. Hiring someone to care for older adults is not the same as hiring a babysitter. For starters, the average teenager neither wants, nor is capable of handling the job. In addition, in-home elder-care providers, sometimes referred to as home health aides or even homemakers, are often called upon to do more than just supervise, entertain and occasionally bathe or feed their charges.
CareGuide@Home offers these suggestions for questions to ask before hiring an independent home health provider:
- What relevant schooling, classes, or education do you have?
- How long have you been doing this?
- What types of clients (range of disabilities) have you worked with?
- Do you have experience working with clients (list specific illnesses, conditions or disabilities your family member has)?
- Are you insured?
- Are you bonded?
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- What do you enjoy least about your job?
- Do you drive? If so, do you have current insurance and a current driver’s license?
You should also get a list of between three and five references from the caregiver and contact them. It may also be helpful to let the caregiver and their charge spend some time together before hiring the home health aide to help ensure they are compatible and will get along. Before leaving an adult with a homemaker, take reasonable precautions against fraud and theft, including removing valuables from plain view and putting documents that could be used to steal the elderly person’s identity in a safe, preferably locked, place. You might also consider speaking with the bank, or other financial institution managing the elderly person’s finances, to get a daily limit placed on the funds they can withdraw, checks they can write or charges they can make in a single day. Finally, include a list of activities the caregiver and client can engage in and another list of specific tasks the caregiver should complete.
Whether you are hiring a caregiver to care for a child or an adult, you should always be aware of and on the look out for any signs of abuse. If you see signs of abuse, you should not jump to the conclusion, without good reason, that the caregiver is the abuser. Other family members, or even friends, could be responsible. You should, however, take immediate steps to protect the child or adult from abuse, determine who may be responsible for it and report the incident to appropriate authorities.