4 Red Flags to Look For When Hiring Senior Housing Care Staff

It’s amazing how some people hire caregivers. In one recent study, researchers found that home health agencies run a pretty loose ship. Less than a third (26 percent) said they required “prior life experiences” specific to caregiving. Over half (58 percent) said skills competency assessments were based on the applicant’s own self-reporting, rather than on external measures.

Across the board, senior housing operators tend to apply far more rigorous criteria. Caregivers are expected to have appropriate certification. They are tested for specific skills, screened for drug use and criminal histories, and put through a rigorous interview process.

Still, it’s possible for a bad egg to slip through the cracks. In an industry with 20- to 40-percent annual turnover, it behooves operators to watch for red flags when hiring caregiving staff. How to spot a potential problem before making a hire you’ll regret? Consider these factors.

1. Technological savviness – Today’s senior housing enterprises are increasingly supported by technology, from passive health monitoring and alerts to sophisticated communication systems. Residents themselves rely on wireless devices and easy-to-use computer interfaces to keep in touch with family and friends. A caregiver who is not in step with these modern advances may prove a liability in the long run.

2. Lack of specific experience – It’s one thing to have a cheerful demeanor and a helpful attitude, but today’s caregivers also must be skilled in specific areas of care. Dementia for example is increasingly a part of the senior housing landscape, and care for those with cognitive impairment is not the same as care delivered in a more general population. If you’re hiring with specific needs in mind, make sure that individual has the needed skills. Of course, there’s always room for some training, as every good operator knows, but it doesn’t make sense to start from square one.

3. Past history – There’s a fine line between “diverse, well-rounded experience” and “can’t hold a job.” It is not unusual today for a young person in any profession to go through a number of employers in a relatively short amount of time. The average person holds an average of 11.7 jobs from ages 18 to 48, with nearly half of these jobs held before age 25. This requires you to look closely at that resume: When and why did a job change occur? Is this someone on a growth trajectory, or just someone who can’t sit still? Ask probing questions.

4. Social skills – The ability to get along with others is a critical piece of the caregiver’s job. When a potential hire seems ill at ease or unable to connect, that’s a red flag. This entails more than just having a good “bedside manner.” Good social skills include the ability to work easily alongside other staff members, to navigate potential conflict, and generally be a team player. Someone who is the center of his or her own attention likely won’t fit this model, and may not make for a solid hire in the long run.

These are just a few of the warning signs when it comes to hiring caregivers. To avoid the high cost of turnover, it’s vital that senior housing operators do their due diligence, scrutinizing every candidate in search of potential stumbling points.

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