I am a strong believer in referrals and would not leave anything or anyone I care about with an unknown stranger. This goes for hiring for both business and personal care. I also believe you generally get what you pay for and there are certain things that are worth the extra price.
Often times one needs outside assistance to help with care for childcare, eldercare or pet care. There was an issue with one company, Care.Com not vetting providers as detailed in the WSJ recently click here. The company was liable for misdemeanors caused by their providers. They had left vetting up to the individuals hiring the caretaker although customers paid this company thinking they were doing the screening. Care.com is redoing their business model. (of note, at time of this blog I heard a new ad for care.com on xm radio saying they do all the vetting of hires for clients but I would still recommend doing your own due diligence....keep reading)
Before leaving a loved person or pet please do your own due diligence. You may be able to get personal references for similiar care needs from neighbors and friends for child and pet care.
It gets more complex with Elder Care as there may be varying levels of physical and health considerations. Depending on the situation it may be worthwhile to speak with a Gerontologist or someone who can help you find the best type of help for the dependants care.
I recently went to a talk about this sponsored by Mature Caregivers They provide a wide array of services for this genre including Care, Management, Dementia Care, and advising on in-home vs care facilities. Situations can change on a dime and plans must allow flexibility to adapt to these changing needs. A fluidity factor should be part of the consideration when looking at long term care planning.
Once you have found a caretaker there are transition steps that will need to be addressed whether it is long term or even a quick overnight stint to allow continuity of base level caring.
I recommend developing a set of questions and define what the proper protocol standards should be to care for your dependent. Make a list of all the tasks you normally undertake and the normal schedule of things such as feedings, walkings, hygiene habit etc. Leave a checklist with the care provider and do a short term test run before leaving the dependent for a longer time period. For example, when my Mom was ill we needed a care provider in her home and I stayed home for the first day to see how she did. I then started to leave for longer stretches of time.
For pets, there are many apps such as Rover to hire a dog sitter. How do you trust leaving a pet with someone on an app? I think it is important to have your pet meet the person first to see how they react to each other. Dogs are smart and often a good judge of character. A recent news report has a few suggestions on how to vet dog walkers, click here. I personally would rather find a dog walker who is reputable by getting personal referrals from friends and neighbors. There are apps such as NextDoor.com where you can get references from nearby neighbors and people you know. (Of note, my dog lets me know who she is comfortable with and I alter who I leave her with if my primary dog-watcher is tied up.)
On a closing note, one can never be too safe so do your homework. Do periodic follow-up once the care provider starts. Don't be afraid to ask for references. It may be advisable to request a CORI check. (I have had to have one done on me for volunteering at a local school). Making a bad choice can often create a fragile situation for both the intended dependent and future care needs.
Be participatory in the care, even when you are not present. You need to have the provider realize he/she needs to be held accountable at all times your dependent is in their care. Suggestions may include checking in on the phone and asking neighbors to keep an eye out for unexpected visitors or noise. It is always better to be safe and precautious.
Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham. She has an SRES and current is the primary caretaker of her dog, Delilah. She was the primary caretaker for her Mom and has served as a caretaker for her Dad and In-Laws through health and life transitions. She loves to help people and often provides helpful suggestions for each stage of the life cycle.