Special Needs Care for Adult Children: Interview Questions

What to ask when interviewing a caregiver for your adult child

Whether you employ a special needs caregiver, find a group home, a community integrated living arrangement, or a long-term care facility, you want to be sure your child will be well cared for and his or her needs will be met.

Interviewing Care Providers

Adults with disabilities have varied physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. With your adult child in mind, tailor your questions accordingly when interviewing providers. Some topics you may want to discuss include:

  • Interest in working with people with special needs. Why do they want to work with your child? What can they contribute? What do they hope to gain? You may want someone who thinks they can learn from your child, as opposed to someone who is giving care out of pity.
  • Attitude and personal characteristics. How would a provider describe himself or herself? Most parents desire a caregiver who is patient, kind, respectful, sensitive, mature, caring and positive.
  • Prior experience. Some parents prefer a provider to have specific experience with special needs. Other parents feel that a person with enthusiasm, kindness and a positive attitude can quickly learn what they need to know.
  • Willingness to learn. Is the provider willing to learn new routines or specific skills to meet the adult's needs, such as sign language?
  • Dependability and reliability. Does the provider often call in sick or run late? Would he mind working on short notice or in case of an emergency?
  • Job expectations. Are there any duties the provider will not or cannot do? Is he physically able to lift, transfer or bathe an adult?
  • Medical experience/emergencies. Does the provider have experience with medical issues? Has she encountered and managed medical emergencies in the past? If they are not trained in CPR and First Aid, is she willing to obtain certification?
  • Driving experience. If transporting your child is expected, does he have a license? Can he drive a van (if necessary)?
  • Day-to-day activities. What fun activities will the provider enjoy sharing with your adult child?
  • Are they curious about your child? Do they seem interested in your child and how best to care for and communicate with him? Will she consider your child as a person separate from their their diagnosis?

After a Successful Interview

  • Have the potential caregiver meet and interact with your adult child. You may also have the caregiver observe and/or participate in some of your child's routines to give her a sense of the job and give you a sense of her competence, or lack thereof.
  • Contact all references. Ask about reliability, professionalism, specific duties, strengths and weaknesses, as well as the reason he left his previous job.
  • Have a criminal background check and driving record check conducted.

Partnering with Your Caregiver

As the caregiver becomes an important part of your adult child's life, make sure to keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your caregiver to ask questions or make helpful suggestions. Remember to praise things done especially well, and provide feedback if they do something that concerns you. Establish a routine for regular check-ins and updates. 

Evaluating a Group Home

Many factors can be considered when evaluating or "interviewing" a group home or other community integrated living arrangement for your adult child. You'll want to meet and speak with the director of the facility and some of the staff to discuss the following:

  • Your child's abilities and level of independence
  • Your child's health issues
  • Whether supervision will be on site or intermittent and the quality of the staff
  • What services are offered (transportation, meals, financial management, daily medication reminders, etc.)
  • What social activities are available
  • Whether the other residents will be a good match
  • Practical factors such as location, safety, and the condition of the home and of your child's potential room

Evaluating a Long-term Care Facility

Several criteria should be considered when evaluating a long-term care facility (sometimes called a nursing home). While initial telephone discussions can be helpful, you must tour the facility and see firsthand what it is like. Again, meeting with the director and other staff is advisable. Some issues to consider include:

  • Business and financial matters. Are rooms currently available? What is the cost? How will you pay (privately or with insurance)?
  • Facility characteristics. Is a special group of clients served? How is the location and physical condition of the facility? What types of rooms are offered? What is the atmosphere like? When touring the facility, be on the lookout for cleanliness as well as safety features for the residents. Peek in the rooms to see how homey they are.
  • Treatment of residents. How does the staff -- nurses, doctors, administrators, nursing assistants, etc. -- interact with residents? Are residents in good spirits, dressed, clean and participating in activities? Are residents' and families' health decisions supported?
  • Activities and food. What activities are offered? Do residents go outside, weather permitting? How is the food? How is the dining experience?
  • Medical/nursing care. What kind of medical care do residents receive? Are various therapies available if needed?

If your adult child is able to discuss and weigh the possible care options, take the time to include him in this process.  Any decision you make will greatly influence his future.

Helpful Links

A Guide for Consumers - Questions to Ask When Choosing a Nursing Home (check your state website for information that applies to  your local area)

Deborah Elbaum, M.D. has three children and lives in Massachusetts.

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