Meet the Family: How to Interview for Senior Care Jobs
What to ask and what to emphasize when you're trying to find a job as a senior caregiver.
Tiffany Smith, Senior Associate Editor
Articles> Meet the Family: How to Interview for Senior Care Jobs
family interviewing for senior care jobs

Start off on the right foot with the family of any elderly or disabled person in your care, and everyone will live happily ever after.

Before you agree to work for anyone who contacts you, have an in-depth conversation about their expectations and their (or their loved one's) needs. You and those in your care will both benefit, and will avoid frustration, if you can give the family the specific results they expect.

Interview the Senior and His Family
During the initial meeting with the senior or their family -- meeting by phone is OK, but meeting in person is highly recommended -- ask them some basic questions:

  • Questions about your role
    • What resources and contacts do you have if there is an emergency?
    • What are your household rules? You will want to know if you can take a few personal calls, if necessary.
    • What else would you expect of me? Will I cook meals? Do housework? Wash clothes? Administer his medicine and check vitals? Bathing?
    • What are his routines, and who are the people involved?
    • Can you walk me through a typical day? (Or night or week, depending on the job.)
    • What are his needs? What are my primary care responsibilities?
  • Questions about the senior
    • What are his specific medical needs, and what medications is he on?
    • What is his level of independence? Cognition? Function? Memory?
    • What are his allergies or other avoidable conditions?
    • Does he have unusual habits?
    • Does he have any habits you are trying to break? Reinforce?
    • What are his favorite pastimes, books, and things to do?
    • Does he prefer company or to be left alone?
    • Is there anything that scares him?
    • Are there any religious or cultural matters I should be aware of?
    • At what point should I contact you if an issue arises?

Be Prepared to Answer Questions the Family Will Have For You
Once you've finished asking the questions, it's their turn to interview you. Make sure you're prepared with answers and examples, or be proactive and have a "pitch" ready -- jump right in and tell them what you can offer to meet their (and their loved one's) needs. Also, be crystal clear on your fees and services.

Outline Your Services
For families to know what to expect, it's very important that people know exactly what you do and what services you offer.

  • If you're a companion, it's important that the family know that you are not a medical professional (unless you have that training and want to provide both services, in which case additional charges should be discussed).
  • Let them know if you will do things like light housework, food prep and cooking, errands, transportation and outings and laundry. Also inform them if you don't have the requisite training to administer medicine or check vital signs on a daily basis, etc. This type of clarity is especially important for families of disabled or critically ill persons, who may naively think that you can substitute for a (more expensive) registered nurse or certified home health aide.

Walk Through Your Routine
Talk them through a typical day. What time will you arrive or leave? Most families are thrown into the situation of needing senior or elder care without much warning. They most likely will not be used to having strangers in their home and the need to schedule care. Help them plan accordingly, and let them know exactly what to expect/depend on.

Payment and Cancellations Policies

  • Make sure to be explicit about your fees, extra charges and cancellation policy up front.
  • How many hours or days in advance must they contact you in order to not be charged if they have to cancel?
  • How can they contact you?
  • How will they deliver payment to you?
  • Do you accept both cash and checks, or only cash?
  • Confirm details about entering/exiting their home: will you have your own set of keys, is there a doorman, have they told their neighbors, doctors, other family members, etc.

Overall Perspective
You can discuss the senior with his family, but the senior is the one who will really tell you what you need to know. Spend your initial meeting getting to know one another. Try to determine his demeanor, personality and level of ability to function independently. Try to make him feel comfortable with your presence. After all, the senior is the one with whom you're going to be interacting closely.

Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

Check out senior care jobs near you:
Missouri City, TX
Washington, DC
Beverly Hills, CA
Madison, WI
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Or take a look at some other care options:
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(35) Comments
Leslie C.
Leslie C.
Does it cost to join using texting
March 8, 2015 at 11:57 AM
I really do love working with the older folkes because there is alot of things they talk about that you would not belive. but that is very much ok. I also do not like seeing them mistreated in any way. Cause some day I will in the same boat. they are the ones who were a head of us before we came into this world before we did and saw alot and lived alot.
June 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM
Frankie D.
Frankie D.
Exactly what I was looking for, thx so much. Yall r doing a great job, keep up the great work. Very helpful info
September 23, 2013 at 2:59 PM
Member Care.
Member Care.
Hi Carolyn T!

The charges will vary depending on your area. Feel free to check other member's job postings in your area to figure out the average rate. Additionally, here is an article to give you a little more insight on whether or not you will need insurance:
April 25, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Carolyn T.
Carolyn T.

i am new to this sight but i have a question on "how much do one charge for live-in"? Do one need to get professional and general liability insurance for the "Just in case situation"?.
April 24, 2013 at 5:12 PM
Nanette L.
Nanette L.
Thank you for the information. it's going to used to better my career in home care health
February 6, 2013 at 6:02 PM
Delia M.
Delia M.
Delia M
I find that information very helpful i will use as much of these question as possible.
thank for your help
August 13, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Judith H.
Judith H.
I have found in these types of positions that at the beginning the needs of the elder person might start out needing just a., b., and c. But further down the road more things come up that are needed. In the initial interview I have found it helpful to mention that as the needs change so might the fees. This way there is no big surprise when you find the need to re-assess !
July 21, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Patricia B.
Patricia B.
Excellent info ,thx
June 27, 2012 at 3:31 PM
Janet S.
Janet S.
These comments have been helpful.How can I view the answers?
May 25, 2012 at 1:42 PM
Janet S.
Janet S.
What method of payment should I use when person paying is in another state. Would I be smart to ask for cash only for a while?
May 25, 2012 at 1:41 PM
Mary M.
Mary M.
Can someone tell me the going rate of pay for a senior caregiver? On an hourly basis, or a day to day basis?

March 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Monica B.
Monica B.
thank you very much for this information. i will definitely use it.
February 11, 2012 at 6:59 PM
Rosana J.
Rosana J.
I work as a caregiver about 4 years, I worked with some agencies and even with the agencies I saw some mishaps from caretakers and the agency itself. Now I need a caregiver for my In laws and they're not willing to pay an agency because they know how much I make , and how much the agency makes..The background check can be made in the local police agency and the fingerprint can be done by a "Ink and toner" place. Call at least 3 references and sometimes you can find a good caregiver for a more affordable price .Those questions are very useful
February 8, 2012 at 6:28 PM
Jean L.
Jean L.
Something else not mentioned is if it is important to be bonded. An innocent caretaker could be abused of something missing from the home. The agency that cares for my father asks the caretakers to keep a daily journal of who comes and goes and if anything out of the ordinary takes place, especially in regards to the senior's health. A journal is wonderful too, just to write down special comments the person they care for might say, in the interest of their family or medical providers. Would this be something the caretaker could suggest they are willing to do while interviewing for the position? What is your opinion on this?
February 3, 2012 at 5:59 PM
Jean L.
Jean L.
The information you have here is invaluable. Great questions. Having cared for my grandmother, observed the care of my mother and father by caretakers associated with agencies, I would recommend this article to all future caregivers, especially those who have never been caretakers for families outside of their own. I agree completely with Deborah P. who asks why caretakers can't expect background checks done on the family doing the hiring. I have witnessed abuse, lack of respect, or neglect from both sides of this kind of employment.

What no one has mentioned here, is the question of additional care for pets of the seniors. Many families try to please their mother/father by allowing them to keep their pets - even if the pets are sickly and need their own care. It can be double the work. How does a caretaker deal with this issue, besides just quit? My father has had a revolving door of caretakers because of this issue. Family members are insisting the pets stay.
February 3, 2012 at 5:41 PM
Deborah P.
Deborah P.
I don't think its fair that job seekers can have our background checked, but we cant check the background of clients. I would want to know who it is I'm working for, I have the right to be protected as well.
November 30, 2011 at 4:39 PM
Teresa A.
Teresa A.
I think that is a very resourceful website for individals that are seeking employment in any type of healthcare field.Such as attending to the children,elderly,pets needs.This is a field that im trying to be in and to make it a part of my life It's a Heart Desire.
November 22, 2011 at 5:32 PM
Christine C.
Christine C.
very helpful ! i will keep this as a handy reference. Can possibly write an article on screening potential clients? I have met afew people on seeking services but they will not give their real name out. Any advice on this ?
September 8, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Anita H.
Anita H.
thanks for this information am going to use it
August 23, 2011 at 12:45 PM

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