Firing an In-Home Caregiver

How to Break Up With Your In-Home Caregiver, and Find a New One
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When you hire a caregiver, either for yourself or to help with a loved one, the relationship quickly becomes very personal. After all, a caregiver comes into your home and takes care of your needs on a day-to-day basis. Because of this intimacy, it can be very difficult to decide that a caregiver isn't cutting it, or isn't the right fit. Even thinking about ending a caregiver relationship can make you lose sleep at night. And how to talk about it, once you have made the decision? Here are some things to think about, and steps to take, when it's time to "break up" with your in-home caregiver.

Step 1: Observe and document.
Sometimes dissatisfaction with a caregiver starts with a feeling, such as worry that things aren't right, or frustration when instructions are disregarded. Other times it starts with a specific incident, but you don't know whether it's an isolated episode or part of a pattern. What to do next?

Start paying attention. It sounds simple enough, but it actually requires a comprehensive, detailed approach. Each time you interact with the caregiver, jot down a few notes as to whether the day went well, or whether there were problems or issues to be addressed. Record the caregiver's attitude as well as attention to duties. Keep these records for several weeks, reviewing them every few days. (Unless the problems are drastic, of course, in which case you'll act faster.)

Step 2: Talk to your loved one.
If it's a family member who's being cared for, rather than yourself, involve him or her in the process as much as possible. Check in regularly, asking about the activities of the day, checking off whether the caregiver took care of everything that needed to be done. When you're with your loved one, observe whether he or she is clean and well cared for and seems to have a positive attitude about the day's activities. Also ask your loved one directly about the caregiver's attitude, their interactions, and how he or she feels about the caregiver.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

Step 3: Check in with the agency (if you used one).
If you hired your caregiver through an agency or referral service, now is the time to let them know you're not satisfied and are considering making a change. Describe the problems you're having, and ask if similar problems have come up in the caregiver's prior placements.

Step 4: Try the checklist strategy.
If the problems with your caregiver revolve around duties and tasks not performed up to snuff but you like the caregiver personally, it's possible the issues are organizational. In this case, it may be worth experimenting with a checklist. Write down everything you want the caregiver to do, from larger tasks, like cooking meals, down to smaller tasks, like wiping down the bathtub or turning on music. It can help to divide tasks into two groups: required and optional. At the end of the week, go over the checklist with the caregiver, asking for explanations if something didn't get done. If you still aren't satisfied, the checklist can help you with the next step.

Step 5: Give a warning.
It's hard enough to fire someone under any circumstances, but it's even harder when it comes as a surprise. You can avoid this problem by issuing a warning. Use the notes and checklists you've been compiling to explain to your caregiver the problems you've been observing. Let her know you are considering letting her go and give her a set period of time to address the issues. Be clear that at the end of that period, if there haven't been substantive changes, you plan to let her go. If your caregiver was placed with you by an agency, let them know you've issued a warning and consider the caregiver to be in a probationary period.

Step 6: Be clear, concrete, and responsible.
When it's time to let your caregiver go, do so with the same consideration you would give any other relationship, whether business or personal. Think of it as a "no-fault divorce" -- keep criticism and blame to a minimum, and accept shared responsibility for the fact that things didn't work out. Stick to neutral language ("It wasn't a good fit") and keep feelings out of it. If the caregiver protests, argues, or gets upset, give a few concrete examples of problems (preferably the ones already documented) and leave it at that. If you like the caregiver's work and personality and feel the problem was situational, you can offer to provide a recommendation for future positions.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

Step 7: Vet your next caregiver carefully.
Now that you know how tricky it is to end a caregiver relationship, let this knowledge guide your selection of a replacement. Use your notes and checklists to create a clear list of the skills and qualities you want in the next caregiver, and take the time to ask about all of them. Use your list when you check references and online reviews about the caregiver's agency, too, so you get the specifics you need. And stand firm until you find the right person -- don't be tempted when you interview a candidate whom you like but who lacks some of the requirements on your list.

Step 8: Give your new caregiver a trial run.
Once you've chosen a candidate, be clear that you're hiring her on a trial basis. It can help to present it as a mutual trial run -- after all, she too may find the situation isn't a good match. (If you're working with an agency or a referral service, also let them know that you're hiring the caregiver on a trial basis.) Set a specific period of time, such as two weeks, and agree to decide then whether to make the position permanent. By following this careful process, you're much more likely to end up with a caregiver you can rely on for the foreseeable future.

Melanie Haiken

Melanie Haiken discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions when she was health editor of Parenting magazine. See full bio

over 3 years, said...

The great specificity of the suggestions on handling this difficult situation. Very well done.

over 4 years, said...

Hello las911, I am sorry to hear of the caregiving challenges you are having with your mother and her caregiver. Thank you CA-Claire for stepping in and supporting las911 and providing possible solutions to help the situation. Caregiving is not easy and often the choices that need to be made are difficult. CA-Claire mentioned the Area Agency on the Aging. The Area Agency on the Aging is a service for seniors and their caregivers to help in difficult decisions and can assist you in the approach and aftermath of your mom's reaction. To locate your Area Agency on the Aging go to: When you are ready has resources that can help you find another caregiver. Here are links to checklist, senior care directory and more: Also, has online support groups in which you can reach out those that may have been or are going through similar challenges you may be going through. They are there to encourage and support each other: I hope your find this information helpful.

over 4 years, said...

las911 - so sorry that you seem to be in such a pickle. Was there a written agreement as to what this person was to do in return for the pay and room/board? Is there an Area Council on Aging in your area that you could speak with? Does the caregiver work through an agency? Do you have siblings that could help?

over 4 years, said...

im not so concerned about the caregiver, im concerned that my mom could turn on me while im standing my ground. the police may think im doing something she dosent want. my mom cant be around this woman at all with or withoutme there as she backs down from what she tells me to do at the very site of this person. I have literally been cornered by them as if Im the heavy and i get upset and it continues. this is the3rd time i have fired this woman yet she is still there. she has mydad suddenly convinced that he needs heryet she does nothing but run errands. no medical anything. as a matter of fact, i found that her cpr and first aid certs had expired over a year ago and demanded she get renewed then. she has not done so yet. the house is constantly a mess, my mom iscooking for herself and she gets paid pkus room and board as if she were still bathing and changing my mom. im concerned that my mom is intimidated and my dad is simply infatuated! how do you help when they turn on you as soon as you do.?

over 4 years, said...

Hi las911 - it's time for you to step in and stay there while the caregiver packs her things and leaves. Have a locksmith come and change the keys to the house, and make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the time has come for the caregiver to go. Plan to stay with your Mom a few days to make sure she stays away, and does not call begging to come back. Make it very clear that if she comes back it would only be for an hours visit, and that there will be NO money for that. If she stays longer than that or asks your Mom for money, the police will be contacted and a restraining order will be taken out, and at the very least she would be considered a trespasser. It's hard, but sometimes you just have to be firm. Your Mom may have a hard time being firm, since she has probably gotten very close to this lady, so you will need to step in. If you feel you can't do it by yourself, ask a family friend, or even as for the Community Service Officer from the local police department to be there when you tell the caregiver it's time to go. Best wishes on this difficult situation.

over 4 years, said...

What about a live in care giver? My mom has had me fire hers 3 times now only to change her mind once the caregiver talks to her. I have reason to let her go myself but I am concerned that she is bullying my mom into changing her mind. My mom doesn't need full time, live in care anymore and this lady just will not go away. What do I do?