You've finally found a great personal in-home caregiver or companion for your parent, and tomorrow is her first day. But wait: Have you forgotten to tell her anything? Use this list (and adapt it to your parent's needs) to make sure you've covered the bases. After discussing it with the caregiver, give her a hard copy for reference (mail it to her if you live far away). That way you can relax, knowing your parent's needs will be taken care of.
Make sure they're accessible and clearly marked, and that the caregiver knows when they need to be taken and in what amounts. Also let her know whether your parent prefers swallowing them with water or juice.
Food and Drink
Note your parent's food and drink allergies, sensitivities, likes, and dislikes. Be detailed -- for example, explain that your parent shouldn't drink coffee after 3 p.m. because it prevents him from sleeping; that seafood gives him hives but fish is OK; or that ice cream is his favorite treat on a hot day.
Eating, Cooking, and Cleaning
Should your parent be encouraged to prepare food and clean up for himself as much as possible, or does he need help with these tasks? If he needs help feeding himself, is it enough to cut food into small pieces for him, or does he need help getting the food to his mouth? What about tidying up the house -- does your parent make his bed or do his own laundry, or is this beyond his abilities?
Napping and Sleep Habits
When does your parent like to snooze, how long does he typically nap, and is he most comfortable in a chair or his bed? Does anything special help him rest, like soft music or pulling the blinds?
Bathroom Needs and Habits
What assistance does your parent need to use the bathroom? Is he completely independent or does he need assistance sitting down or getting up from the toilet, reaching for toilet paper, wiping, taking on or off his pants, washing his hands afterward? Is he prone to constipation or diarrhea? If so, what helps (a newspaper to read, being left alone, avoiding certain foods)?
Is your parent prone to feeling too warm or cold? Can he express this, or should the caregiver ask him or touch his skin? At what temperature should the thermostat be set? Does your parent like an open window and fresh air? A blanket on his lap?
What are your parent's favorite TV shows, radio stations, and card or board games? What does he enjoy doing at home? Does he like surfing the Internet, reading, or doing crossword puzzles? What about his dislikes? Does TV grate on him? Does he hate making conversation or is he a chatterbox?
Exercise and Outings
Does your parent take walks, and if so, where and for how long? What about car drives or outings to the mall, a museum, or a movie? Does he garden or spend time outside? Does he need help or reminders to put on a jacket, hat, or sunscreen? Should he be encouraged to get up and walk around, or does he need a reminder to use his walker? Does he have any indoor-exercise routines?
Friends and Other Social Contacts
Who can your parent (or the caregiver) call if he wants company or is feeling lonely or down? List names, phone numbers, and the relationships to your parent. Do any of these people ever stop by to visit, or should they be invited? What's their availability?
This should include you, other key family members or friends who can be called in an emergency, and your parent's doctor and dentist. Obviously, you'll need to include names; home, office, and cell phone numbers; and e-mail addresses if appropriate.