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Special Needs Caregivers

Finding the Right Special Needs Job for You

You are a nurturing, empathetic, patient person who wants to caregive for someone who has special needs.  You may be a CNA or LPN.  How do you find the right job for your skills, interests, and credentials?

First, you need to determine what you want.  Do you want to work in a private household or in an institution?  If you want to work in a household, do you want to work directly for the family or care recipient, or would you prefer to work through an agency?  Is there a specific kind of special need that you prefer to work with (for example, autism, spina bifida, or multiple sclerosis)?  Is there an age range that you prefer to work with (for example, children or the elderly)?  Do you prefer to work without close supervision (as, for example, an elder caregiver may work), or do you prefer to work with a supervisor nearby (as, for example, a mother's helper would work).  Do you want a short-term commitment (for example, as a respite caregiver for a family who just needs a temporary break from their elder caregiving responsibilities) or a long-term commitment (for example, a permanent live-in caregiver).  Do you want to work full-time or part-time?

If you want to work in an institutional setting, a quick check of your local yellow pages will provide you with the list of nursing homes and other residential care facilities in your locale.  Local school systems may also be able to use your services in their special education programs.  Further, daycare centers may benefit from your skills, interests, and credentials, as they too may have special needs children in their care.  Check with your friends and neighbors for recommendations on those employers that are the best to work for.   

If you want to work in a private household, but through an agency, check your local yellow pages for caregiver placement agencies.  Check with your friends and neighbors for recommendations on those agencies that are the best to work for.

If you want to work in a private household, and directly for the famly or care recipient, it is best if you register with an online database (like Babysitters4hire.com) and also make sure that your friends and neighbors know what kind of job you are looking for (word-of-mouth hiring is common in many communities). 

Approach interviews as fact-finding missions.  Feel free to ask your interviewers questions about the job:  Is it ful-time or part-time?  Is the job temporary or permanent?  What kinds of special needs would you be working with?  What age(s) would you be working with?  What skills would be required of you?  How closely would you be supervised?  Why did the person who filled the job prior leave? 

When you are offered a job, accept the job if it matches your interests, and then you are ready to start your dream job!

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Pay Rates for Special Needs Caregivers

You have decided that you want to caregive for a special needs person, and you have decided that you would like to work directly for a family or care recipient in the care recipient's home.  Now, you have to decide what you can expect to earn so that you can negotiate a starting wage or salary with prospective employers.  

Earnings for home healthcare aides, personal care aides, and other special needs caregivers vary based on the following factors.

1. Geographical location. In areas with a higher cost of living, caregiver pay rates will be higher. Thus, caregiver pay rates in Boston, MA will likely be greater than caregiver pay rates in Grand Island, NE.

2. Level or type of care required. A person whose condition requires a caregiver with LPN or CNA licensing will likely pay more for his caregiver's services than a person whose condition permits a caregiver with no medical licensing but who has enough physical strength to lift the person and help the person with his / her daily activities (bathing, eating, etc.). Similarly, full-time caregiving pays more than part-time caregiving.

3. Peripheral job tasks. If the paid caregiver will be expected to provide his / her own vehicle to transport the special needs care recipient to and from healthcare appointments, etc., the paid caregiver will likely expect to be reimbursed for mileage and other associated expenses. 

You can visit your local Chamber of Commerce or Department of Labor for average pay rates for caregiving in your area.  The pay rate that you seek can be adjusted above or below that average based on the factors listed above.

We at Babysitters4Hire.com are here to help. If you would like to include yourself on a web-based database which families and care recipients view and potentially hire from, please allow us to be that database.  We want to help you find a job that meets your needs.

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How to Interview for a Special Needs Caregiving Job

You have an interview scheduled for a special needs caregiving job that may interest you.  How do you prepare for that interview?  What can you do to put your best foot forward in the interview?

1.  View the interview as an opportunity for you and the prospective employer to interview each other.  Either party may decide that this isn't a good fit and choose not to pursue this further.  So, embrace the interview as a mutual fact-finding endeavor.  Don't be intimidated: during the interview, you are on equal footing with your interviewer.  Just as the interviewer is asking questions of you to make sure that you would be a good fit for the job, you should similarly ask questions of your interviewer to determine if the job is right for you.  You may want to have a prepared, written list of questions to take with you to the interview.  For example, is there a job description for this job?  Can you view it during the interview?  Is this job full-time or part-time?  Daytime or overnight?  Will this job ever involve weekend or on-call work?  If so, how often?   What special needs would you be dealing with?  How is the prospective employer wanting those special needs to be addressed?  How often do emergencies occur?  What are the best and most difficult aspects of this job, as the prospective employer understands it?  Why did the person who last had this job leave?

2.  Before the interview, learn as much as you can about the prospective employer-family and care recipient (especially his/her special needs).  If you live near the family and care recipient, you may be able to gain information from your friends and family.  If the family / care recipient are listed on a web-based database, you may be able to find a lot of information in their profile data.  You may be able to learn about the special needs related to the specific health concern of the care recipient by doing Internet research or going to your local library.

3.  Pre-plan answers to questions that you think your interviewer will likely ask you during the interview.  Your answers should highlight your strengths and minimize (while being truthful) areas where you may have weaknesses.  Your interviewer will likely ask questions about:  how responsible, patient, empathetic, and nurturing you are; what relevant experience you have had; any job-related education or credentials (i.e., CNA or LPN) that you have; your willingness to abide by their rules (i.e., special food restrictions); whether you are strong enough to handle the physical aspects of the job; and whether you will observe and respond to the care recipient's abilities (not just his/her disabilities).

4.  Prepare a resume, cover letter, and reference list for your interviewer.  Even if you have provided copies of these documents to your interviewer in advance of the interview, it is wise to take a spare copy for him/her just in case.

5.  Dress appropriately for the interview.

6.  Act confident during the interview.  Make strong eye contact.  Shake hands firmly.  Maintain good posture.  Avoid use of slang terms and poor grammar.  Make sure your interviewer knows how much you care about people.

7.  Write and mail a brief, professional thank-you note to your interviewer promptly after the interview has concluded. 

8. Make notes on what you learned about the job during the interview, and include what you liked and didn't like about the job. Then, review your notes after a day or two and make any changes to your notes that you feel are warranted.  By making this list (and re-checking it after you have had a chance to gain some perspective after the interview), you will be able to decide how to respond should you get a job offer.

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How to Maintain a Positive Relationship with Your Employer

Positive relationships, both personal and professional, are founded on good communication, patience, and empathy.  And so it is with the employer-employee relationship.

Good communication involves open, honest discussions about what you both think, feel, and expect, to name a few.  Often, caregiving logs are maintained as a method of daily communication.  In the logs, caregivers record the daily activities, observations, questions, and concerns.  (For example, "John has often complained of generalized pain in his lower abdomen today.  He says the pain is a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.")  Families of the care recipient can record observations, questions, concerns, and instructions in the log as well.  (For example, "I noticed that John is complaining of stomach upset this morning.  If he is still feeling nauseated at noon, please call me.  I think we should take him to the doctor if he is still feeling nauseated by then.") 

Daily caregiving logs can't be the sole medium of communication, however.  Periodic feedback is needed as well.  Many families of care recipients schedule weekly or bi-weekly in-person meetings with their caregivers.  During these meetings, discussion is held on how the past week or bi-weekly period has been, what is expected in the next week or bi-weekly period, etc.  If either the family or the caregiver has needs that are unmet, those should be discussed in a direct yet tactful manner.  (For example, the family may say, "We are worried because you have been absent a lot lately.  We know you have personal responsibilities, but we need you to provide consistent, reliable caregiving for our relative."  Or the caregiver may say, "I am concerned about my on-call time.  It seems like there have been a lot of call-ins lately.  I'm very willing to help, but I do have personal obligations as well.  I need for us to be able to find a balance between your need to have me here when an emergency arises and my need to have work-life balance.")  When there are differences of opinion or mutually exclusive goals, both the family and the caregiver should engage in open-minded negotiation.  Differences should not be viewed as personal attacks.  Place yourself in the shoes of the family: would you be holding a different position if you were in their shoes?

Maintain all relevant paperwork and refer back to it as appropriate.  Job descriptions, employment contracts, instruction materials from doctors' offices, emergency name and number call lists, etc. are all handy materials to keep and refer to often.  If you have a question about how to perform a given job task, you can take your job description to your weekly in-person meeting with your supervisor and ask for re-training on the item that you point to on your job description. 

Patience and empathy are required to maintain a positive relationship with your employer as well.  Employers are human too.  They make mistakes.  By approaching your employer with patience and empathy, you are more likely to correct the problem while maintaining a positive working relationship.  For example, if you were shorted $35 in your paycheck, your ideal response is, "I have a question about my check this week.  I think I'm short $35.  Would you check for me, please?"  Empathy can also be manifested in the way you fulfill your job responsibilities.  Do you arrive for work on time daily?  Are you being responsive to the needs of your employer and your care recipient if you do not?  It's true that some of your employer's expectations regarding your job responsibilities may adversely affect you.  When you have such differences or seemingly mutually exclusive goals, place yourself in the shoes of the family, you are more likely to understand the family's perspectives and can respond based on sound negotiation rather than responding based on a defense response to a perceived personal attack.

In sum, if you practice good communication skills, patience, and empathy, you will be doing everything you can to facilitate a positive relationship with your employer.

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