Ask anyone who has done it, the process of hiring a foreign caregiver in Israel is daunting. Beyond the bureaucracy of applying for a permit, “Chok Siyud” (Bituach Leumi’s long-term care benefits) and other related benefits, the real challenge is finding the right match.
The hiring process is a little like a matchmaking service – asking the right questions in the interview will increase the odds of a good fit . Here are some tips:
Breaking the Ice
Just like any new relationship, the partnership between a care recipient and caregiver can be awkward at first. Many caregivers are quite nervous when meeting a new family, so it is a good idea to take a few minutes at the beginning just to “break the ice”. Tell them about your family and ask them basic “getting to know you” questions: Where are they from? How long have they been in Israel? Do they have family in their home country? Do they have family here in Israel? What was their profession in their home country? Do they have any hobbies or special interests?
Once things are a bit more relaxed, go into specific questions to understand their skill set and experience and to get a sense of how they would react to different situations:
1. How long have you been caring for the elderly?
2. Do you have any formal training or skills?
3. How many employers have you had in Israel? Why did you leave?
4. What were your primary tasks with former employers?
5. Do you have experience with specific needs of the care recipient, such as dementia or memory issues, assistance with mobility, bathing, personal hygiene or balance issues?
6. Would you consider yourself quiet or talkative?
8. Do you cook? What kind of food? Do you have experience cooking for others? Are you familiar with the rules of Kashrut?
9. Do you smoke?
10. Where do you stay on your days off?
11. What is your visa status? Until when is it valid? What is the name of the previous agency where you are registered?
Asking questions about how the caregiver would act in a difficult situation can provide insight as to their experience and personality, for example:
1. If your employer refused to bathe or wear clean clothes, how would you deal with the situation?
2. How would you respond to your employer if s/he uses rude or derogatory language towards you?
3. Would you feel comfortable working in a home that has security cameras?
4. How would you handle a situation where your employer tells you to do something, and a family member tells you not to do it?
Setting expectations is key to ensuring a good match on both sides. This is the time for you to articulate your expectations and for the caregiver to make sure they understand what you want. Here are some of the important issues to think about and discuss:
- Compensation: We’ve seen a lot of relationships break down over misunderstandings about salary, compensation for working on rest days or holidays, vacations, food allowances and the like. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation around compensation for foreign caregivers in Israel, so we’ve broken it all down for you in this blog post. Keep in mind that, like in any employment relationships, experienced caregivers with great references may ask for more than the customary minimum wage.
- Address Challenges: There always seems to be more people who need live-in care than there are caregivers. The reality is that good caregivers can be “picky” about the jobs they take and may shy away from certain situations, such as:
- Behaviour issues, such as aggression (physical or verbal) or sleepless nights
- A couple aging asymmetrically (i.e., one person who needs care and the other is independent)
- Care recipient is unusually heavy or large, making transitions difficult
- Positions that are in locations far from a city center, or otherwise isolated.
Also, it is important to understand that the caregiver’s visa, and potential tenure in Israel, is tied to the longevity of his or her employer, a fact that may make potential caregivers shy away from a care recipient who is very old or terminally ill.
If your care situation is challenging, consider how you might emphasize the positive aspects of the position and whether you can offer attractive employment conditions such as a higher salary, pleasant accommodations, another set of hands to help out and/or a supportive environment.
- Rest Time
Caregivers need adequate rest to be able to provide their employer with the care they need and deserve. Some caregivers ask for a few hours “off” during the day to rest, but there is no requirement that you do so, and it probably isn’t realistic for most people. Clarify to the caregiver that s/her should get some rest when the person being cared for is also resting.
It should go without saying that no caregiver can work around the clock on an ongoing basis. If circumstances mean that your caregiver cannot sleep uninterrupted at night for an adequate amount of time, you may need to think about bringing in a reliever to alternate shifts, or find another solution that allows the caregiver to sleep.
- Days Off/Relievers
Caregivers are entitled to 25 consecutive hours of rest per week. Though many caregivers prefer (if not demand) to work those hours for additional pay, consider if you wouldn’t prefer that they take some time off to relax and recharge – if not every week, then maybe every other week or at least once a month.
Most caregivers choose to take their rest day from Friday evening to Motzei Shabbat (many attend church on Friday night); If they are relying on public transportation, what time will they need to leave on Friday? What time will they return?
Discuss who will care for your loved one during the caregiver’s rest day. Many caregivers find their own “relievers”, but not all. Do you have a back-up plan if you can’t find a reliever?
- Vacations Overseas
Caregivers who have been in Israel for a while will probably want to return home for a visit at some point. It’s a good idea to ask if they already have a trip planned and, if not, would they would be willing to schedule a visit during a period that the family will have more flexibility to step in. Like during days off, some caregivers will help find someone to relieve them while they are away, but ultimately this will be your responsibility, so it’s good to discuss at the onset.
- Meals & Food Preferences
Employers must provide caregivers with three meals a day. Discuss if they will be eating meals with their employer or separately (often foreign caregivers prefer the latter). If the employer keeps a kosher kitchen, may they bring non-kosher food into the house? Is it OK to bring it in if they keep it in their room? Is it OK to have a small refrigerator in their room for that purpose?
- Daily Schedule
Physical activity and social interaction are critical to quality of life. Do you expect the caregiver to create a daily routine, or will you create a schedule that the caregiver will need to follow?
What are the expectations for bathing? Going outside? Errands? Administering medication and monitoring adherence?
In the event of a hospital or rehabilitation stay, caregivers are not expected to be at the hospital for more than 8 hours. It is a good idea to ask if the caregiver would be willing to stay longer, with appropriate overtime compensation (amount is set by regulations)?
Caregivers are expected to keep the house clean and tidy, but are not expected to do heavy housework. Discuss your expectations for light housework, errands, laundry, shopping to ensure everyone is on the same page. Also, if the caregiver is expected to run errands like grocery shopping or picking up medications, discuss if they should take their employer with them and, if not, who will stay with the employer when the caregiver is out.
In a more active household, where guests (family members or others) come and go, what are your expectations for helping with meal preparation, serving and cleaning? Would you be willing to pay extra to help with large meals or entertaining in the home? If there are overnight guests, where will they sleep?
Always, always check references. If the caregiver comes with a written letter from a past employer, still call the employer to hear more about his/her experience.
Some Final Notes
Most caregivers will want to meet your loved one during the interview. At the very least, you should show them a picture to help them get a sense of who they will be caring for.
If you find someone who is a good fit, and s/he is interested in the position, don’t wait too long to make an offer! Good applicants are in high demand and if it seems likely that things won’t work out, there is a good chance they will take another job. That being said, don’t let yourself be “held hostage” by the challenge of finding a good match. Trust your instincts – in the end you will find someone wonderful who will care for your loved one in the same way you would.