How to choose a caregiver in Canada

Sooner or later, most Canadians are faced with the challenge of providing care for an elderly family member. While the experience can bring tremendous emotional rewards, it may also strain finances, and impact family and work life.

At some point you may need at-home senior care on a part-time or full-time basis. This may mean sharing duties with other family members, hiring a private or public caregiver, or some combination of the two.

A good place to start when considering all your options? Government funded or private social workers specializing in elder care can provide local contacts, advice and resources to ease your decision-making.

Should you opt for outside help, here’s a handy checklist of issues to consider as you search for the most appropriate elder care.

Basic questions

  • Candidate’s legal status in Canada
  • Pay — Discuss expectations (hourly or weekly) and be upfront
  • Insurance — Your loved one may already have private or public coverage for some nursing care
  • Provincial coverage — May be available, depending on province of residence and other factors
  • Training and certification — Foreign or Canadian elder-care training certification, plus training specific to your family member’s needs (memory loss, dementia, physical disability, palliative care, or other)
  • References — 3, if possible
  • Trial period — 1-3 months
  • CPR or first aid training
  • Optional: Driver’s license — May come in handy, if car is available 


  • Expectations — Rehab, companionship, nursing, medical, memory exercises, bathing, respite care, etc.
  • Additional expectations — Light housekeeping, preparing elderly person’s meals, accompanying to appointments, picking up medications, etc.
  • Hours — Day, night, number of hours per day/night
  • Commitment — Continuous, long-term presence especially important for those with dementia
  • Possibility of live-in — If you have the funds, home space and need

Personal attributes

  • Compatibility and personality — Should complement your loved one and your family:
    1. Language skills — Able to converse in the elderly person’s and your preferred language(s)
    2. Dependable
    3. Honest and forthright
    4. Professional
    5. Trustworthy
    6. Upbeat and positive
    7. Patient
    8. Compassionate
    9. Sense of humour
    10. Comfort with pets (if you have them)


  • Holidays — Which ones and how long
  • Distance — From your home and family transportation
  • Hours of availability — Does the caregiver offer the hours convenient to you
  • Flexibility — If you’re running late getting back, or need to increase hours
  • Smoker
  • Breaks and lunch — Will you supply food and/or snacks
  • Emergency availability — Weekends and after-hours, just in case

That’s a lot to think about! And you can’t expect every candidate to tick off every box. But it’s a start to helping you think clearly about expectations and responsibilities.