Could a Virtual Assistant help with your eldercare admin?

If your parent or elder relative starts struggling to stay on top of their paperwork, or shows signs that they need support to still live well independently, it can become stressful and worrying for all the family, often requiring us adult children to take on a whole bunch of new administrative tasks as we navigate the maze of eldercare. 

Taking on this additional admin (otherwise known as ‘dad-min’ or ‘mum-min’ here at Eldering) can feel overwhelming, especially if you are far away and have a busy job or a young family to manage as well (or both!).

Delegating to other family members can be difficult, and it can put stress and strain on our relationships.

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A part-time virtual assistant (VA) could be a helpful solution, but not everyone knows how to find a good one, what sort of tasks they could help with and how best to work with one to avoid security risks and get value for money.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant, also known as a VA or Virtual Personal Assistant, is someone who provides administrative, technical, or creative support to individuals or businesses remotely (i.e. not in person in your home or office). 

Although they work remotely, if VAs are based in a nearby area to yourself, most VA’s are happy to meet in person too, with travel expenses paid. It is always worth asking if this is a preferred way to occasionally meet.

Aren’t VAs just for executives and businesses?

No. Virtual assistants can help with multiple home and personal admin tasks ranging from researching and booking holidays to managing appointments and coordinating household repairs and maintenance.

What’s great is that you can hire a part-time VA for just a few hours a week or month on a short or long-term basis, or to work for a set period of time on a specific task or project.

Many part-time VAs in the UK are over-qualified, mid-life women who have left their full-time, 9-5 professional jobs to focus on family life and do virtual assistant work to keep their minds engaged and earn a little cash on the side.

VAs are also almost always self-employed, so you don’t need to worry about any employee red tape.

How much do Virtual Assistants charge in the UK?

The hourly rate of a VA in the UK varies. According to the Society of Virtual Assistants, fees usually range from £25 to £45 per hour but there is no regulation on pricing and some may charge less depending on their location, skills, experience and the nature of the task required.

VA’s generally charge hourly and invoice at the end of each month. An hour tracking tool can be used by the VA (for example Toggl) to provide a specific breakdown on where their time is spent so you can track this too.

How do you find a suitable, trustworthy VA?

The idea of delegating personal admin to a stranger, particularly when it’s for an elder person who may be more vulnerable, can feel a little uncomfortable and naturally raises concerns for a lot of people.

Luckily, several platforms have launched in recent years which make it easier to find and connect with experienced, reliable, trustworthy VAs, such as PallyTalk and SpareMyTime.  

Before hiring a VA, it’s advisable to meet in person or have a Zoom call to find out more about them, discuss expectations and see if you have a good rapport. It’s also important to make sure you ask for, contact and verify the references they provide. Be cautious of using a VA outside the UK and EU, as other countries don’t have such strict data protection legislation as the UK and EU.

It’s a good idea to speak to several VAs before making your hiring decision to get an idea of what personality and skills would best suit you. Every VA offers something slightly different, and it is a very personable role to fill.

Checking security and credentials of your VA

Any VA professional or company that works with your personal information – even just your name, address, age and contact details – needs to comply with data protection laws and guidelines. In the UK, this is normally covered by GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).  

Before hiring a VA, you should consider checking the following to minimise security risks and ensure legal compliance:

  • Can the VA to confirm they comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and have a privacy policy and terms and conditions as a minimum? Regardless of whether the VA is working as a sole trader or under a company, they need to be compliant with data protection laws and guidelines. Look at their Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions to make sure the VA is clear about what they can and cannot do with your data and information.
  • Is the VA registered with the UK Government’s Information Commissioner’s Office ico.org.uk? Registration with the ICO demonstrates a commitment to data protection laws and ensures that the VA is accountable for handling personal data responsibly.
  • Does the VA use a cyber security add-on to their computer – for example, Microsoft Defender for Windows – to protect against spam and phishing emails and detect viruses?
  • Does the VA have any certification for cyber security? Look for a certificate such as Cyber Essentials.
  • Does the VA have a suitable insurance policy in place? Look for professional indemnity or public liability insurance.

Working securely with a VA

Once you’re happy your VA has the necessary legal and security measures in place, make sure you share information and work securely with them to further minimise any risk of theft or data breaches.

Here are some useful tips:

Use a password manager

Instead of sending password or login details by email (which is not a good idea!) one of the most convenient (and secure) ways to share access to accounts is to use a password manager.

A password manager is like a digital safe where you store your usernames and passwords. This safe or vault keeps your login information secure by encrypting it. When you need to log into a website on your computer, the password manager can automatically fill in your login details for you.

Let’s say you want to give your virtual assistant (VA) access to your online supermarket account. Using a password manager, you can grant them guest access to the account by simply clicking the ‘share’ feature in the password manager and entering your VA’s email. They’ll then receive an invite to set up access without needing your password.

A couple of well-known password managers include 1password.com and Lastpass.com.

Set up separate user accounts

When sharing access to systems, set up the VA as an additional user on an account rather than giving them your or your parent’s user log-ins. You can then both monitor activity but also change permissions without losing your access if there is a problem.

Enable Two-factor Authentication (2FA)

When setting up a VA with access to an online account, make sure that you turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) for them. This means they need to use a smartphone to authenticate access as well as a username and password.

Avoid sharing sensitive financial information

Do not give access to bank accounts or credit cards; if this is unavoidable, set up a new credit card or bank account with a bank that provides virtual one-off cards (the number only works once) – for example, Starling Bank.

Establish rules and limitations

Be clear from the outset about guardrails – for example, the VA cannot apply for any new account under your or your parent’s name without your permission, or order goods over the value of £50 without your permission.

Effectively briefing a VA

Effectively briefing the VA ensures they understand both your expectations and preferences, and those of your parents or elder relatives.

Start by creating a list of the tasks or sort of tasks you want to delegate. Example tasks might include booking medical or dental appointments, researching local support services, or finding your parent(s) a new utility provider.

Then create a list of the information they will need about your parent(s) in order to carry out these tasks. This might include the name and number of their dentist or GP, their habits or general preferences, or health conditions they may have.

Example tasks a VA could support with

Below are some example tasks a VA could potentially do to help you support your parent(s) or elder relative, and examples of how you might brief them:

Task: Researching specialised purchases (e.g. video calling device, personal alarms, assistive / mobility equipment)

Example brief: Please could you research and provide recommendations for a user-friendly video calling device suitable for my parent who has limited tech proficiency. Consider factors like ease of setup, large buttons, and compatibility with their existing devices and mine.

Task: Researching care homes / care providers in the area

Example brief: Could you conduct some thorough research on local care homes / care providers in my parent’s area, including reviews, accreditation, and pricing information. Please send me a comprehensive report of what you find, outlining the top three options with pros and cons for each.

Task: Researching a suitable restaurant / travel / hotel option for ‘elder’ friendly family trip or event

Example brief: Could you find an accessible, family-friendly restaurant in [insert neighbourhood] that has a quiet ambiance / no music, with a menu that caters to my parent’s preferences and dietary requirements.

Task: Researching / recruiting helpers for your parents (e.g. cleaners / gardeners)

Example brief: Could you find me a reliable, trustworthy gardener to come and sort out my parent’s garden. Please send details on their services, rates, and availability.

Task: Ordering groceries or meal deliveries

Example brief: Can you research and recommend some reputable local food delivery services, that cater to my parent’s dietary requirements / meal preferences and send me details on rates and delivery times with example menus.

Task: Scheduling doctor / dentist / eye appointments

Example brief: Could you liaise with my parent to book them an appointment with the dentist and add the date and time to my calendar.

In summary

If you have a lot of things to juggle and are short on time, using a part-time VA can be a great way to minimise the stress, frustration and time-drain of eldercare admin.

Once you’ve got into the rhythm of delegating and briefing your VA, you’ll find it frees up a lot of valuable time and mental space.

Just be sure to brief them thoroughly, and have all the necessary security measures in place to ensure everyone feels comfortable.  

Remember – when you have a task, always ask yourself – is this something I have to do or could I give it to a VA?

Common questions

  • How do I get the most out of a virtual assistant?

To get the most out of using a virtual assistant, communicate regularly to provide updates, feedback, and clarify expectations. Working off secure shared folders, knowing their availability each week and maintaining a digital tracker of tasks ensures efficient coordination and accountability.

  • Is there a security risk using a virtual assistant to support elder people?

There can be security risks when using a virtual assistant to support elder people, particularly regarding sensitive personal information. It’s essential to vet the VA thoroughly, ensure they adhere to strict privacy protocols, and implement additional security measures such as encryption and access controls.

  • How can I trust a VA with personal and financial information?

Trust with personal and financial information can be established through thorough vetting, including background checks and verifying their references. Additionally, put security measures in place such as using secure communication channels, password protection, and limiting access to sensitive data on a need-to-know basis.

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