Hiring a Caregiver for In-Home Help

6 Strategies to Finding the Right In-Home Caregiver
mom and daughter hug

Quick summary

When your loved ones start struggling with everyday tasks, hiring a home care aide can help them remain in their home -- and take some pressure off the rest of the family. Here's help on finding the best care possible.

What is a home care aide?

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At-home caregivers generally fall into three categories: certified nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal care attendants. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) have some medical training and must pass an exam to get a license. They generally work under the supervision of registered nurses. CNAs can check vital signs, care for wounds, and help with everyday activities such as bathing and eating (you'll often hear these referred to as "activities of daily living," or ADLs). Home health aides generally assist with ADLs. And personal care attendants (PCAs), also sometimes called personal companions, assist with household chores like cooking, cleaning, and shopping. The job descriptions of these caregivers can overlap considerably, and they're often referred to interchangeably.

Your First Hiring Decision: Agency Versus Independent

Hiring a home care aide through the classifieds or word of mouth is usually the least expensive option. But you should know that it might create unexpected liabilities for your family, which legally becomes the employer. For example, you'd be held liable for any costs related to an injury that happens on the job, including medical expenses and disability payments. This may not apply if you hire your worker as a contractor, but having a "freelance" aide rather than an employee may not create the long-term solution you're hoping for -- high turnover plagues this industry. That said, hiring someone on your own can be a good idea if you have a personal connection or a strong endorsement from a friend.

If you hire an at-home caregiver through an agency, hourly rates tend to be higher (often significantly higher), but the agency will pay the FICA taxes, cover the worker's liability insurance, and fill out the W-4 and W-2 forms. "Once you factor in taxes and insurance, it really comes out to close to the same price," says Jacqueline Dollar, a geriatric care manager in Des Moines, Iowa.

 

Also, because an agency has a stable of caregivers, you might be able to try out a few and find just the right aide for your situation. "With an agency, you also have the right of refusal," says Anita Silverman, a geriatric care manager in Lake Worth, Florida. "The agency can replace the person if the arrangement doesn't work out." An agency may be able to provide a substitute caregiver if your primary home aide is out sick or on vacation, which can save you a lot of frantic last-minute phone calls.

Keep in mind that agency caregivers are bonded and insured, and they're trained in the basics of care. They often have training in CPR and first aid, as well. Agency employees are expected to abide by an ethics policy and company rules. And agency CNAs may also have nurses checking in on them to make sure all is well and to offer advice.

If you live far from where the care will be needed, or don't want to get involved with supervising an at-home caregiver day-to-day, an agency can be a good option for your family.

Finding a Gem of an At-Home Caregiver

Whether you choose to hire independently or go through an agency, doing some homework on your candidates will help ensure that you hire a reputable worker.

An excellent way to find a high-quality agency is Medicare's new Home Healthcare Compare tool, which allows you to search for agencies in your area that have met with Medicare's approval. The site gives a summary of statistics on the quality of each agency, such as "percentage of patients who get better at walking around," that you can use to guide your decision.

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Also look for an agency that's licensed (if state law requires it) and that has liability insurance. Check to make sure the agency's caregivers are bonded and insured and that they're screened for communicable diseases, like tuberculosis, since the elderly are especially vulnerable to these.

If you hire someone yourself, it's a good idea to find an individual who has (or who once had) a home health aide license, so you know a registered nurse has trained the person in the basics of care. Also get a criminal record check from a service such as Intelius or SentryLink and always call references. There are always a few bad apples who'll take advantage of vulnerable clients -- make sure you don't unwittingly hire one. "If the person doesn't want to submit to a reference check, that's not the person you want -- it's a big red flag," says Dollar.

It's important to find an in-home caregiver your family will be comfortable with. When you're interviewing caregivers, include the person or persons who will need the care and make sure they interact well with the aide. Do they communicate well with each other? Are there language barriers? Do your loved ones enjoy the person's company? "Having shared interests can make a big difference," says Dollar. "One of my clients loved NASCAR and found a home health aide who did, too. They immediately hit it off."

Navigating the Paperwork

If you choose to hire an in-home caregiver independently, the first thing you need to decide is whether to treat the person as an employee or as a contractor. If you hire an employee, you'll be legally responsible for paying taxes and benefits such as Social Security and Medicare (FICA), income tax withholding, and unemployment tax. Payroll preparation agencies such as Paycycle and SurePayroll can help you with the accounting and paperwork.

If you hire the worker as a contractor, you'll still have to file a 1099 form with the IRS on any wages you pay over $600 per year. However, the aide would be responsible for paying her own taxes.

If you choose to hire independently, you may want to consult a lawyer and an accountant to make sure you're meeting your legal and financial obligations to the employee and to the state and federal governments.

Forming a Tag Team

If your loved ones need full-time care, you'll need to hire at least two caregivers. Nobody wants to work seven days a week, complications will arise in any aide's schedule, and turnover is really high in this field. Also, if you hire two in-home caregivers, they can trade off and you can protect yourself from being left in the lurch with no help. One way to ensure a smooth handoff is to schedule a half hour of overlap between their shifts so that they can debrief each other on any issues that may have come up during the prior day or shift. If they work on different days, ask them to keep notes in a designated notebook about changes in routine or any concerns.

If you hire the caregiver through an agency, ask about backup provisions for when your aide is sick or on vacation -- or if he or she quits the agency. Does the agency provide an alternate? Is there an extra charge for this service?

Setting Clear Expectations

"One big mistake people make when hiring an aide is to say, 'Your job is to take care of Dad,'" says Dollar. "That's not good enough -- you need a detailed job description." Do you expect the aide to cook? Clean? Do laundry? Pick up medications from the pharmacy and run errands? Will she bring her own lunch or cook and eat with your loved ones? Make your expectations clear. It's also important to tell the aide when her routine evaluations and raises will occur. If you put all these details in writing, you won't run the risk of disappointment once you've hired your aide, and you'll have better luck keeping her on board.

"You should also enlighten your loved ones about what they should -- and shouldn't -- be asking for," says Silverman. If the contract doesn't say the aide will wash the floors, don't expect it.

Setting clear rules about food and cooking is also important, says Silverman. "One problem I often see is that the way the aide eats may not be the way the person or persons she's caring for eat. You need to make sure an aide will shop and cook for your loved ones' dietary needs, not according to her own habits."

Keep in mind that aides are employees; don't try to make them your friends. "People are so happy to have help that they often treat the employee like a friend, and that creates problems down the line," says Dollar. If your employee thinks of herself as your pal, she may be more likely to take liberties such as bringing her kids or pets to work, or she may bridle when you assert your authority and request a change. The bottom line: Keep it professional.

 


25 days ago, said...

Are there any minimum requirements for a a person categorized as providing "home care" for a disabled or elderly person? In other words, can I allow a person with no training or experience to stay with me as a home care provider if they would help me around the house but not otherwise be allowed to reside with me as a roommate. Are there any minimum requirements for a a person categorized as providing "home care" for a disabled or elderly person? In other words, can I allow a person with no training or experience to stay with me as a home care provider if they would help me around the house but not otherwise be allowed to reside with me as a roommate. Hide


4 months ago, said...

Very helpful article, thank you! Do you know anything about whether military insurance pays for this type of care? (fyi in your last paragraph you used the word "brindle" and I think you meant to say "bristle.") Very helpful article, thank you! Do you know anything about whether military insurance pays for this type of care? (fyi in your last paragraph you used the word "brindle" and I think you meant to say "bristle.") Hide


9 months ago, said...

I had no idea that there was such a big difference between hiring an individual employee and hiring someone from an agency. I know that I would want to provide the best care possible for my mother, and it's important for me to find that care whenever possible. I hope that more people will look into this when they have to help their relatives. It's so important to provide the right care for them. We should definitely focus on that. I had no idea that there was such a big difference between hiring an individual employee and hiring someone from an agency. I know that I would want to provide the best care possible for my mother, and it's important for me to find that care whenever possible. I hope that more people will look into this when they have to help their relatives. It's so important to provide the right care for them. We should definitely focus on that. Hide


9 months ago, said...

In joy working as a care give In joy working as a care give Hide


10 months ago, said...

Home care can take a lot of stress off of senior citizens as well as their kids. When my parents needed help, we were all pretty caught up with our work and families. We liked to visit on the weekends, but daily at-home support wasn't realistic for any of us. We felt a huge burden lifted when the home care started going over. At first I didn't know a lot about it, but as mentioned, these are people who have received proper training to handle the work. Thanks for your article! Home care can take a lot of stress off of senior citizens as well as their kids. When my parents needed help, we were all pretty caught up with our work and families. We liked to visit on the weekends, but daily at-home support wasn't realistic for any of us. We felt a huge burden lifted when the home care started going over. At first I didn't know a lot about it, but as mentioned, these are people who have received proper training to handle the work. Thanks for your article! Hide


10 months ago, said...

I want someone to come in and help me take care of my mom I want someone to come in and help me take care of my mom Hide


10 months ago, said...

We are searching for someone to come into my mothers house n live with her and help with her cares. She is 94 and has early stage of dementia. How would I word a newspaper "Help Wanted" add? Thank you We are searching for someone to come into my mothers house n live with her and help with her cares. She is 94 and has early stage of dementia. How would I word a newspaper "Help Wanted" add? Thank you Hide


about 1 year ago, said...

The success and failure of a relationship is communication. The agency must set the expectations of services to be provided and the family must share the expectations of services they expect to receive from an agency. I strongly encourage families to work with an agency. It can prevent so many headaches and provide an extra layer of protection to mom and dad receiving care. h The success and failure of a relationship is communication. The agency must set the expectations of services to be provided and the family must share the expectations of services they expect to receive from an agency.
 
 I strongly encourage families to work with an agency. It can prevent so many headaches and provide an extra layer of protection to mom and dad receiving care. h Hide


over 2 years ago, said...

Hello, If you are in need of in-home care providers, you may search for them within your region through our Senior Living Directory: http://www.caring.com/local/in-home-care (You can copy and paste the web address into your browser). Enter you city, state or zip code and you will receive a list of care providers in your area with related contact information. I hope this helps! Hello, If you are in need of in-home care providers, you may search for them within your region through our Senior Living Directory: http://www.caring.com/local/in-home-care (You can copy and paste the web address into your browser). Enter you city, state or zip code and you will receive a list of care providers in your area with related contact information. I hope this helps! Hide


almost 3 years ago, said...

hope it work with you and your family i am very good work withn people you will love me good hard work i love laugh and do different thing with you and your family they will love and take care of i will not let anything happen to them hope to here from you ready soon. hope it work with you and your family i am very good work withn people you will love me good hard work i love laugh and do different thing with you and your family they will love and take care of i will not let anything happen to them hope to here from you ready soon. Hide


about 3 years ago, said...

My Mom is in need of a cna she has parkinsons, how much does it cost with medicare . My Mom is in need of a cna she has parkinsons, how much does it cost with medicare . Hide


over 3 years ago, said...

thank you for the info thank you for the info Hide


over 3 years ago, said...

Very helpful article. I'm new to the process of hiring in-home care. Are hiring independently and through an agency the only ways to hire in-home care? Any alternatives to these? Very helpful article. I'm new to the process of hiring in-home care. Are hiring independently and through an agency the only ways to hire in-home care? Any alternatives to these? Hide


over 3 years ago, said...

I have been a care giver for 40 years. private and through a company either way its not about the family nor the company its about the client. every business has people who steal and are mean and everyone ends up some how fining those people. we get repoff by repair men and store prices car repair and etc. just remenber what you put out come a full circle in ther future. not everyone and not even family cut out to take care of family members. it a fact that abuse and being stoled from is... Show more I have been a care giver for 40 years. private and through a company either way its not about the family nor the company its about the client. every business has people who steal and are mean and everyone ends up some how fining those people. we get repoff by repair men and store prices car repair and etc. just remenber what you put out come a full circle in ther future. not everyone and not even family cut out to take care of family members. it a fact that abuse and being stoled from is 80 precent being done by a family member and everyone says aleast their being kept at home. believe i have been on both ends of this business and it hard to be caregiver when family is always upset about something that they can not do and they have no idea how care is to be done except what they been told or read. so all of you out there that havent done the care yet or you had abad time with a caregiver remember we are only human and we all make mistake even you so do not judge until you have been in our shoes. yes there are good and bad people every business and i mean all Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

Hello Ralph, You may search for In-Home Caregivers in your region through our Senior Living Directory: http://www.caring.com/local/in-home-care (You can copy and paste the web address into your browser). Enter you city, state or zip code and you will receive a list of care providers in your area with related contact information. I hope this helps! Hello Ralph, You may search for In-Home Caregivers in your region through our Senior Living Directory: http://www.caring.com/local/in-home-care (You can copy and paste the web address into your browser). Enter you city, state or zip code and you will receive a list of care providers in your area with related contact information. I hope this helps! Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

REQUIRED NANNY/CAREGIVER/DRIVER/HOUSEKEEPER IN LONDON: CONTACT() We are seeking a fun, energetic, responsible, organized & loving nanny, caregiver, driver, housekeeper. to join our family and take care of our lovely kids. OBJECTIVE: We need a full time, permanent nanny to work starting immediately. We want someone who is enthusiastic, affectionate and excited about being a nanny and has had experience caring for children. We are interested in someone who takes the initiative to think... Show more REQUIRED NANNY/CAREGIVER/DRIVER/HOUSEKEEPER IN LONDON: CONTACT() We are seeking a fun, energetic, responsible, organized & loving nanny, caregiver, driver, housekeeper. to join our family and take care of our lovely kids. OBJECTIVE: We need a full time, permanent nanny to work starting immediately. We want someone who is enthusiastic, affectionate and excited about being a nanny and has had experience caring for children. We are interested in someone who takes the initiative to think of developmentally appropriate and fun activities playing at the park, doing craft projects, taking them to swimming lessons, running around at the park, organizing and going on play dates with other children and engaging with them at home to encourage development and curiosity through play and reading. We also would like someone with newborn experience who feels confident with their care and also in helping them to get into a routine. There would also be light housework as well and little baby sitting. Accommodation and feeding will be covered by us and some other utilities. We are willing to pay any qualified employee the sum of 650-750 pounds per week..and after 6 months it will be increased if you are interested in this job send your photo with your CV to. Look forward to hearing from you. Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

my name is lindi de medeiros i look for in home care . l m a honest person l have good references. l m a housekeeper, l have experience on make good food, laundry and good record driver l have resident permanent card.just l need some oportunity to make a good job with care and love.l have available to work monday to friday:6am to 5pm.saturday:8am to1pm.sunday 8am 12pm. my fone is : [phone number removed] my name is lindi de medeiros i look for in home care . l m a honest person l have good references. l m a housekeeper, l have experience on make good food, laundry and good record driver l have resident permanent card.just l need some oportunity to make a good job with care and love.l have available to work monday to friday:6am to 5pm.saturday:8am to1pm.sunday 8am 12pm. my fone is : [phone number removed] Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

I started as a private caregiver in January of this year and in the beginning I asked the daughter of the gentlemen I am sitting with daily if she was going to take out taxes, she informed me that if it started to be long term she would here we are 5 months later and she is now saying she would like me to file a 1099 form for next year. Shouldn't she have taken taxes out in the beginning of the job? what do I do next? I started as a private caregiver in January of this year and in the beginning I asked the daughter of the gentlemen I am sitting with daily if she was going to take out taxes, she informed me that if it started to be long term she would here we are 5 months later and she is now saying she would like me to file a 1099 form for next year. Shouldn't she have taken taxes out in the beginning of the job? what do I do next? Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

I am going to have leg surgery in the near future and may or may not need someone to help with my care. Hopefully it will be a temporary situation. I am going to have leg surgery in the near future and may or may not need someone to help with my care. Hopefully it will be a temporary situation. Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

Good Good Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

The article is very good. The article is very good. Hide


almost 4 years ago, said...

it gives you an update information. it gives you an update information. Hide