Tips in Choosing an In-Home Caregiver

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Most caregivers are unpaid. They typically assist adult family members or friends who have a health problem or disability. Most are caring for a spouse or parent. About 85% of the adults they help are age 50 or older. Almost half have reached the age of 75.

Typical tasks performed by caregivers include shopping, meal preparation, laundry, and housekeeping. Caregivers may also help older adults get out of bed, get dressed, move into and out of chairs or wheelchairs, and take care of personal hygiene. Caregivers often keep older adults take and manage prescribed medication.

Unpaid caregivers usually work full- or part-time in paid employment. Some caregivers choose not to work outside the home so they can devote all their time to caregiving.

Professional Caregivers

Because it is difficult to juggle employment and caregiving, some families hire a professional caregiver to help their parents. Some older people hire caregivers because they do not have family or friends who can assist them. Even when a family member is the primary caregiver, a professional caregiver might be hired to provide respite care.

Some families resist hiring a caregiver for an older adult. They worry about allowing a stranger into their home. They read stories about older adults who have been victimized by abusive or dishonest caregivers. While most professional caregivers are dedicated to their jobs, the risk of making a bad hire dissuades families from looking for responsible workers who can make life better for an adult parent.

Caregivers are no more likely to be dishonest than babysitters or tradespeople who are invited into a home. It always makes sense to take precautions. Those might include locking up valuables that can be easily stolen and investing in webcams that don’t invade a parent’s privacy. A family’s primary concern should focus on the caregiver’s personality, experience, and ability to perform required tasks.

Home Care Agencies

Selecting a caregiver can be difficult. One option is to hire caregivers from an agency. Most agencies screen their employees for criminal records. Agencies should be insured and their employees should be bonded, making it easier to recover restitution if property is stolen. Families should ask about insurance and bonding before hiring the agency.

About thirty states license Home Care Agencies. Families that live in one of those states should check with the licensing authority to verify that the agency is licensed and that the license remains in good standing.

Some agencies provide a basic level of training or assure that employees have relevant work experience. Agencies typically fire workers who are alleged to be abusive with the older adults they serve. Families should interview several agencies and select one that assures its employees are properly trained and monitored.

Agencies can often match a caregiver to a family’s needs. If a family member suffers from dementia, for example, an agency may be able to furnish a caregiver who is trained to provide dementia care.

Because the caregiver is employed by the agency, families do not need to worry about payroll taxes that they are legally obligated to pay if they employ a caregiver. Take note, however, that some agencies claim not to be employers. They act as brokers to match caregivers with families who will employ them. The families then become responsible for payroll taxes and compliance with all other employment laws. Families need to clarify before working with an agency whether the agency or the family will be the caregiver’s employer.

Private Hires

Families can also hire their own caregiver. That option may be less expensive than paying an agency fee. Keep in mind, however, that you get what you pay for. Paying fair compensation increases the likelihood of hiring a competent caregiver who brings a professional attitude to the job.

Families who hire a private caregiver should be sure they understand how to comply with federal and state laws regarding minimum wage compensation, overtime payments, worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance. Families may want to obtain legal advice about how those laws apply to the employment of caregivers in their state. Families that hire a caregiver “off the books” run the risk of being sued if they do not comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act and prosecuted if they fail to obey tax laws.

Hiring a caregiver requires more diligence than choosing a name from a Craigslist posting. A better starting point is to ask friends for recommendations. A local senior center might also be in a position to recommend private caregivers.

Family members should interview several candidates. Ask about experience and training in caregiving. If the caregiver will need to provide skilled nursing service, determine whether the candidate is appropriately licensed. Performing a background check is essential. Ask for references and call each reference.

Make a detailed list of duties the caregiver will need to perform. Ask each candidate how they will perform those duties. If the relative who needs care can be difficult, ask the candidate whether they have encountered similar difficulties in the past and how they handled them. If the caregiver will need to prepare meals, the caregiver should be comfortable meeting the family member’s dietary needs and preferences.

Introduce prospective caregivers to the family member who needs care. Try to get a sense of whether the caregiver and the family member will be able to build a rapport.

Ask about the caregiver’s availability. Are there times of the day or days of the week the caregiver cannot work? The family should have a backup plan if an emergency or scheduled vacation makes the caregiver miss work.

While hiring a caregiver can be a time-consuming task, taking time to hire the right person is a sound investment. A reliable caregiver who can build an emotional bond with a family member who needs assistance will provide peace of mind for everyone else in the family.

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