Hiring an In-Home Caregiver: What You Should Know

Helping a sick elderly womanOn a “bad” day, it sometimes took me an hour to convince my father-in-law to sit at the kitchen table to eat his breakfast. Another thirty minutes to swallow his pills.

And “bad” days caring for my mother often meant emotional outbursts when I tried to convince her it was time for me to bathe her. Or taking the extra time to soothe her during the long hours of sundowning when her anxiety levels escalated.

My husband and I simply could not have cared for my mother and my father-in-law, with their complex medical and mental health needs in our home for eight years without the assistance of skilled and knowledgeable in-home caregivers. For our family, as for many caregiving families and individuals, in-home care provides an important level of independence that helps a loved one remain in their own home or in the home of a loved one.

We turned to agencies with solid reputations for skilled care. And we looked for caregivers with training, a track record of success, and who demonstrated rapport with our loved ones and who could help with ADLs, or activities of daily living, such as dressing, oversight of meals, and monitoring of meals. It was important for us to work through an agency that checked references and work history, as well as provided training and certification. Caring.com provides the services of a free Family Advisor at 866.824.8174.

Consider the following the tips:

  • As for referrals from your medical health provider, as well as from friends who have used in-home caregivers.
  • Consider the experience of the individual you are hiring–how long they have worked in the care industry, their length of tenure with the agencies they have worked with, their training (especially for special conditions like Parkinson’s or dementia), and their rapport with your loved one.
  • If you consider hiring a freelance caregiver, weigh the costs of becoming an “employer” who is responsible for taxes, insurance, and Worker’s Compensation. Check with your tax consultant or attorney before hiring an independent caregiver, especially if you are considering a live-in option.
  • Decide how much you’re prepared to pay. If you hire someone directly, you need to look into how you will pay taxes and possibly a Social Security contribution. Check with the Internal Revenue Service for proper tax forms and instructions. See the IRS publications “Hiring Household Employees“and “Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?” for details.
  • Ask job candidates to bring a résumé or job history as well as names and telephone numbers for at least two references. If possible, make sure your loved one participates in the interview or at least has the opportunity to meet anyone you would like to hire.
  • Describe your loved one’s needs, health concerns, likes and dislikes to the applicant. Outline the duties you expect them to perform. Be friendly but professional. Stick to questions that will help you determine if this person is a good match for the job — and for your loved one.
  • Always  ask for references, and check them. Ask about punctuality, job performance, and why the individual left their former job. Ask if the person would recommend or re-hire the applicant and why or why not. If you’re working with an agency, ask if they do criminal background checks. If you’re hiring independently, consider paying for one yourself.

Have you found help through the assistance of an in-home caregiver? Share your story with us.

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