February 27, 2012
Employing a caregiver for your senior loved one might be among the biggest decisions that you’ll make for him or her. By gathering the most information available, you’ll help ensure a good caregiving match.
Q. I live about a full day’s drive from my 80-year-old father, who is beginning to struggle with many aspects of living alone. He doesn’t want to move to a care facility, and I don’t think he’s reached that point—he’s not ill, he’s just frail. Where do I begin to find a trustworthy caregiver to help him?
Many seniors like your father could benefit from non-medical caregiving assistance such as companionship and help around the house. If that’s the case, there are three categories of caregivers in the marketplace that you should learn more about: an agency employee, an independent contractor with a registry and an independent caregiver. Be sure you understand the important differences between them.
- Most agencies hire caregivers who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and the caregivers are employees. The agency takes care of all employment issues such as taxes, workers’ compensation, addressing performance issues and continuing education. The agency also provides a replacement caregiver if the regular one is sick.
- An independent contractor with a registry is recruited, screened and referred to the consumer, who is an older adult. The older adult becomes the employer and is responsible for all the employment responsibilities such as taxes, scheduling and performance issues. The independent contractor most often doesn’t have a backup if he or she is sick and can’t work, nor does the independent contractor likely have training or continuing education.
- Independent caregivers market themselves and find their own clients. Their criminal background and reference checks can come at the expense of the consumer, who is the older adult. All employment issues, including taxes, bond insurance, workers’ compensation and performance problems, are the responsibility of the older adult. There generally is no replacement if the independent caregiver is sick.
Senior care experts recommend asking these questions before hiring someone:
- Have the caregivers been trained? Who trains the caregivers, and what is the extent of their training? Do they have special dementia or Alzheimer’s training?
- Have the agency’s caregivers passed criminal background checks and drug screening, and has the agency secured personal references on all its caregivers?
- Are the caregivers bonded and insured? Does the company cover claims and insurance so the home owner is not liable should something happen?
- Does the caregiver have workers’ compensation coverage?
- Can you check references on the agency?
- Does the agency offer backups or replacements for caregivers?
- How much input will you have in selecting the caregivers?
- What restrictions, if any, apply to the services?
- How much flexibility will you have in setting a schedule for services?
- How much notice does the agency need to begin or cancel services?
- What is the cost, and, specifically, are there special overnight rates or minimum hours of service per visit, per week or per month?
- What is the agency’s service deposit?
- Does the agency maintain a quality assurance or supervisory program?
- What is the agency’s communication plan to keep families informed?
- Does the agency offer the personal care services the patient needs, like assistance with bathing, dressing and using the bathroom?
- Are patients’ special needs, such as language preferences, accommodated?
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