Getting the best help: agencies vs. hiring an independent caregiver
When someone you love needs help to stay safely and comfortably at home, finding the right person can be a challenge. Even though the benefits of having help are clear, the idea of inviting a stranger into your home understandably makes many people feel uncomfortable. Add to that the challenge of finding a caregiver and it can seem easier to just take care of everything on your own.
It doesn’t have to be impossible to find the help you need. For most people, there are really two options for finding an in-home care provider: either hire a home care agency, such as Visiting Angels, or hire a private independent caregiver.
Hiring an independent caregiver may seem more affordable than a home care agency at first glance. However, you need to consider employment laws and regulations since in-home care is considered to be an employer-employee relationship. As such, you are responsible for federal and state employment taxes, which can swiftly escalate the cost above a simple hourly rate. You may also need to carry special insurance to protect yourself in the event of an accident – a simple homeowner’s policy is probably not enough. Information on federal employment tax requirements can be found in Publication 926 from the IRS. For state requirements, contact your state employment department.
In addition, you will need to have a fully-developed job description and employment agreement. You should conduct a thorough review of any private caregiver’s background, and may want to consider checking credit as well. Be sure also to verify that the candidate meets any state licensing requirements to provide “hands-on” care. The caregiver will need to fill out an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 and you need to keep a copy. This verifies that the person is legally entitled to work in the United States. The I-9 form and Publication 926 can be downloaded at www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html or ordered by calling (800) TAX-FORM.
Most people find that choosing a home care agency is the better option, both in terms of managing the caregiver and the peace of mind an agency can provide, as an established, reputable home care agency takes the entire burden off of you.
The major benefits of using a home care agency include:
- Agencies will screen caregivers and conduct background checks. The ideal agency should allow you to interview several candidates in order to find the best caregiver for your needs, and you should always request professional and personal references for anyone you choose. However, an agency will save you the trouble of doing a comprehensive background investigation and you can be assured that the caregiver you choose is trustworthy and qualified for the job. Some agencies may also require certain safety precautions for their caregivers, such as CPR certifications or TB tests, and may provide additional training in specialty areas like dementia and Alzheimer’s care for their staff.
- Agencies are bonded, licensed and insured. Responsible agencies should assume full liability for all care provided, and should be insured in the event a caregiver is injured in your home. Keep in mind that should you choose to hire an independent caregiver, as the employer, you will be responsible for the liability risk of both the caregiver and the care recipient.
- Agencies monitor and supervise their caregivers to ensure quality care. Agencies want to be assured that they are providing the highest level of care possible, and should have programs in place for supervising and checking in on their caregivers when you are not present. If your current caregiver is not meeting your needs for any reason, the agency will provide a replacement.
- Agencies take responsibility for your caregiver’s payroll and benefits. If you hire a caregiver through an agency, the agency is the individual’s employer, not you. That means you don’t have to be concerned with keeping track of their pay schedule, benefits, vacation days, or paying taxes for them. An agency will also have programs in place to provide you with a fill-in caregiver should your caregiver need to take a sick day.