Should You “Swipe Left” on Online Caregiver Match-Making Services?
It’s no secret many of today’s younger people use online and phone app dating services to find companionship. In fact, the phenomenon has even motivated many comedians to appropriate digital dating terminology for use on a broader level. “Swiping left” means something or someone is rejected, while “swiping right” suggests approval or interest.
But when it comes to a loved one’s caregiver needs, does it make sense to take a page out of the online dating playbook? Can a great home care aide be discovered virtually? Here are factors everyone needs to consider when browsing those online caregiver profiles.
Potential Benefits of Online Caregiver “Match-Making” Services
Online caregiver platforms sometimes provide lower rates than reputable home care agencies. Obviously, they’re cutting-out the hiring and vetting costs incurred by brick-and-mortar companies. They also don’t need to cover the overhead cost of insurance polices, customer service representatives and workers’ compensation claims.
With that said, some will find the savings minimal. The price difference may be even less for folks who are concerned about liability and legal exposures. They may feel compelled to purchase their own insurance policies and assume an official employer role, which requires the withholding of payroll taxes and related accounting duties.
Language & Niche Preferences
Some families have unique needs and preferences. For example, a community home care agency may lack caregivers who speak Korean or Farsi. But there’s a chance a large caregiver website has providers who meet the criteria.
Home care aide websites usually provide summaries and pictures of their caregivers. Most families appreciate the ability to browse potential workers, which lends to the “match-making” nature of the services.
But as with dating, reality is often different than an image portrayed online. So, there are no guarantees the “perfect” caregiver detailed in an online profile is the actual person who shows up in real life.
Drawbacks to Online Caregiver “Match-Making” Services
Online caregiver platforms may provide some level of background screening. But it’s often at the expense of the prospective client. Also, their processes are generally far less extensive than those of community home care agencies.
For example, home care agencies in some states are only allowed to employ caregivers who have completed a “Live Scan” (fingerprint) background check. These inquiries are far more accurate, since identities can be assumed but fingerprints can’t be faked. But online caregiver platforms typically only rely on names, addresses and social security numbers, which may be fraudulent.
Also, online aides haven’t faced rigorous in-person interviews that further vet backgrounds, intentions, work ethic and empathy. Subtle traits obtained in face-to-face encounters, like professionalism and attitude, simply can’t be observed virtually. In other words, caregiver vetting is a process that’s better done the old fashioned way!
In most situations, caregiver match-making websites offer services that legally-require clients to assume the role of “employer.” A patchwork of federal and state laws makes it virtually impossible for families to classify caregivers as 1099 “independent contractors.”
Employment status can pose a variety of legal, financial and tax ramifications. Common issues relate to homeowner’s insurance policy exclusions, employee income tax withholding requirements and workers’ compensation exposure.
One of a home care agency’s most important functions is to provide oversight over caregivers. While most aides are great and passionate about their work, everyone needs accountability. Caregivers working outside the structure of a community agency lack oversight and may not be concerned about the consequences of poor performance.
No “Plan B”
Home care agency managers know caregivers “call off” from time to time. Some reasons are legitimate, but less reliable workers may do it frequently. Either way, a well run agency has systems in place to ensure service continues uninterrupted in the event of a caregiver call-off. Interim aides can be quickly secured, and repeat offenders can be permanently replaced.
Many community home care agencies now invest heavily into caregiver training. These programs usually begin with new-hire orientation and often continue over the course of employment with ongoing education and refresher courses. Common topics include fall prevention techniques, dementia/Alzheimer’s training and general work etiquette expectations.
Poor Continuity of Care
There’s an old saying that often rings true, “Easy come, easy go.” Here’s a situation in which online dating sites probably share parallels with caregiver match-making services. Basically, it’s very easy for prospective clients and aides to connect. But there’s little commitment for follow-through.
What happens when a caregiver has worked for a few shifts but then receives a “better” offer from another website user? What’s to keep her from leaving? Or will she simply use the offer as a bargaining chip to leverage higher pay?
Verdict: Online Caregiver “Match-Making” or Community Home Care Agency?
At the end of the day, families may find utility in online caregiver match-making platforms for particular situations. Typically, these will involve very specific searches relating to language preferences or other niche needs. Or, prospective clients in rural areas that lack local caregiver companies may have no other alternatives.
However, the vast majority of people ultimately realize the most value from credible community home care agencies. Working through a local company is safer and reduces liability exposure. Agencies also help navigate the turbulent waters of caregiving, which involves “call-offs,” emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances!