Soon I will have to hire an in-home caregiver for my husband. My thoughts have turned to the obvious: Who can help us? What skills must his caregiver have? Costs? How do we hire the right person? Such questions lead to more questions, and here is where I am: Should I use a senior home care agency or what about hiring a private caregiver? Differing opinions abound among family and friends. But facts count more than opinions, so I’ve started asking questions—and getting answers:
Q: What is the difference between hiring a private caregiver and senior home care agencies?
A: Senior home care providers vet, hire, employ and directly supervise their caregivers. A private caregiver is my employee, and I am her direct (and only) supervisor. An agency handles the issues of employment law and professional standards. On my own, I undertake the details of employing and vetting my candidates.
( I wonder if that is as daunting as it sounds.)
Q: What are the cost differences between hiring a private caregiver or using an agency?
A: Almost without exception, I can hire someone privately for less than using an agency. Independent caregivers may be hired for as little as $12-$15/hr. Agencies can start at $18-$20/hr. and go up from there depending upon the skill level of the caregiver.
(I like saving money, but the wisdom of “You get what you pay for” can’t be overlooked.)
Q: What “tedious tasks” would I have if I hire a caregiver privately?
A: Lots. The hiring process is difficult and time-consuming. And don’t forget about employment laws and taxes.
(This sounds like something I might want to avoid.)
Q: How DO I go about hiring a private caregiver?
A: First l need to determine my husband’s needs and post the job description online and locally. I must calculate the pay rate I can offer and decide whether it’s negotiable. I must do preliminary telephone interviews and pick the candidates I will interview in person. Next, there are background checks for the one or two finalists: speaking with former employers, following up on personal references, verifying training and validating certifications, obtaining DMV records, getting criminal background checks and perhaps even asking for a credit report. Then I make an offer, and maybe she accepts and maybe she doesn’t. If not, I begin again.
(Oh—that sounds stressful. My time is already at a premium. How can I fit this in?)
Q: What ARE the legal requirements for taxes and insurance?
A: The IRS has determined that a private in-home caregiver is not an independent contractor. By law, I am her employer. My responsibilities include obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS and perhaps another from my state. I must calculate deductions for federal taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare. Some of these I must pay myself, too. I’m required to comply with Federal Labor Standards Act rules and file forms such as W-4s and I-9s. And I mustn’t forget to file the required “new hire” paperwork.
(W-4s? I-9s? DEDUCTIONS??!!)
Q: Then why not just hire “under the table”?
A: I would be breaking the law. If uncovered later by the IRS, I could be fined and even prosecuted for tax evasion. Additionally, having no workers’ compensation/disability insurance would leave me seriously vulnerable financially.
(Not ready for that risk.)
Q: What if my private caregiver doesn’t show up, or quits unexpectedly, or I have to fire her?
A: I’d be left in the lurch. However, if I were using an agency, there would be someone just as qualified to step in immediately, with little to no effort on my part. I wouldn’t have to start all over again.
(Absolutely essential in our situation.)
The final answer to my big question? Although the cost differences might seem high at first, the savings are not worth the financial risk, inconvenience, time loss and potential errors. Like other such dilemmas, this all-important service should be left to the professionals. And that professionalism is found here at First In Care. All of my (and your) needs for licensed, insured and vetted home care providers can be met by a customized personal care program that works best for my loved one and yours.
There for You When You Need Us
When your aging parent needs at-home care, finding the right caregiver can be challenging. At First in Care, we’ve done most of the groundwork for you, as our highly-trained home care aids are all carefully screened beforehand to ensure your loved one’s safety and security. Our experienced caregivers provide reliable services like light housework, laundry, cooking, transportation and companionship, all delivered in a flexible, seamless and affordable package that restores your peace-of-mind. For more information on the family-trusted home care services that First in Care specializes in for seniors in the Bradenton, FL area, visit www.firstincare.com.