Hiring an in-home caregiver is a big decision, and it’s often a source of stress and anxiety. In-home care is supposed to make life better for seniors and their families, but we’ve all heard stories of regretful adult children and spouses who hired the wrong person. That might be an in-home caregiver who is unqualified, inexperienced, or simply ill-suited to caring for a vulnerable adult.
On the other hand, hiring an in-home caregiver often makes a positive difference to the lives of family members and their loved ones. A skilled in-home caregiver reduces the care burden on family members, provides services they may find challenging, and can be available when family members are not.
Your experience hiring in-home care will be shaped by your attitudes, assumptions, and actions. This article explores eight mistakes when hiring in-home caregivers that may lead to inadequate care and support.
What Is In-Home Care?
In-home care is assistance with the day-to-day aspects of living provided by a professional caregiver in your home.
Common in-home care tasks include:
- Assisting with dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom.
- Ensuring medication is taken on time.
- Entertaining and providing company for the care recipient.
- Housekeeping and light cleaning duties.
- Meal preparation.
It’s important to stress that in-home care is not the same as home health services. Home health services are provided by trained medical practitioners, often qualified nurses. In-home care does not include medical treatment and therapies, and most in-home caregivers are not licensed medical professionals.
1. Not Knowing the Legal Implications of Hiring a Caregiver Privately
You’re looking for in-home care. Do you go to an agency or employ a private caregiver? There are benefits to both, but private arrangements have tax and legal implications that agencies do not. As an employer, you may be responsible for withholding taxes, and there are significant penalties if you get it wrong. You may also need liability insurance in case the in-home care worker suffers an injury.
Hiring privately may be the best decision for your circumstances, but it pays to be careful and if in doubt, to seek professional legal advice.
2. Not Checking the Caregiver or Agency’s Reputation
Before hiring a caregiver, check their references and reviews carefully. Sad to say, the care industry attracts a minority of dishonest and even abusive workers. You do not want to leave a vulnerable adult in the care of such a person.
If you are hiring privately, request a list of references from previous employers or their families. Be sure to contact more than one reference. Ask them relevant questions about the type and quality of care. Satisfy yourself that the reference is genuine. It’s not unknown for people to give fake contact details so you hear a glowing review from the caregiver’s mother or best friend.
If you’re hiring from an agency, they will vet their employees. But you should check that the agency has a positive reputation. The best evidence is a referral from someone you know: ask your friends or community group to recommend an in-home care agency.
If you don’t know anyone who can recommend an agency, be sure to check online reviews to see what people are saying about the quality of care. Don’t rely solely on reviews or testimonials published on an agency’s website—these may be genuine, but they are also highly selective. In most states, care agencies must be licensed, and it’s worth verifying that your agency has the correct license.
3. Unrealistic In-Home Care Cost Expectations
Hiring a caregiver can be expensive, and the cost of in-home care is a common source of anxiety. However, you should have a realistic understanding of what you can afford. If your budget is too strict, it may not be possible to provide the supportive, comfortable, and safe environment a vulnerable senior deserves.
When hiring an agency, be sure to research the services that are available within your budget. Agencies often offer tiered plans that include or exclude particular activities, and you need to know what you are getting for your money. Once you understand the services available to you, you can build a care plan that shares responsibility between the in-home caregiver, yourself, and your family.
It may be less expensive to hire privately, but there are trade-offs. An agency may offer a broader range of services, and hiring privately may have hidden costs, including time costs when the caregiver needs vacations and personal days. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for. A skilled in-home care professional knows what they are worth, and anyone offering services significantly below the market rate should be subject to greater scrutiny.
4. Skipping the Background Check
We’ve already discussed checking references, but that’s only one part of a background check. You should also consider using a background-checking service to verify whether an applicant has a criminal record, is a registered sex offender, and other factors. The background check process differs depending on where you live, but you may be able to use a service such as US Search or a specialist background-checking agency.
5. Overestimating Your Care-Giving Abilities
It’s natural to want to help a loved one as much as possible, resorting to a care professional only when necessary. Your older parent or spouse may even prefer it that way; few of us enjoy the ministrations of a stranger. However, you must also consider your physical and mental health. In-home care can provide respite and relief. If you’re feeling stressed or that you need time to yourself, hiring a caregiver may be the best option for you and your loved one. Caregiver burnout is common, and it does no one any good.
6. Underestimating What An In-Home Caregiver Can Do
In-home care provides a diverse array of services, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. For example, if you need help bathing someone you care for, an in-home caregiver can help. Except for complex medical services, in-home carers can do just about anything a primary family caregiver would do, from bathing to bathroom assistance to socializing and more. If in doubt, ask the care worker or the agency.
7. Procrastinating on In-Home Care
In-home care can be expensive, and it’s often not welcomed by the person who needs it. Consequently, many families postpone hiring in-home care until the last possible moment. That’s a mistake: don’t leave hiring in-home care until you’re at the limit of your endurance and on the verge of burnout. That’s bad for you and bad for your loved one.
8. Failing To Provide Equipment The Caregiver and Patient Needs
Medical and therapeutic equipment can improve a vulnerable senior’s comfort, quality of life, and safety. It can also reduce care costs and the physical burden on you and an in-home caregiver. For example, if your in-home care is expected to transfer someone from their bed to a wheelchair, a transfer board increases safety and reduces physical exertion.
Larger equipment such as a home hospital bed can help you do things that would otherwise require an in-home care assistant. In the scenario above, a home hospital bed with a hi-low height adjustment may facilitate wheelchair transfers without requiring a caregiver at all. A home hospital bed can’t replace in-home care, but it can help people with mobility and strength issues to remain independent for longer.
To learn more about home hospital beds and mattresses, contact a member of our sales team today.