Gerard just isn’t as spry as he used to be. Though he can mostly take care of himself—hence why he chose to age in place—he’s experiencing more and more occasions where he needs help. Although his family tries for a time to take care of him and fulfill his needs, they quickly become overwhelmed. They realize that they need help, so they decide to hire a private caregiver, Steve.
Unfortunately, they don’t quite know what they’re doing here, either. They fail to practice due diligence, when hiring, and a few months later realize that all they’ve done is subject Gerard to elder abuse and financial manipulation.
Don’t make the same mistake as Gerard’s family.
Where in-home care is concerned, it’s not always possible to manage everything on your own. Whether because you don’t have time or you lack the necessary expertise to provide quality care, you may need to hire a third-party caregiver. You have a few options in that regard.
You could hire a home care agency, use a caregiver registry, or simply hire a caregiver on your own. Today, we’re going to talk about the risks and ramifications of the latter. Because while at first glance it might seem like you’ll save a bit of money by hiring an independent caregiver, the reality is that it opens you to a whole plethora of problems and pitfalls.
Today, we’re going to go over all the legal risks of hiring a private caregiver—that way, you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to do so.
When you hire a private caregiver, always keep in mind that you’re trusting them to look after one of the most vulnerable people in your life. You need to make sure they’re completely above-board. Otherwise, you may well be exposing your loved to everything from incompetent care to elder abuse and exploitation.
The first step here is obvious—you’ll want to shell out for a full criminal background check on your prospective care provider. A lot of people tend to stop there, assuming they’ve done the necessary legwork. We strongly advise that you take things a step further.
That starts with a full Google search on the individual. Who are they, and how long have they been providing caregiving services in your area? Have other people they’ve worked with in the past published reviews about them or talked about their quality of care?
If so, what did they say?
Once you’ve gotten all the Google sleuthing over and done with, it’s time to sit down for an interview with your prospective caregiver. Once again, your goal here is to be as thorough as possible. If there’s even a chance this person might be incompetent or abusive, you want to find out before you entrust your loved one to their care—this is also your chance to find out a bit more about what sort of services the caregiver offers.
To that end, you’ll want to ask the following questions:
- How many years have you worked as a caregiver?
- What are your services and costs?
- Can you show me your services and costs in print?
- What is your minimum amount of service?
- Are you fully licensed and accredited?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- How do you charge for travel time/expenses?
- What’s your billing process?
- Can you provide me with a service agreement that details your roles, responsibilities, and prices?
- Have you recently been screened for any communicable diseases?
- Can you provide me with a list of professional references?
- What is your availability?
- Do you have a backup plan for days when you’re not available to provide care?
- What are your qualifications?
- Will you perform a full in-home assessment? If so, what’s involved?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- What happens if you fail to make a scheduled visit?
Background questions aside, you’ll also want to ask them about the position itself:
- Are you comfortable with the roles you’ll be required to fulfill?
- If necessary, are your hours flexible?
- Do you have any medical conditions that would prevent you from providing proper care?
- Do you have experience caring for a patient with my loved one’s unique needs?
- Have you handled an emergency before? If so, how?
- How do you manage your mistakes?
- How will you respond if my loved one refuses to comply with your care, such as not taking their medications or taking a bath?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What are your honest thoughts on people who are older?
- What are your honest thoughts on people with disabilities?
- Do you feel that it’s ever acceptable to break the confidence of a client? If so, under what circumstances?
- How do you typically manage differences of opinion in the workplace?
- How do you respond to frustration? Would you say you’re generally able to keep a cool, level head?
- Do you have any allergies we should know about?
Are you exhausted yet? Because the interview and background check are only the first few steps. Believe it or not, they’re arguably some of the easiest ones, too.
To put it another way, it only gets worse from here on out.
Payroll and Taxes
Alright, let’s say you’ve done a full background check on your prospective caregiver, and neither your interview nor your research turned up any red flags. As a result, you’ve decided to hire them. Don’t kick back and rest on your laurels just yet—your work is far from done.
Because you are technically the employer of a private caregiver, it’s your responsibility for handling payroll, including tax deductions and overtime pay. And if you think you can just pay your caregiver under the table, think again. Trust us on this, you don’t want to be on the radar of the International Revenue Service.
Even if you hire a caregiver as an independent contractor—even if it’s their responsibility to report their income—you as an employer must still familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of payroll, which includes filing the necessary tax documentation.
What happens if the private caregiver is injured while working on your property? What recourse do you have in terms of fraud, abuse, theft, or exploitation? Without liability insurance, you’re on the hook for any or all of these unpleasant situations.
In the best-case scenario, that could mean being forced to pay your caregiver’s medical expenses post-injury. You could also end up dealing with a severe case of fraud or theft without any legal recourse. Or, in the worst-case scenario, a private caregiver might choose to file a lawsuit against you for their injuries.
Just do yourself a favor and invest in liability insurance if you’re hiring a private caregiver. It helps shield you from all of the above scenarios.
There’s a reason we had you ask so many questions during the interview phase—and it’s the same reason we strongly recommend having a clear process in place for discipline and termination. You need some means of holding a bad care provider accountable. That’s why it’s imperative to establish clear consequences that can be applied to your care provider if they fail to do the job you hired them for.
We get that it’s never easy to fire someone, especially if you know they’re going to leave with a chip on their shoulder. Working clauses for discipline and termination into your contract can make the incredibly uncomfortable process just a little bit more manageable. You’re still going to have to be the one to make the call, though.
It’s one of the things you signed up for when you decided to hire a private caregiver instead of an agency. You’re the boss. That means doing all the things a boss does, including holding your caregiver accountable for their mistakes and missteps.
Training and Care Needs
Anyone can claim they’re a certified, accredited caregiver. Your job is to verify that they’re telling the truth. Ask for copies of their accreditation documents, or look them up online.
You need to ensure that they not only possess the necessary qualifications, but that they also possess the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively see to your loved one’s care needs—basically, you need to verify that they are who they claim to be. Understand, too, that even an accredited caregiver might be unfamiliar with certain jobs and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, it’s entirely on you to ensure that they know how to do everything safely. And if you’re concerned you lack the proper training and knowledge to accomplish that, you’re not alone. There’s a reason so many people prefer to work with a care agency instead of independent contractors.
With an agency, you know the caregiver you’re getting is both knowledgeable and accredited. They handled all that for you, giving you that extra piece of mind for home care. Speaking of care agencies, we’ve referenced them a great deal in this piece—let’s wrap things up with seeing how private caregivers compare to full agencies.
Private Caregivers vs. Care Agencies
There are a great many risks and liability concerns associated with hiring a private caregiver, meaning a great deal of legwork on your part. But how does that compare to working with a care agency? Do you still have to jump through just as many hoops, or do things simply fall into place?
Most importantly of all, which option is the better choice for your loved one in the long-term—care agencies, private caregivers, or something else altogether?
We’ll save you the trouble of playing a guessing game. It’s the care agency. Even if it is more expensive to work with an agency, this is very much another case of getting what you paid for.
You don’t just need to take our words for it, however—instead, we’ll simply urge you to keep reading for concrete proof.
A care agency helps its clients find and hire the perfect caregiver for their needs. It seamlessly matches client to caregiver based on what’s known about the patient, including medical history and care needs. It also helps manage that caregiver throughout their engagement with the client, immediately taking action to make a switch if a particular caregiver isn’t working out.
In other words, the care agency works tirelessly on your behalf, collaborating with you to ensure that your loved one receives the best quality of care possible.
Finally, it takes care of all the background work involved in hiring a caregiver, including taxes, payroll, training, and insurance. If a caregiver is unavailable for a scheduled appointment, the care agency finds the best temporary replacement possible. Finally, care agencies are typically a great deal more versatile than your other options, as they employ caregivers with experience in a very wide selection of disciplines.
The only real trade-off of working with an agency versus working with an individual is price. An accredited care agency is naturally going to cost more than even the most experienced independent contractor. But like we already said, this is really a matter of getting what you pay for.
And at the end of the day, can you really put a price tag on the life and well-being of a loved one?