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Hiring a Home Care Worker

March 1, 2021

Hiring a Home Care Worker

Submitted by Janelle Dodd, Senior Helpers Lake Norman


Hire Directly or Go Through an Agency?

Is it becoming more difficult for Dad to take proper care of his yard or bend over to take the laundry out of the dryer? Does it seem like too much effort some days for him to cook or take care of basic housework? Does he bathe less often because he is worried about slipping and falling in the shower when alone?

Maybe your mom has experienced a small stroke. She is about to be discharged from the hospital and wants to return home. But she needs speech therapy, physical therapy and help with eating and transferring from bed to chair. She shouldn’t be alone for the first few weeks.

These are familiar scenarios faced by thousands of American families every day. If you’re not familiar with eldercare options and how to help an aging loved one, chances are you will be in the future! Today, one in four American families is already involved to some degree in the care of an elderly person. And since most older adults prefer to stay in their own homes rather than move to a nursing home or other senior living facility, home care can be a real life saver for the older adult and family caregivers alike. A wide array of home care services exist today, including:

  • Meal preparation, housekeeping tasks and chores
  • Transportation and errands
  • Personal care and help with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, getting in and out of bed, using the toilet)*
  • Skilled home health care services*

Finding the Right Home Caregiver

The first step is to assess the person’s needs. The second step is to find the right provider to give you peace of mind as well as the help you need. But how do you find the right home care worker? At first glance, it might appear that hiring privately is less expensive. You might go through the informal network or “gray market,” hiring a home helper from a classified ad, a notice in the local senior center, an informal employment agency, or word of mouth. But before you do, ask yourself whether you really want to become the person’s employer, with all the risks and responsibilities that the role entails? Here are some things to think about:

  • You are responsible for withholding and reporting income taxes and paying Social Security taxes. This can be very complicated and could also leave you open to having to pay back taxes and penalties.
  • If the caregiver is injured while working, you may end up paying the medical bills. The caregiver can file a workman’s compensation claim or even file a lawsuit against you or your family.
  • It is up to you to check certificates, licenses, references, and criminal background…and to protect against elder abuse and financial exploitation.
  • You will be responsible for determining whether the care provider knows how to safely care for your loved one. For example, if your family member needs to be transferred from a wheelchair, you need to be sure that the care provider knows how to do this safely.
  • You cannot try to hire someone on a seven-day-per-week basis. No employee can be a good employee for long without having time for personal needs and interests. So, you will need to plan for days off, vacation time, and other times when the caregiver cannot be available.
  • If there are problems, you are on your own in working things out as an employer. This includes discipline and termination.

The Agency Advantage

Given the burden of finding, hiring, training and functioning as an employer, going to an agency provides obvious advantages. An experienced caregiver arrives pre-screened, trained and under the supervision of the agency. You don’t have to worry about tax withholding or liability. If the caregiver doesn’t arrive, it is the agency’s responsibility to provide a backup.

Dealing with the challenges of aging and disability carries with it enough to worry about. Why add uncertainty about your home care worker to the mix?


©2008 IlluminAge Communication Partners

Janelle Dodd, Senior Helpers Lake Norman
Bill Sweezy