Tips and resources for families before hiring a home caregiver

TOPEKA, Kan. - A 41 Action News investigation uncovered a questionable caregiver slipping through the cracks.

The shocking example included family heirlooms pawned off for cash, theft caught on hidden camera and vulnerable victims unable to ask for help.

While working on the investigation, 41 Action News consulted with state agencies about the best resources for families who are thinking about hiring an in-home caregiver.

Angela De Rocha, communications director with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services , compiled the following list of tips.

Using an In-home Placement Agency

Using a senior care agency to find help offers some clear advantages and considerations. Before going with any service, get a personal recommendation and check the better business bureau or your local government’s senior affairs office for agency references. You should also ask each care provider candidate for references and background checks on file.

Pros:

- Comprehensive: Most agencies screen applicants, offer training, and handle all the paperwork, such as payroll, taxes and legal matters.

- Back-up care: Even if you use a preferred caregiver through the agency, they'll have qualified back-ups in case your regular provider can't make it to work.
Considerations:

- Access to information Some people may feel using an agency is a little impersonal. After all, you're not fully in control and don't necessarily have access to all the information about the caregivers, their salaries and other details.

- Cost

Finding a Private-Hire

Hiring in-home care directly has its own distinct considerations.

Pros:

- More control: You can really get a feel for the candidates in the industry and make a more informed decision about who might be a good fit

Considerations:

Managing this process properly is an involved effort:

- Finding candidates. You can find help through sites like Care.com, your network of friends, family and colleagues, social networks and religious groups. However, you must do your due-diligence. Interview, call multiple references, run background checks and trust your gut

- Care coordination. If you're hiring directly, you'll be responsible for finding back-up care if your regular caregiver is unable to work. It's always a good idea to have some additional, screened resources on hand who you can call on an as needed basis.

6 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Caregiver

Whichever option you choose, here are a few things to consider before hiring.

1. Credentials and licensing. Note if the candidate not only has experience, but any relevant training or other credentials. Are they Red Cross certified in CPR and First Aid? Do they have any health care training in nursing, for instance? In-home caregivers may be required to have certain licenses and certifications, depending on their level of skill.

2. Background checks. It's extremely important to run a background check on potential hires, whether going with an agency or the individual. You can request unlimited caregiver background checks on Care.com and even purchase a more thorough enhanced background check for a fee. Be sure to Google the person's name.

3. References. Ask for more references than offered and call them. Listen not only for outright complaints, but also for subtle hesitance to comment, which can sometimes indicate a problem. On the other hand, staying with clients for long periods of time is a good sign.

4. Immigration status. We've all read the headlines. Even prominent citizens can get in trouble for hiring an illegal immigrant. Request and document your caregiver's status using an I9 form.

5. Legal matters. Many problems can be avoided with a clear contract. Contracts should spell out employment terms such as:

  • Duties and responsibilities: Hours, schedule, duties, privileges, meals, etc.
  • Compensation and benefits: Rate, frequency, benefits including days off, vacation, benefits, performance review, etc.
  • Transportation: Guidelines for using the family car and public transportation safely.
  • Discretion and confidentiality: Your expectations about personal information.
  • Notice and severance: What each party will be required to do if the job comes to an end.

6. Finances/taxes. Paying caregivers under the table, while tempting, is risky-and illegal.

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