Categorized | Family Care

Hiring caregivers: An agency versus an independent

By Doug Peck

Taking care of an elderly parent or relative is never an easy task. There is an endless of number of critical decisions to be made and most are made while under a considerable amount of distress. If you are helping the person either remain in his or her own home, or to move in with you, the next decision often involves what type of additional care will this person need and where will to find it?

Many people take the path of least resistance when a friend says they know someone who would be great for that, could use the work and they are very outgoing and good with people.

While hiring an independent person can work out fine sometimes, it can also be a very high-risk proposition:

•Anyone you hire is either a 1099 contractor or a W2 employee. If he or she is an employee you have to keep the appropriate records and pay all of the appropriate state and federal taxes. If they are independent, there are still federal and state guidelines to follow and you must issue a W9 at the end of the year.

•Do you know what paperwork you need to keep just to make sure they are legally eligible to work?

•As an individual you are very limited in the types of criminal background checks you can do and if they are going to drive, you are also limited in seeing their complete driving record.

•Do you know how to assess what type of care is needed and if he or she is qualified and experienced in giving that type of care.

•Independents rarely carry any type of insurance, particularly worker’s compensation. What happens if they slip and fall while working for you on your property?

•This is probably the first time you ever hired a caregiver. Do you really know what to look for in someone to trust a loved one with? Needing a job and being a people person are not job qualifications.

•What happens when they are unable to come in to work? Do you have another person who could step in or will it be complete disruption to your routine?

Hiring an independent may look like the simplest solution but this is a major decision on your part and does require a great deal of due diligence. Using an agency can solve many of these issues but you need to meet with more than one and learn how they operate.

Get referrals because the biggest factor is trust. Meet the owner if possible and find out just how involved he or she is in all aspects of the business. Find out why he or she is in the business. Listen carefully to their story. What passion do they bring? What are their experiences? How long have they been in the area? Checking them out with either your local chamber of commerce or the Better Business Bureau is important but the bottom line is you need to feel very comfortable and trust the owner’s judgment.

Doug Peck, CSA is a Certified Senior Advisor and the owner of Seniors Helping Seniors of Metrowest. He can be reached at 508-485-1765. Visit his website at Archives of articles from previous issues can be read on



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