Finding Help

Issues to Consider

Choosing a strategy.

There are more ways than ever to find a caregiver.

Do you want to hire help on your own? If it’s overwhelming, too time-consuming or logistically impossible, a licensed employment agency can do the scouting, vetting (and fretting), but that route typically costs much more.

Decide who’s doing the screening.

Sometimes, you can pay a family member to care for your parent. Or, a new hybrid option is online companies that find, screen and background check potential caregivers, and then show you their profiles. You do the interviewing and hiring.

When hiring on your own, do your research through personal connections, area resources, your parent’s doctor, a geriatric care manager, social service agency or newspaper ads. Regardless of whether you’re the one to look for someone or you go through an agency, professional caregivers need to be vetted.

Ask the agency for references, from clients who have similar needs and check all references when you’re going it alone. And find out what questions to ask before hiring.

Make sure that the agency does a needs assessment and provides a custom care plan that is updated when needs change. Essential! If there is no assessment and no plan, go elsewhere.

Choosing a student.

Perhaps a college student would fit the bill. If it’s just for a few hours a week and you don’t have grooming needs, for instance, a school with a social work or geriatric program could work. There are often job boards at colleges and universities. Just remember that students’ schedules change and there are long summer and holiday breaks.

Consider a contract.

When you find someone, think about having a job contract. It could have: the employer’s and worker’s name; wages and when they will be paid; hours; a job description; the employee’s Social Security number; what constitutes unacceptable behavior; your termination policy; and both of your signatures.

Deciding on an agency.

The agency route is likely to be more expensive ($22-$30/hr and up to $250 for ‘round the clock) than finding help yourself. In an emergency, though, they should be able to find a replacement if the caregiver doesn’t work out or doesn’t show up… Caveat: If you live in a rural area, there might not be agencies.

Home care agencies usually send just one person; you may have more choices if you hire privately. On the other hand, licensed agencies usually handle payroll taxes. If you hire directly, you may have tax and Social Security obligations.

Can family get paid?

Depending on family finances, you might be able to hire yourself or some other relative to care for your parents. There’s Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling Program, other Medicaid healthcare coverage, veteran programs, and state programs. Perhaps you can claim your parent as a dependent on your income taxes. They don’t have to live with you, but must meet stringent requirements (i.e. you must pay for more than 50% of their living expenses and their income has to be under a certain amount).

You’ll want to draw up a contract stating hours, fee and responsibilities. An elder care lawyer will tell you if it meets tax requirements and more.

Finding help online.

The newest hiring model: online companies that find and background check caregivers and then let you take control. You interview and hire, with help from the company’s care specialists or advisors who steer you through the process. You pay through the company site. Online matching companies are less expensive than employment agencies ($15/hour vs. $25, for example) and often help manage your tax responsibilities. (These professional caregivers also earn higher wages than employment agency workers which may expand your choices, and give you a larger applicant pool).