Step-by-Step Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working With Home Caregivers
You want to stay in your home as long as possible, no matter what your age or health concerns. Or maybe you are helping a parent or other loved one remain in their home despite the need for assistance with common household tasks. It’s possible for older individuals or those with disabilities to stay at home with a little help from a caregiver, who may be in the home for just a few hours a week or may be a live-in caregiver. There are a few steps you should take to ensure that you have a good match with your caregiver and are able to find a comfortable situation for both you and them.
1. Be honest about your needs
As we age, it’s natural for there to be tasks that require a little help. Whether it’s handling a car full of groceries or planning out medications for the week, a caregiver can help with the things that are hard for you to manage on your own. Make a list of what you find difficult, and how you think a caregiver might help. Ask friends, family, or doctors if they’ve noticed you struggling with tasks. Think seriously about your driving skills. Reflexes slow as we age, and driving may be an area where a caregiver can provide assistance.
2. Consider your budget
What is your financial situation? Do you have a nest egg to pay for caregiver help? Are there family or friends who could assist you? Is there federal or state aid that might pay for a portion of caregiver costs? Governments realize that letting people stay in their homes for longer is cost-effective. If you or your loved one is eligible for Medicaid, you may receive financial help through Medicaid’s Self-Directed Services program
. If you or your loved one is a veteran, the VA (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs) may offer assistance
. Many regions have an eldercare services office to direct you to state or regional aid. Long-term care insurance is another potential source of financial help.
3. Decide where to search for caregivers
There are two avenues you can take: an independent search for an individual to serve as a caregiver, or an agency that supplies caregivers. Although you have more control when looking for an independent caregiver, many people prefer using an agency, which will handle payroll, paperwork, and HR concerns, while you are left with just a monthly or seasonal bill to pay. Ask for word-of-mouth referrals from doctors and friends, look in local newspapers and online bulletin boards, and check with local senior agencies to see who they recommend.
4. Interview agencies or potential caregivers
If you pick an agency, you’ll need to meet with them to ask questions and learn more. If you decide to work with an independent caregiver, you can ask similar questions.
- Is there a background check procedure for potential caregivers?
- What are the qualifications of the caregiver? What medical training/licensing do they have?
- Who will take care of payroll, taxes, and any human resource issues?
- What is the pricing structure? Is there overtime after a certain number of hours?
- Is there someone available as a backup if the primary caregiver is not available?
- Will the caregiver bring their own food or will I be feeding them?
- What happens if I don’t like my caregiver?
You may have other questions as well, depending on your situation. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have, and don’t sign a contract until you are happy with the answers you receive.
5. Make sure the caregiver is a good match for you
Once you have met your caregiver, take some time to get to know them. Are they friendly and competent? Do they make you feel rushed or unimportant? They should be someone you are comfortable with, especially if they are helping you with intimate tasks such as bathing or toileting. If you don’t feel that the fit is a good one, talk to the agency about switching out with someone else. Don’t be too quick to judge. It may take a few months before you and your caregiver find a rhythm that works for both of you.
The Cost of Caregiving
The cost of caregiving varies depending on where you live. You may pay less for your caregiver if he or she is independent and you are paying them directly than if you have gone through an agency, which handles much of the background work and thus takes a cut of what you’re paying. Independent caregivers make anywhere from $12 per hour to more than $25 per hour, depending on their skill level and the scope of work they are doing for you. If they are caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s or some other significant disability, for example, expect to pay at the higher end of that scale. If you are paying an independent caregiver, you will need to consider the cost of payroll taxes and insurance. Hiring a caregiver through an agency will cost roughly 30-40% more than hiring an independent caregiver. This covers the agency’s overhead costs, training costs, insurance, payroll services, and more. The caregiver in this case may earn about the same or a little less than you’d pay an independent caregiver, but they will also have support and training from their employer. You may be able to find help
in paying for a caregiver from Medicare, if the services of the caregiver are ordered by a doctor, and if you work with an agency that is certified by Medicare. If you are a veteran, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
also offers help in paying for home care.