If your aging parent needs in-home care, one of the biggest decisions you will have to make is choosing to go with an agency or hiring a private caregiver yourself. Both can result in a wonderful caregiving relationship for your loved one, but there are differences to be aware of that will help you make the choice that’s right for your situation. In this article, you’ll learn the pros and cons of hiring a private caregiver as well as the best approach to take should you choose that route.
Before we dive into the pros and cons, the most important thing to know about in-home care using a private caregiver is that you as the decision-maker are taking on the responsibility of each step of the hiring and day-to-day management of the caregiver. It sounds daunting, but with the right team in place, it can be a good option for those who want more control over the process and have the time and knowledge to put the pieces in place. Read through this list to determine if in-home care with a private caregiver is right for you and your family.
Hiring a private caregiver can be a more affordable option. Because agencies have overhead and also take on the costs of taxes and insurance for their caregiver employees, they typically charge more per hour for care. However, strictly looking at hourly or daily rates is like comparing apples to oranges. To get an accurate estimate to compare private caregiving rates to agency rates, you’ll want to factor in the costs of taxes, insurance, background checks, and even your time if you choose to go the private route.
One of the biggest advantages of hiring a private caregiver is that you have control over the selection process. You can talk with as many potential caregivers as you’d like and take as much time as you need to choose the one you feel is the best match. With an agency, you won’t have quite as much control over which caregiver is placed in your home (but many agencies will work with you if the caregiver isn’t working out for some reason).
As the employer, you’ll also have control over the terms of employment and the day-to-day activities since you will be creating the employment contract. For some, having more control over their loved one’s in-home care can be appealing, although it does result in a bit more work.
- Direct Feedback
Another benefit of hiring a private caregiver for in-home care is the direct line of communication you will have with the caregiver. With an agency, there is typically a care manager and possibly other individuals involved, which adds a layer to the communication process. When you are the employer, you’ll be dealing with the caregiver directly which can make getting and giving feedback a bit easier.
- Legal & tax
According to the IRS and California labor law, a private caregiver falls under the category of household employee and the person hiring the caregiver is, by law, an employer. This means that they assume all the obligations that a normal employer assumes – the hiring component (which often involves background and reference checks, multiple interviews, etc.) as well as the ongoing obligations such as payroll, taxes, keeping up with insurance, contracts, and other time-consuming tasks.
The process of hiring a private caregiver can take a lot of time, and it does take some skill to get qualified applicants. Unless you already have someone in mind, you’ll have to write up a compelling job ad, do the research to figure out where to post it, and then interview and do background checks on multiple candidates. If you need immediate assistance, you may end up making a hasty decision if you don’t have the time to properly interview and vet the candidates. This can end up creating extra stress and costing more in the long run.
You as the employer are also the manager, which means you’ll have to create the necessary systems and procedures to help you manage the day-to-day demands. How do you want the caregiver to “clock in”? What about vacation time? What do you want the caregiver to do in case of an emergency? What about transportation procedures? These are just a few of the things you’ll have to think through and be able to communicate to the caregiver to avoid issues.
You’ll also want to create a back-up plan should that caregiver call out sick, hurt themselves, or need to take time off. Otherwise, you may find yourself scrambling to find alternative arrangements for your loved one. Lastly, if the caregiver you hire doesn’t work out, you’ll have to start the process all over again, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.
If you choose to hire a private caregiver, the best first step is to form a team of advisors to help you. This should include an insurance agent, an accountant/CPA, a lawyer, and any other family members (even your loved one) who need to have input in the process. Taking the team approach will help create a smoother, worry-free process that you can rest assured will not result in any legal or tax trouble. Some people try to save money and hire a private caregiver “under the table,” without following the law. You should know that it’s very risky and could end up costing exponentially more than going the legal route should the caregiver get hurt or the authorities are alerted.
Once you have made a hiring decision, consult your team of advisors on next steps regarding things like an employment contract, worker’s comp insurance, and tax documentation, as well as what you will need to do on an ongoing basis to keep up with all legal and tax obligations. And lastly, when hiring a private caregiver, you’ll want to think through how the day-to-day will go as well as plan for any situations that may come up so you can set expectations with the caregiver.
Hiring a private caregiver may be the right choice for your family if you have the skills, resources, time, and desire to go through the hiring process and handle the ongoing management of the caregiver. But be sure to talk with in-home care agencies in your area so you can getter a better idea of what they can provide. The more informed you are, the better your chances of having a positive experience with in-home care.
Have you worked with a private caregiver? Share your experience with our community in the comments below.