Taking care of your parents isn’t easy. You already have a lot of other things on your plate- work, children, grandchildren, social life, etc. Sometimes it can feel like we don’t have the capacity to take on the extra responsibilities of helping our parents. That’s where caregivers come in. Trained to take care of your parents in all areas, a great caregiver can give you the break you need to breathe a little. To feel like you can plan things again without having to worry about being home all the time.
Hiring a caregiver isn’t easy though. After all, you’re entrusting one of the most important people in your world to this person. That’s why we’ve decided to put this article together. After reading it, you’ll have a good idea of the things to consider when hiring a caregiver, where to find them, and how to manage the overall process. But first, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t use an agency. Many people will swear that a caregiver agency is the way to go, but we disagree.
Some people argue that hiring an agency to help your parents is the easiest route. There are advantages to using them, but in general it’s better to hire an independent caregiver. There are three main reasons why I say that.
More personal – Your parents want to feel like they know and trust the person taking care of them. By having an independent caregiver, they get that privilege. If you hire an agency, there’s less relationship-building, because your parent will have different people coming to help. Which leads to my next point.
Less turnover – Independent caregivers will generally turnover less than agencies. That’s huge, because turnover can be frustrating to your loved one, as they’re constantly having to get used to a new caregiver. Independent caregivers tend to turnover less, as they have a different kind of relationship with their employer – you!
Less expensive – Don’t be surprised to find an agency that costs as much as 50% more than an independent caregiver with the same qualifications. That extra 50% is due to the agency’s overhead. You can use these saved funds to pay for more hours or help with medical expenses.
Flexibility – Independent caregivers work for you. That means they’ll generally be more flexible with the tasks they’ll do, as well as schedule. If you hire an agency, they generally have stricter requirements regarding the tasks they’ll perform and work schedule.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is how much more personal your parent’s relationship with an independent caregiver can be. You want them to feel comfortable, and knowing the person taking care of them is a big part of that. If you’re convinced to go independent vs. agency, let’s talk about how to get started.
Every person’s situation is different. Maybe your parent can take care of themselves, but just needs someone to help with chores around the house. Or maybe they’re on the other end of the spectrum and need someone to help them eat, bathe and get dressed. Take out a pen and paper to list out what kind of care they need. This step doesn’t take too long, and will help everything else go much easier. Here are a few questions to ask at this stage:
– What can my parent do by themselves?
– What do they need help with?
– How many hours a day do they need help?
– Do they need medical attention?
– Are they seeking companionship and conversation, or are they okay being alone most of the time?
You can also think of it in terms of four types of care: personal care, household care, medical care, and emotional care. Determine what your parent needs, as this will help you in your search for a caregiver.
From my experience, these are the best places to find someone to help take care of your loved one. You can try just one method, but the best solution is to use several. That way you’ll reach a wider pool of people to help fill your need.
Ask for References – This is probably the most popular way to start your search. You want to have a lot of trust in the person you decide to hire, so getting references from other people you trust is important. Here are a few places to start:
– Your Doctor
Look for someone that has filled a similar role to what you’re looking for. That’s why the first step of figuring out what kind of tasks you need them to do is so important.
After referrals, the second best way to find a caregiver for your parents is by placing ads.
Two of the best sites to start are Craigslist and Care.com. There are two important things to keep in mind with these sites:
– List out all of the role responsibilities. A vague job description will attract a lot more applications, but most of them won’t be a good fit. By laying out all of the tasks the person will have to do, fewer people will apply but they will be a better fit for the role.
– Include some kind of word or phrase the applicants must include in their application, such as “pink elephant.” This just helps you sort out who actually read your job description and who is copy-pasting the same generic text to multiple classified ads.
Another option is to place an ad in your local newspaper. This probably won’t get you as hits as Care.com or Craigslist, but it’s an option to consider.
Ask around at the hospital or doctor office where your parent receives care. You may find staff members who are willing to help. Some people are always looking for extra work, and they’re probably a great fit since they’re use to working with the elderly. If you go this route, please don’t broadcast the news across the building. Sometimes moonlighting is looked down upon by full-time employers.
The first and easiest thing to look for when screening candidates is their credentials. Credentials don’t mean a candidate is a perfect fit, but it does show their dedication to the profession.
Here are a few of the most common credentials to look for:
Home Health Aides (HHA) – Home Health Aides are, as the name implies, primarily focused on their client’s health. They check vital signs and assist with daily tasks such as bathing and going to the bathroom.
Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) – These assistants will perform more medical tasks than HHAs. For example, they can clean catheters, set up medical equipment, and change dressings. CNAs will help with the daily tasks such as bathing, cooking meals and going to the bathroom.
Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) – PCAs are not always licensed, as some states don’t have a formal certification. Primarily focused on the daily tasks of taking care of their patient, they don’t do many medical tasks. They do other tasks like prepare meals, drive their patient around, housekeeping, and just strike up friendly conversation. Note that because many PCAs are not credentialed, the best way to gauge them is experience and testimonials from other people they’ve worked with. That brings me to my next point.
How to Ask for References
You want the person you hire to take care of your parents to be great at their job and trustworthy, right? That’s where references come in. Credentials are nice, but what’s even better is hearing from other people who have worked with the caregiver. Ask the candidate for at least three references who are willing to talk to you. Emailing them is okay, but talking on the phone is better. Here are a few questions you can ask:
– How was your overall experience with this caregiver?
– Were they always timely, and communicated well if they couldn’t come?
– Were they patient?
– Did they seem to know what they were doing in terms of their daily tasks?
– Would you recommend them to a friend?
It may feel uncomfortable or weird to ask a stranger these questions, but they will help you make the right choice.
How to Get a professional Background Check
Once you have narrowed down the list of candidates, it’s time to get background checks. There are a number of services out there, which you’ll find out if you just Google “background check service.” Here are a few to consider:
In general, they will give you the same thing including criminal history. If there’s a specific piece of information you’re looking for, make sure the service offers it before you pay.
Everything is set. You’ve found a great caregiver and they passed their background check. They understand their responsibilities, and you’re both excited about getting started. The next step is to get on contract, which we call a Personal Care Agreement. This is important, and you want to make sure it is thorough. Here are a few things your Agreement needs to be valid:
– Date of the first day of care
– Thorough description of responsibilities
– How many hours the service will be provided (be flexible, such as “No less than 16 hours per week”)
– How much you will pay the caregiver per hour
– When the caregiver will be paid (weekly, biweekly, etc.)
– The length of the agreement
– A statement saying the agreement can be changed if both parties consent in writing
– Where the services will be provided (ex. the patient’s home, caregiver’s home, etc.)
– Date the agreement is signed, and signatures from both parties
Including all of these fields makes it less likely you’ll have disputes later. You have already gone through the extensive process of finding a good candidate. You don’t want to end up in an argument over something the agreement didn’t cover.
Other Things to Consider
An “escape clause” isn’t a bad idea. This gives either party the option to terminate the contract in writing. Life happens, and sometimes it’s necessary for a party to back out of the agreement prior to the agreed upon completion date. When writing out the responsibilities, don’t be vague and put something like “personal care.” Instead, write out what that includes. A few examples are bathing, grooming, meal preparation, making phone calls, and laundry. Something else to think about is employee benefits such as insurance or vacation. You’re an employer now, and employees like to receive these kinds of benefits. They are not necessary if they only work part time, but it’s still something to consider.
A lot of people make the mistake of not paying their caregivers correctly. They aren’t trying to break the law, but it happens because they’re just doing what’s easiest- writing a check each week. The problem is, that’s illegal.
As someone paying a caregiver, you’re considered a household employer. Being a household employer isn’t extremely difficult or complex, but you still have to play by the rules. The best way to do that is to use payroll software. It’s relatively inexpensive, and will save you a lot of heartache in the long run. Payroll software is great for several reasons:
– Makes it easier to pay the employee, rather than write a check every week or two
– It helps you stay compliant with local laws, including tax law
– Payroll software helps you track expenses easily, which can be useful around tax time
I won’t tell you there’s a perfect solution, but a popular software for small businesses is called Gusto. Specially designed for very small businesses, it has everything you need at an affordable price. Other inexpensive solutions include Patriot Software and QuickBooks.
There’s no perfect solution, so don’t worry too much about it. Just pick one that fits your budget and looks good, and you’ll be all set.
Taking care of your parents as they get older is tough. Physically, financially, emotionally, mentally – there’s nothing easy about it. Hiring a great caregiver isn’t easy either, but they’re worth their weight in gold. They will take a huge weight off your shoulders, and your parent will appreciate the help and company.