I need to credit the title of this SharePost to The National Private Duty Association. As I browsed their Web site, www.privatedutyhomecare.org, I was drawn to an article titled The Accidental Employer. I could see myself sailing right into a situation like that, and then having to figure out what happened.
The main point of the article is to stress that people looking for help in caregiving need to be careful who they hire. Most of us know we have to check references. We want to know that the person is qualified and is trustworthy. However, not all of us know what obligations we have when we hire someone to work for us.
What bothers me, and what sent me to the NPDA Web site, is that I often see classified ads and on-line requests from people seeking caregivers and from caregivers offering their services. I also see ads from caregiver placement agencies.
Say you find someone, through an ad or placement agency, who seems terrific. You don't have to pay as much as you would if you went through an in-home care agency. Isn't that a good deal?
Well, that depends on how much you know about being an employer. Because that is what you will be. There's nothing wrong with that if (a) this is your intent and (b) you understand what you are responsible for.
According to The Accidental Employer, "...few consumers are aware of the obligations and potential liabilities that come with hiring a health care provider through a registry or placement agency. Persons can be surprised with a greater legal liability than they expect, because for many purposes (such as tax liability and workers compensation) they qualify as employers."
I, for one, wouldn't want the extra paperwork and potential risk involved in employing an independent caregiver. Again, there's nothing wrong with employing an independent caregiver, and you may find the world's greatest caregiver that way. But you must be aware of what you are taking on, if you do this.
Below are ten questions to ask your caregiving company, if you use a company. The list is provided by the National Private Duty Association (NPDA), though I've added some of my own thoughts in italics. These questions give you an idea of what you are responsible for, and what the agency (or person applying for the position) is responsible for. Make sure you are comfortable with the answers and you know all of your obligations, before you sign any agreements.
1. Are your caregivers employees of the company? Registries generally
contract with caregivers. They (caregivers) are not actually employees of the company, limiting the company's control over them. An independent caregiver reports to you, the employer.
2. Are all the caregivers of the company bonded and insured? In some
caregiving companies, only the owners are bonded and insured. Ask an independent caregiver the same question. He or she should be bonded and insured. Ask for proof.
3. Do you do background and reference checks of your caregivers? A
credible caregiving company will offer both types of service. You, the employer, need to do this, if you hire an independent caregiver. Do not skip these important steps.
4. Who is responsible for wages and taxes? If you hire a registry or
independent caregiver, you will most likely be responsible. If you go through an agency, they should be responsible.
5. What training do caregivers receive? A credible caregiving company
will have a comprehensive training program for their caregivers that
cover how to handle crisis and emergency situations with seniors. An independent caregiver may have excellent training, but you need to ask for proof.
6. Do you provide Workers' Compensation in case the caregiver is
injured on the job? You will likely be responsible for this, if you hire an independent caregiver, so check your state employment laws to find out how you handle this. A CPA or attorney who handles small business matters would be a good place to get help.
7. What is the plan if a caregiver is sick or cannot work? The
advantage of working with a private duty company is that each caregiver
employee is supervised and scheduling services, including back-up care, are arranged by the company. With an independent caregiver, ask if there is backup care. If there is, you need to make sure the back-up people are also checked out and covered in case of injury.
8. Who pays the caregiver? You'll pay an independent caregiver while a
caregiving company will handle that for you. If you are hiring an independent caregiver, be sure to sign a contract, just as you would sign on with an in-home agency. Do you need to do withholding for taxes and Social Security? Again, you may want to check state and federal laws to see what you are responsible for.
9. Who supervises the caregiver? A credible caregiving company should have plans in place that include quality assurance as well as communication tools. Certainly, independent caregivers can have good plans, just as they can have good training. Just be sure to check it out. You may find an independent caregiver with decades of experience, a real jewel. This is all about being aware.
10. What other resources could help me? The National Association of
Area Agencies on Aging at, www.n4a.org, has several programs available for caregivers and seniors. Also, look to your county social services and, on-line, go to www.eldercare.gov. This eldercare locator is very helpful when looking for services from anywhere in the country.
The bottom line here? Whether you hire an agency or an independent caregiver, you need to do your homework. But if you hire an independent caregiver, you need to do a little more homework, so you know what your responsibilities, as an employer, are.
Published On: August 01, 2007