Deciding to bring in a caregiver to help your aging parent can be a wonderful thing. You may choose to hire a private caregiver yourself, or you might want to use an in-home care agency to help. (Check out the pros and cons of each here). Whichever route you chose, there are some fundamental things that must be done to ensure the process (and the relationship) is a successful one. In this article, you’ll learn the five steps that need to be taken before a caregiver starts caring for your parent.
1. Perform background checks
Background checks are crucial when it comes to something as important as the care of your loved one. But as Glassdoor explains, it can be challenging to do on your own:
“The top misconception about background checks is that there is a single ultimate database out there that includes all of the criminal records ever filed in the United States. The truth is that criminal records are scattered across thousands of different databases from county courts to federal criminal databases. As such, running a background check is more complicated than just typing an applicant’s name into a computer database and hitting ‘Enter’.”
When you think background checks, criminal history is what probably comes to mind. But there are many other types of background checks that should be considered, including sex offender registry checks, credit history checks, driving record checks, civil history checks, employment history verification checks, educational verification checks, professional license checks, and more.
If you’re hiring a caregiver privately, be sure to follow all the legal requirements when performing background checks. This article from NOLO.com gives a great breakdown of how to conduct background checks yourself. Be aware that there are costs involved and it does take time to hear back on results, so be sure to factor those variables into your budget and timeline.
If you choose to work with an agency for in-home care, the background checks will be handled for you. At Sequoia Senior Solutions we perform the following as part of our background check process:
- A nationwide FBI criminal history
- A background check through the Caregiver Background Check Bureau (a division of the California Department of Social Services)
- A DMV driving record check
- Drug testing
- A check of the Home Care Aide registry (each caregiver must be registered and cleared as a Home Care Aide with the California Department of Social Services’ Home Care Services Bureau)
Next, you’ll want to hear directly from people who have worked with or know the applicant personally.
2. Check references
While background checks are useful to confirm verifiable, factual information, reference checks can give you better insight into the applicant’s character and work ethic. Hearing first-hand from previous supervisors, co-workers, instructors, or others in the community who have experience with the applicant is a great complement to background checks and can help give you a complete picture of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses.
Be sure to ask the references the right questions if you are hiring a private caregiver on your own. At Sequoia Senior Solutions, we require fourteen personal and professional references before we hire a caregiver to take on clients, and while that might be a lot to do on your own, gathering feedback from at least a few different people is ideal.
3. Get (or require) insurance
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to insurance. It’s a common misconception that a caregiver working in your home is covered by homeowner’s insurance should something happen, but that is not true. At the very least, the caregiver needs to be covered by a worker’s comp policy. If hiring privately, you can either provide for them or require them to get it upon hiring.
The consequences of not having your caregiver insured in this way could be catastrophic. If something happens to them and they are unable to work, you as the employer could be sued. And there may be additional penalties in the form of fines for non-compliance. Check out this care.com article for more information on the importance of worker’s comp insurance for your caregiver.
One of the benefits of working with an agency to bring a caregiver into your home is that the insurance component is typically taken care of. Further, the agencies themselves are insured and bonded for additional liability coverage. When choosing which agency to go with, make sure to ask questions about insurance. For more insight into what you should look for in a good in-home care agency, check out this blog post.
4. Take care of taxes
Taxes are an inevitable part of life, and although it may be tempting to pay a private caregiver “under the table” without tax withholding, it’s not a good idea for you or the caregiver.
According to the Journal of Accountancy, “By ignoring relevant laws, families can be subjected to myriad legal penalties for failure to pay federal and state employment taxes in addition to having to pay the taxes themselves. Caregivers also lose out. “Failure to pay employment taxes is stealing from the employees,” according to the IRS. The caregiver will lose unemployment and Social Security benefits because the unreported wages will not count toward otherwise valid benefits. The end of the employment relationship usually brings down this house of cards if the caregiver applies for unemployment benefits and the government discovers the reporting oversight.”
The best thing you can do is talk with your tax professional if you choose to hire a caregiver on your own. If you use a caregiver from an in-home care agency, however, the agency should take care of all the necessary taxes and related paperwork.
5. Develop a system for petty cash/expenses
Your loved one’s caregiver will likely have to make purchases as part of their day-to-day job duties. Whether it’s groceries, prescriptions, gas, or help with paying bills, you’ll want to have a policy and a system set up for how financial matters will be handled.
At Sequoia Senior Solutions, we use a company called True Link Financial. They issue a card in our client’s name, we transfer money from our account to the card and charge the client for the transfer. Caregivers use the card and provide the receipts to the client. True Link also works with families who use a private caregiver. Issuing the caregiver a reloadable card helps curb fraudulent behavior and it prevents the caregiver from having a financial hold over their client. On the flip side, some seniors have trouble remembering purchases, so having a paper trail of where cash is going helps protect the caregiver, too.
There are other companies that provide similar services, and now you can even purchase these reloadable cards at your local grocery store. Whatever system you choose, it’s important to have a plan for this and lay out expectations before care begins.
Whether you hire a caregiver on your own or go with an agency, these are important first steps before care begins. An agency will cover most or all of these steps for you, but it’s important to verify, as not all agencies do business the same way. For information on how we hire our caregivers, check out the caregiver section of our website. You can rest easy knowing that these important tasks have been handled and your parent is in great hands.