As a family caregiver, there are going to be many decisions to make about your aging parent’s care – including when to bring in some help. When that time comes, having a professional caregiver can be a great asset. Caregivers can assist with the activities of daily life, help keep a clean and safe environment, and provide much-needed companionship and socialization. It can be a great bridge to help your parent remain independent and age well in their home.
If you’ve made the choice to bring in a caregiver, the next step is to determine how you’ll do it. There are typically two ways to go with in-home care – using an agency or hiring a private caregiver. There are pros and cons to each, and the right choice depends on your specific situation. But there are a few key factors that help you determine whether agency or private hire makes the most sense for you. In this article, we’ll discuss the main things to consider before you decide which route to go.
There are a couple of ways that time can influence how you go about bringing in a caregiver. First, it matters how urgently your parent needs care. Hiring a private caregiver on your own can take weeks or longer when you factor in the time it takes to complete the necessary interviews and background and reference checks. With an in-home care agency, that part is already done. They have a pool of caregivers ready to work and can start care within a few days in most situations.
The second way that time has an impact is in the day-to-day. It can take a good amount of time to do the tasks necessary to hire a private caregiver, but that’s only the beginning. Since you’ll be an employer in this situation, you’ll need to be available to manage the caregiver, including things like taking care of payroll and finding a backup if they fall ill (or filling in yourself). When you use an in-home care agency, the management of the caregiver is left entirely up to them. They take care of necessary paperwork and taxes, training, systems for doing things, and finding a replacement if need be. This is a huge time saver and can help reduce your stress level as a family caregiver.
If you don’t have an urgent need for care and you have some time in your daily schedule to be involved in hiring and managing a private caregiver, then the next step is to determine how much you want to be involved in the process. Keep reading to learn more about your role in the care process with each option.
Your Desired Involvement
As we’ve already touched on, hiring a private caregiver means that you’ll be responsible for the hiring. For some, this can be a great advantage. You’ll have control over the selection process so 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. If you use an agency, you won’t have quite as much control over which caregiver is placed in your home and you won’t be involved at all in their vetting or training.
When it comes to managing a private caregiver, you’ll be responsible for the terms of employment, the day-to-day activities, and the administrative work like insurance, payroll, and taxes. You may need to create systems and processes to help the caregiver best care for your loved one and you’ll likely need to bring in some assistance from professionals like a lawyer and a tax professional to keep it legitimate.
This hands-on involvement can be appealing to some, as it means you’ll have much more direct control over your loved one’s care and be informed more directly as things change. With an agency, there’s a care manager that acts as a middleman between you and the caregiver, which adds a layer in the flow of communication. But for some family caregivers, knowing they can leave the management of the caregiver to professionals can provide great peace of mind.
In a nutshell, going the private route means you’ll be much more involved, which takes time and can also be stressful for some. Especially if managing others isn’t your strong suit. Be sure to bear that in mind as you make your decision.
Your Financial Situation
The last major factor to consider is budget. On the surface, it may seem like hiring a private caregiver is the more affordable option. Agencies have overhead and also take on the costs of taxes and insurance for their caregiver employees, so they charge more per hour for care.
However, strictly looking at hourly or daily rates for a private caregiver leaves out a lot of hidden costs. Doing it the right way (the legal way!) means that you’re the employer and responsible for payroll, taxes, and insurance. If you don’t have expertise in these areas, you’ll probably have to bring in professionals to help, which adds to the tally. Just to get started, you’ll pay to place job ads and run background checks on potential candidates. And your time (especially if you are employable and have to take off time, reduce your hours, or quit altogether) is another “cost” to take into consideration.
So yes, in-home care with an agency is more per hour, but it’s more complicated than it seems. If you’d like to learn more about potential costs involved with an in-home care agency, check out this helpful article on our blog:
Whether you use an agency or hire a private caregiver, in-home care can be one of the best decisions you make to help your loved one stay in their home safely. That said, there can be an adjustment period for them and for you as the family caregiver. Having a good handle on how much time you have to give, how much you want to be involved, and your financial situation will help you better prepare and make the right choice for your family.