Home Care Agencies vs. Independent Caregivers

It can be difficult to recognize when someone you care about is at the point of needing help to stay at home safely and comfortably. There are obvious benefits of having a caregiver for those that need it, but the overall challenging process of finding someone to do this and having reservations about having a random person in your home makes people want to do everything by themselves.

A caregiver outdoors with and older man in a wheelchair

The good news is that while it may seem daunting, finding the right caregiver doesn’t have to be impossible. There are two primary options most people have when it comes to in-home care: hiring a home care agency or a private independent caregiver.

At first, it may seem like an independent caregiver is the more affordable way to go when compared to a home care agency. However, there are other variables that complicate things. To start, in-home care is viewed as an employer-employee relationship, so employment laws and regulations need to be considered. This means that you bear responsibility for any federal or state employment taxes. This can cause the cost to be greater than an hourly rate. In addition, special insurance on top of a traditional homeowner’s policy may be needed in case an accident occurs. To find out how the tax requirements could impact you, contact your state employment department for state requirements or Publication 926 from the IRS for federal requirements.

Once this is done, you next need a complete job description as well as an employment agreement. Then, you likely will need to complete a thorough background check of a potential private caregiver, which would also include a credit review. You also need to verify that any candidate meets state licensing requirements, which allow them to offer “hands-on” care. The caregiver also must complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9, which you need a copy of. This form confirms the candidate can legally work in the United States. Both the I-9 form and Publication 926 are available for download at irs.gov/formspubs/ or can be ordered by calling (800) TAX-FORM.

With all the steps listed above, going with a home care agency will be a better option for most people. In addition to taking the burden of the process off of you, they can also provide peace of mind that the caregiver they select will be reputable.

Caregiver and her patient smiling

What are the benefits of a home care agency?

Unlike the process for independent caregivers, an agency will handle candidate screening as well as conducting background checks. An ideal agency gives you the opportunity to interview multiple applicants to determine which one best fits your needs; as well as request personal and professional references for any candidate. This eliminates the hassle of doing a comprehensive background investigation and provides comfort that your chosen caregiver will be trustworthy and qualified. Some agencies also require a number of safety precautions, including TB tests and CPR certifications, and they also offer additional training for specialized services such as Alzheimer’s care and dementia.

Home care agencies are licensed, insured, and bonded. In the event a caregiver does get hurt in your home, a responsible agency will assume total liability for all provided care. This is different than with an independent caregiver, where you would be responsible for both the caregiver and the main care recipient.

Care agencies also supervise and monitor the caregivers that are selected to ensure they are providing quality care. From an agency standpoint, they want to make sure that their caregivers are offering the best care possible. Many agencies have programs that allow them to supervise caregivers if you are not available. If for any reason the current caregiver is not meeting your requested needs, the agency will work with you to employ a replacement.

In addition, home care agencies handle all payroll and benefits information for caregivers. Unlike an independent caregiver, the agency serves as the main employer, and they take care of human resources issues, like payments, vacation days, and taxes. The agency will also create a method to provide a fill-in if your primary caregiver is sick or on vacation.

Caregiver assisting an elderly woman

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