Posted January 10, 2007

When someone is able to stay in their home, but requires some help, in-home care may be the answer.   Professionally trained caregivers will help with housekeeping, meal preparation, medication reminders, companionship, personal care, errands, grocery shopping, safety monitoring and household management.  These services are not covered under Medicare or Medicaid, but may be covered my some long-term care policies.

But you don’t need to be in your own home to use the services of a home care agency.  Some people who live in a senior community may want to use an agency so they can stay in their apartment.  Also, may want to hire a home care agency to provide companionship to their loved one in a nursing home when they can’t be with them.

When searching for home care (which I help people find as well as Senior Living,) be sure to make sure you are dealing with an agency. Agencies are bonded and insured. (Bonding protects you from theft and breakage.) They hire experienced, qualified and caring individuals that are then the employers of the agency – not you.  The agencies pay all the payroll taxes (contribution to Medicare, Social Security, State and Federal Employment Security tax, Worker’s Compensation Insurance) as required by law.  They perform multi-state background checks and provide on-going training.  Caregivers for agencies are all usually required to speak English.  I have also worked with agencies that have staffed caregivers that speak another language if the person receiving care does not speak English.

Please be wary of direct-hire caregivers.  While the majority of them are hardworking, caring individuals and the cost is usually lower than an agency’s fees, there may be hidden costs if something goes wrong.

If you hire a caregiver directly, you are the employer. The IRS states individual employers are liable for Social Security taxes not paid, Unemployment Compensation taxes not paid and payroll taxes not withheld. Penalties for these violations include civil fines and imprisonment.

If caregivers injure themselves while on duty, the agency’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance will cover all costs of medical care and missed work. However, if the caregivers are your employees, they will have the right to sue you for all their medical expenses and disability coverage.

Another thing to keep in mind is if the caregiver is sick and cannot work or needs time off, the family must provide the care to their loved one – sometimes unexpectedly – but an agency can provide a substitute.

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