Home health aides provide a range of services including bathing, grooming and toileting; medication reminders; meal preparation and shopping; transportation to appointments, theaters and social engagements; housekeeping; laundry and errand running. Some can even perform some medical care under the supervision of a licensed nurse. Families choose caregivers through a variety of methods, from using a professional agency to hiring an independent or private caregiver. The main advantage of using an agency is the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved one is being well-cared for by a vetted, insured and bonded caregiver.

Before hiring a home health aide, it’s important to meet with your loved one and discuss his or her needs and limitations. The level of assistance required, as well as preferences and expectations, should be written down. A doctor’s report will be needed for insurance purposes (Medicare and some Medicare Advantage plans cover personal home care if the need is established).

Agencies typically screen, interview and supervise caregivers. They also provide worker’s compensation, liability and unemployment insurance. In addition, they often have a whole armada of people to fill in if an individual caregiver becomes ill or unavailable, ensuring your loved one is never left without help. Families can interview applicants in person either at the care recipient’s home or over the phone, asking for resumes and references. It’s best to have the care receiver present for some or all interviews, if possible, as their input is very valuable.

A downside of using an agency is cost; fees vary widely and they may not be negotiable. Also, an agency does not always have the flexibility to find a caregiver who meets your specific needs, such as someone who speaks a different language or shares your loved one’s interests.

For families who prefer to do their own hiring, some local community organizations offer registries of independent home health workers. In many cases, these registries do a good job of matching families with a caregiver; however, if you go this route, be sure to carefully screen the applicant and do a reference check. It is important to understand the responsibilities and liabilities of being an employer; in some cases, you will be responsible for taxes, withholdings and other employee benefits.

Independent caregivers are paid directly by the family, which gives them more flexibility but also means they are the ultimate employers and must take on the responsibilities of payroll, withholdings and other administrative tasks. However, third-party payroll management services are available and can relieve the burden for busy families. They can also educate you on when and how payments to your caregiver are tax deductible. This can save you money. caregiver agency hiring

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