Bursack: Use caution when hiring an independent caregiverDEAR CAROL: My mom is 89 and lives alone. Considering her age, she gets along in her apartment quite well. She wears a personal alarm so she can get help if she falls, and I stop in twice a day. Still, I worry.
By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM
DEAR CAROL: My mom is 89 and lives alone. Considering her age, she gets along in her apartment quite well. She wears a personal alarm so she can get help if she falls, and I stop in twice a day. Still, I worry. I’d like to hire someone to stay with her, at least at night. Recently, I was introduced to a nice college woman who said she has a background in caring for the elderly. She’d be willing to move in with Mom and take care of her needs. Part of her salary would be room and board. She has references and the family likes her. Could this work? Mel
DEAR MEL: You’re talking about an arrangement that many people would consider ideal, and it could be, but please do your homework before making a decision. This woman may truly be an angel and you could develop a wonderful partnership, but your mother is vulnerable, so it’s vital for you to be sure the caregiver is capable and trustworthy.
Good care agencies run a professional background check, plus they check references thoroughly. You should do the same. For the background check, don’t just rely on your computer search engine. Check state court records and general public records, as well. If you have a professional company run a check, you will likely get more complete results. Definitely validate her references, both personal and those she has given you, for her work with elders.
Even if this woman checks out wonderfully, and she likely will, you still need to understand that by hiring her, the state may consider you her employer. When you are the employer, you may need to pay into Social Security and worker’s compensation for your employee. You can find more information on the IRS website about independent contractors versus employees at www.irs.gov. You should also check with the Federal Department of Labor and your State Department of Labor for assurance that you are in compliance with laws regarding domestic workers.
I am not trying to dissuade you from hiring this woman. The partnership could work out beautifully. If she can be considered an independent contractor, you may not need to worry about liability and Social Security taxes, but for your own protection you need to be certain about the procedure.
You can find additional information through the Private Duty Homecare Association at www.pdhca.org or the National Private Duty Association at www.privatedutyhomecare.org. The sites, of course, are biased toward their members, but you may find them helpful.
At the very least, I’d suggest that you do a background check, a reference check and call the state’s Department of Labor for information about state laws. A live-in caregiver where everyone benefits can be ideal. You just want to make sure you have a truly honest, caring person living with your mom.
Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com.