From the timcaregivere you were just a newborn and until you grew up and left home, your parents were there to take care of you. Now the roles are reversed and they need you to tend to their needs. While many of our aging parents can live independently, others may have physical or mental issues that necessitate regular assistance. As much as you would like to be there for them whenever they need you, doing so can be physically exhausting and mentally draining, especially if you have a job or a family of your own that needs attention, too. The answer may be to hire a caregiver. But considering how crucially important the job is, you want the right person for the job.

 Once you have made the decision to contract for the services of an in-home caregiver, you have two basic choices: work through an agency or hire a caregiver on your own. As you would expect, there are pros and cons to hiring an in-home aide on your own. The pros are that it will probably cost less, you have the final say-so on who the caregiver is, and you can fully vet the person you wish to hire. On the other hand, the cons may include difficulties in finding good applicants, having to develop a backup plan when your home health aide is not available, you are liable for job-related accidents in your home, and conducting interviews and checking backgrounds can be time-consuming. Additionally, you are responsible for complying with federal law for managing employee payroll, tax deductions, and withholding for Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.

If you decide you want to be the one to hire a caregiver, here are seven steps you can take to find that perfect in-home companion and health aide for your parent.

1. It all starts with a clear and detailed job description.

The website Daily Caregiver advises that “writing a clear job description is essential for finding candidates who are willing and able to do what’s needed to care for your older adult.

To do this, carefully think through your older adult’s needs so you can include all the tasks you’ll expect them to do. It may help to mentally walk through a full week of care, hour by hour.

Creating a clear and specific job description will also help you figure out how many hours of care are needed, how much flexibility is needed, and how much to pay.”

2. Pay the going rate.

One of the first (and crucially important) decisions you will have to make is what to pay your caregiver. If you try to cut corners and save a few bucks you are less likely to get a caregiver with above average skills. Check job postings for caregivers in your area to get an idea of pay rates. In the job listing it may be the best strategy to state that the hourly rate is based on experience, because you will likely have a better chance of seeing the best candidates. After a few interviews you may find that you are willing to pay more to get that person who has more experience or is a better fit for your older adult’s situation.

3. Ask plenty of questions during the interview

The Family Caregiver Alliance says that “asking questions during the interview helps you find someone responsible, trustworthy, and compassionate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their past experience or ask what they would do in specific situations that often happen with your older adult. For example, ask how they would handle it if your older adult refused to take their medication.”

Here are few other examples of key questions to ask:

  • “What are the aide’s credentials? Check with the credentialing body to confirm.
  • Where has the aide worked previously? Ask for two to three references from former or current employers.
  • Always contact the references asking about the care competency, compassion, and reliability of the worker.
  • Is the aide legally eligible to work in this country? Ask to see verification (passport, green card, etc.)”

 4. One interview is not enough, consider holding 3 interviews with promising candidates and then following up with a trial period.

You can save time and avoid some of the stress of hiring by first conducting brief screening interviews by phone to verify that candidates meet your basic requirements. For those that pass the phone screening, interview them in person. In the final round for your top one or two candidates have them meet your loved one. After you have chosen your finalist, arrange a trial period to see how well they get along with your parent before you fully commit to hiring them. This tryout time is also a chance for the caregiver to see if the position is a good fit for them.

6. Check their references.

“Even if the person you interviewed seemed fantastic, it’s still wise to do background checks and call all of their references,” Daily Caregiver advises. “Ask how the person performed on the job, if they would hire that person again, and if they’d recommend the candidate for your job. Since older adults are at greater risk for fraud or abuse, it’s wise to check for a criminal record in all the states where the person has lived or been employed.”

 7. Create an independent caregiver contract.

“Once an independent caregiver has been hired, a job contract (also known as an employment contract) needs to be signed,” suggests “This is a written agreement, and should include the following:

  • Start date of employment,
  • Expectations,
  • Payment amount,
  • Vacation days,
  • Duties the caregiver is to perform.

This is an important way to protect oneself as an employer in the event questions arise about what the job entails. The caregiver should sign two copies, one for the caregiver and one for the employer.” Because a contract can create legal liabilities, you may wish to have your family lawyer draft your contract or at least review what you write.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska