Make the best senior care decision
Your loved one may have care needs that affect their independence, but they still wish to remain in the familiarity of their home. Home care may then be the best option to keep them happy, safe, and healthy. Now, it’s time to find someone compassionate, trustworthy, and qualified to provide that care in your loved one’s home. Here, learn how to identify your loved one’s care needs, how to decide between a home care agency and an independent caregiver, and what questions to ask as a supporting family member. It’s also important to understand home care contracts and how to effectively communicate throughout the caregiver-client relationship.
Before starting your search for a home caregiver, know what you’re looking for. Take careful stock of your loved one’s daily needs and make a detailed list of the tasks they require help with. The more specific your list is, the easier it will be to find home care that checks all the boxes.
Home care offers opportunities for personalization, explains Lori Eberly , a consultant for A Place for Mom and a former owner-operator of a multi-unit home care franchise. From part-time companionship to 24/7 assistance, in-home care aides provide different services based on each family’s unique needs.
When hiring home care, consider the following eight questions:
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You will not need to create a job description to hire in-home caregivers through an agency. The majority of agencies have preset job descriptions and would not welcome a client or their family writing their own, explains Eberly.
However, in states that require a license for home care agencies, clients typically help to write a plan of care or care plan with the agency. This is why it’s important to know your loved one’s specific service needs for home care before speaking with agencies.
The only reason you would need to create a job description on your own is if you are hiring a private, independent caregiver. In that case, you may want to consider including the following topics and requirements in your job description:
You may want to consult a local attorney as you draft your job description to learn more about legal requirements, rules, and laws in your state. Families should also consider consulting with an accountant to learn about the proper tax procedures when hiring and paying an independent caregiver.
As of 2021, the caregiver workforce – people who work jobs taking care of the elderly in their homes and in facilities – remains staffed predominately by women and people of color. The median age of a home care worker is 46 years old.
Roughly 2.3 million people work as home care workers in the U.S., and the number of jobs in the industry is constantly growing, according to PHI, a research and advocacy organization for care workers.
The home care job sector has a “significant shortage” of workers, and this is expected to continue, as noted by PHI. This shortage of caregivers may be attributed to the following factors:
It’s important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic placed additional strain on this industry in recent years.
The national hourly median cost for homemaker services was $26 per hour in 2021, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey.
Based on these hourly wages, 24-hour home care could cost an estimated $642 a day.
However, most people can get by with less than 25 hours of care per week and still have their needs met in their home, explains Eberly. At the rate of $26 per hour, part-time care may only average around $650 a week.
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
There are two main ways to explore finding a caregiver — through a home care agency or privately through independent caregivers.
While home care agencies may have been more expensive than independent caregivers in the past, this has shifted recently with the shortage of workers and pandemic conditions. These days, independent in-home caregivers may charge the same, or even more, than home care agencies, notes Eberly. That said, choosing a home care agency has its pros and cons.
Home care agency pros:
Home care agency cons:
Staffing services, private registries, and local connections may help families find independent in-home caregivers. Hiring a private, independent caregiver may give you more control over personality and schedule, but it can also present an elevated level of risk and liability.
Independent caregiver pros:
Independent caregiver cons:
You may be wondering how to find an in-home caregiver who will be a good fit for your loved one. It’s common to get personal referrals and read online reviews, but you should use caution with both.
You should use caution in this situation. A referral from a friend or family member may provide information about a caregiver’s competence, compassion, and personality, but their certification, training, or licensure status may still be unknown.
You may still want to consider screening and interviewing potential caregivers your friends or family have recommended. Friends and family members may have good intentions, but they may not give you the full picture of what a caregiver is like on the job. Just remember to thoroughly review the potential caregiver’s qualifications on your own.
Many websites, such as A Place for Mom, feature online reviews for home care agencies from real clients. These reviews can provide a perspective from people outside of your social circle, which can be a helpful viewpoint to consider. As with any review, you should consider the integrity of both the website and the reviewer.
Once you decide which route you want to take, the process of hiring through an agency or hiring an independent caregiver might look a bit different. Here’s some advice on where to start.
Speak with representatives from local agencies to learn more about their services, procedures, and availability. You can ask an agency representative any relevant questions you want to help determine if they are a fit for your loved one. It’s vital to learn if the agency is licensed or if your state requires a license.
You will not be the only one asking questions as most agencies will also ask detailed questions about the client to determine their personality and exact needs. Be prepared to share information about your loved one’s habits and preferences to assist in the process.
You will want to conduct an interview with the candidate(s) of your choice. Before the interview, it’s a good idea to speak to a local attorney to understand laws and regulations related to fair hiring practices that may apply to you.
The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) recommends asking potential caregivers these specific questions during your interview:
In addition, you should request the following items from them:
After you’ve completed each interview or meeting, write down your thoughts and feelings about the caregiver or home care agency. Did they seem trustworthy and compassionate?
Ask your loved one about their impressions of the caregiver as well. Did the prospective caregiver or home care agency representative treat them as an equal?
This step will vary based on if you have chosen to work with a home care agency or an independent caregiver. The process is usually more intensive for those who have chosen an independent caregiver, as you may need to prepare your own contract.
They will most likely have a standard contract and other documents for you to fill out and sign prior to starting service. Make sure to read all documents in their entirety. You may want to have a lawyer review these documents for you prior to signing.
The independent caregiver may have pre-written contracts of their own. Read over these contracts carefully, or consult a lawyer, before signing. If the independent caregiver does not have a template contract, you may have to create one.
A home care contract should typically include the following information:
The contract formalizes your agreement and defines both parties’ obligations. It should be signed by both you and the caregiver and should be notarized. If any problems come up, you can refer to the contract for potential solutions. This can potentially save you from having to go to court should a dispute arise.
You may want to hire a local attorney of your choosing to draft a contract instead of trying your hand at it. Legal experts may be able to provide specific suggestions to protect yourself and your loved one. There are many risky loopholes and important details to consider that may not be known to those without a legal background.
The caregiving journey can be full of surprises. Sometimes care needs evolve rapidly. Discuss changes, problems, and concerns with the in-home care aide frequently to see what resources they need to best help your loved one. If there are any problems, address them as soon as they arise.
The most important qualities between families and caregivers are communication and trust. Clear communication leads to strong relationships, and honesty is imperative for both parties. Stay connected with your caregiver — learn more about them as they learn about your loved one, and understand that you’re in this together.
It can be overwhelming to navigate the many in-home caregiver options available yourself. You don’t have to walk this journey alone. Reach out to the Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom for a free consultation about your loved one’s unique care needs. These advisors can provide local solutions and personalized in-home care referrals, all at no cost to you or your family.
Eberly, L. (2022, August 30). Personal communication. [Personal interview].
Genworth. Cost of Care Survey.
Family Caregiver Alliance. Hiring in-home help.
The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.