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Should you hire a private caregiver?

by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief

People often feel they can bypass a care agency and hire a private duty caregiver themselves. This is an option, but one that requires education. If you do go that route, you may find yourself subject to employer's tax and insurance requirements. Here are some tips to deciding on private caregivers.

Should You Employ a Private Caregiver? What Are The Pitfalls?

Many people have studied in-home care, knowing that their parent's needs are quickly approaching the point where help may be needed. They've read about it. They've asked the right questions. However, one especially troubling thing they keep hearing is that the agencies don't send the same people all of the time, so that means the elder needs to continually get used to different strangers coming into their homes to help them.

This is a valid complaint, and one I suggest people discuss with care agencies they may be considering.

Hiring a Private Care Employee

One way around this is to hire a private person who can be the caregiver. Many a retired nurse or social worker, or even just a kind person who is good with elders would qualify.

This is an okay idea. Possibly even brilliant, if you find the right person. However, you need to understand a few things before you dive into hiring a private person. You (and/or your parents) become an employer when you make this move. What's the big deal, right?

Private Care: Becoming an Employer

If everything goes smoothly, it may not be too bad of a decision. But you need to check your state's small business laws to make sure you are following the rules. You may be liable for some employment taxes, including worker's compensation tax. You may need to set up a system for paying into Social Security and for withholding income taxes.

But the biggest risk is insurance.

Nursing homes and in-home agencies traditionally carry the proper insurance so that they and their employees are covered. However, if you are hiring your own caregiver--one who doesn't work for an agency--you should make sure you are covered. Ugly stories circulate about elders who have been sued by a worker they hired because the worker got hurt on the job and the elder wasn't covered by the proper insurance. The result of a lawsuit of this type can obviously be financially devastating, to say nothing of the emotional toll taken.

Making the Decision to Hire a Private Caregiver

Taking into consideration the cautions above, if you know the perfect person who wants this job, there's no reason not to hire that person. Just be aware. Do your homework. See what your state requires you, as an employer, to do for this employee, for that is what he or she is. Your employee. And make sure you are covered for any work-related injury, or for any personal injury on the property, for that matter.

If you've checked out all the nooks and crannies of hiring, and have found the perfect private person to care for your elder, go for it.

Just go for it with your eyes wide open.