This is certainly a loaded question, and the answer requires looking at three things: the Person, the Payment and Protection.

The Person. There are four common sources for caregivers: a family member; neighbor or friend; a private caregiver; or an agency. You can find incredible people from any source, but it is recommended that – before allowing them complete access to your home – a background check should be run to review their history and perhaps get some insight into their character. For the first three options, you may want to put a backup plan in place in case they cannot report for duty on any given day (i.e. if they are ill). Who will cover for them? (An agency will supply a secondary caregiver if the primary person is absent.) When hiring a caregiver, interview him/her to ensure a good personality match with the person under their care. Consider things like hobbies, backgrounds, religious preferences, even smoking habits.

The Payment. Remember that when a caregiver is hired privately, the person paying them becomes the employer by law and has the liability that comes with an employer/employee relationship. You must file all payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare, Income Tax, Unemployment and Workman’s Compensation taxes), and as a private employer, you are now at risk for injury claims, minimum wage/overtime claims, harassment claims, unemployment claims, even health insurance claims. According to Loretta Worters, VP Insurance Information Institute. “The big issue for a caregiver would be any liability if he or she were injured on the homeowners premises. Although a homeowner’s policy covers a guests’ injuries, caregivers are excluded from coverage because they are employers.” Worters recommends when using non-agency caregivers, purchase a worker’s compensation policy to pay medical bills relating to injuries the caregiver receives on the job as well as coverage for lost wages if the caregiver is unable to work due to the injury. The policy also prevents them from suing you for pain and suffering. Check with your insurance company since other things (them residing in your home or using your car) could impact your insurance.

Protection. In addition to the items above, investigate what type of training the caregiver has received (is it adequate for your needs?) and if anyone supervises them. Can they track medication schedules and manage appointments? Are they bonded and covered by dishonesty insurance in case something disappears from your home? Will they agree not to spend all day chatting on the phone or watching television?

In short, there is no way to guarantee complete safety when hiring a caregiver, but if you do your homework, you can certainly reduce your risks. Bear in mind that a true caregiver’s mission is to help maintain your independence and regain a sense of safety and security in your own home. Finding the right caregiver is an incredible thing and we wish you the best on your journey!

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