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Recent studies estimate that 24 million caregivers, or about 16 percent of the population, provide care to adults ages 50 years or older in the United States. These people feel unprecedented pressure to find immediate assistance as they try to balance their own career and family with the care needs of their loved one. In the process, many unknowingly create a risky situation for everyone involved.
More and more families, in an attempt to save time and money, are hiring "underground" caregivers-those caregivers who are not affiliated with a specific company or organization that would provide proper caregiver management and training. In fact, most underground caregivers are hired by families without a background check and thorough pre-screening process. Family members doing the hiring may not even know if the caregiver has legal status to work in the United States, and may be unaware of the ramifications of doing so. Moreover, most families are unaware of their responsibilities regarding employer taxes, insurance needs and provision of workers compensation.
Many states have or are passing laws to protect families against senior caregiver theft, fraud or abuse. In the meantime, Right at Home urges families to give the process of hiring a caregiver careful consideration. Right at Home encourages families to ask the caregiver agency or the independent caregiver the following seven critical questions at the start of the hiring process:
1. What happens if the caregiver becomes ill or isn't available? In other words, can the agency or the independent caregiver make immediate arrangements to provide continuous service to the person in need?
2. Who has legal responsibilities for social security and federal and state taxes, as well as unemployment insurance?
3. Is the caregiver legal to work in the U.S. and can the agency or the caregiver provide legal documentation of the caregiver's status?
4. If the caregiver is injured, who is responsible for medical and other costs, such as unemployment? Remember: many homeowner insurance policies specifically exclude such injuries via clauses called domestic employee exclusions. This means the homeowner can be held responsible for the medical costs of an injured independent caregiver.
5. Have all proper checks been completed, including a criminal history background check, a state abuse registry check, and have prior work references been contacted? A reliable agency will have completed these before hiring the caregiver. Families who hire caregivers not associated with an agency should conduct these procedures at their own expense.
6. Is the caregiver bonded and insured to cover any injury to the client, damage or theft? In addition, when an agency says it is "bonded," family members should be sure to ask if their bond covers both injury and damages related to the caregiver working in the home.
7. Assuming a family member is not available to supervise paid caregivers at all times, what kind of documentation will be provided to substantiate the completion of services? In other words, what kind of proof will the family have that their loved one is actually receiving the much needed care for which the family is paying?
If a potential caregiver doesn't have the time or resources to answer these important questions, it's probably best to seek out a professional home care agency that takes responsibility for background checks, taxes and insurance liabilities. Right at Home takes precautions that provide peace of mind to those they serve. An important part of providing highly personalized and flexible care is making sure the family is protected, too.
Source: Right at Home Newsletter
Right at Home Washington DC
1818 New York Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002
"Improving the quality of life for those we serve"