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Home Care - Consumer Alert


If you or your family member is considering hiring someone to help with services in your home, please make sure you are a fully informed consumer. Knowing the issues and the facts can actually save you money and prevent possible legal problems.

Taking care of a loved one is no easy task, which is why many people turn to professionals for help. But in addition to considering the cost of this service, one must make decisions regarding who will be providing care, and this often comes down to hiring an individual versus a home care company. You'll have a lot to think about in this situation. As a consumer of health care, you need to be alerted to as much information as possible. To assist you, we've answered some of the most common questions that potential home aide employers have.

What Are My Responsibilities?

Your duties don't end once you hire home care help. For instance, it's up to you to decide which services your loved one needs and ensure that the right resources are available. With an individual, this means you'll be left showing him or her what to do around the house and how to do it. When you use a home care company, however, you can allow an in-home evaluation to identify what the patient needs. The service then makes sure the aide is qualified to carry out those tasks.

What do you do when that worker needs a day off for a personal matter? If you've hired an individual, you might be out of luck. You're ultimately responsible for scheduling replacements or filling in if there's a last-minute problem. On the other hand, care companies typically handle the scheduling themselves, so you don't have to worry when something comes up.

Perhaps the biggest concern is training and supervision. How do you know the employee is one you can trust? How will you know if something goes wrong? You may have to live with these unanswered questions if you hire an individual, as most training and discipline falls to you. That's a far cry from home care companies, which provide all the supervision, on-site instructions and discipline as needed.

What About the Red Tape? 

Anytime you're dealing with health care, there will be plenty of regulations to follow, forms to fill out and certifications to double-check. And when you hire an individual, these responsibilities fall to you.

Have you ever thought about how you're going to make sure a worker is as qualified as he or she claims? Looking into individual aides means you have to pay for background checks or investigate their education on your own time. Collecting references and verifying work experience is just the beginning of this effort. This stress is eliminated when using a home care company. Organizations screen employees before they're hired, so you can be sure the worker sent to your home is supremely qualified.

There are a few other advantages that go along with employing a home care company. Think about the payment process. With an individual caregiver, payment is not as simple as cutting a check - you have to consider taxes, Social Security and how to report these wages. A home care company complies with compensation requirements without burdening you. They also take responsibility for insurance or other liabilities, whereas you have to come to terms with little to no insurance protection when hiring an individual worker.


Pitfalls of Hiring On Your Own

Sarah's Story
Sarah hired a home health aide for her mother based on a recommendation from a co-worker who had previously employed the individual. Sarah's mother needed help around the house because her arthritis was getting progressively worse and she was having some problems with her vision. Sarah's mother only needed 10 hours of service a week to help her with shopping, light housework and meal preparation. Unfortunately Sarah's mother took a turn for the worse when she fell and needed minor surgery. At that point, the family decided to ask the aide to live in full time and take care of Sarah's mother. The relationship seemed quite good and lasted until Sarah's mother unexpectedly passed away eight months later. Because the aide had given up all her clients to care for Sarah's mother, she decided to file for unemployment benefits. It was at that point the IRS became aware of Sarah's family as the employer and filed a lawsuit for back unemployment taxes, penalties and a fine. Sarah and her family were in disbelief and caught totally unaware of their responsibilities. They became involved in legal action that took over a year to resolve and many thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Tom's Story
Tom's father needed some help with his activities of daily living. Tom knew how important it was for his father to stay in his home so he looked in the local newspaper for someone who could help. He found Cassandra's advertisement and scheduled an interview. He was very impressed with Cassandra and hired her on the spot. Cassandra and Tom's father seemed to get along fine and everything seemed to be going well. About a month later Tom received a phone call from his father. He couldn't find his coin collection and the money he kept in a small dresser was missing. Tom immediately came home and found several other items missing. He called Cassandra but her phone was disconnected. He called the police and several months later they found Cassandra but unfortunately all of Tom's father's money and personal items were gone. Tom was shocked to learn that Cassandra had a record of stealing and drug abuse.

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I want to express my appreciation and gratitude for your help with my Mom. She has grown very close to a couple of your care givers. Everyone is prompt and considerate of her needs. It’s comforting to know I have people who I can count on.
Sylvia R.