You and your loved one have decided it's time to have a little extra help in the home, and you're looking to hire an in-home caregiver. But do you hire through an agency or hire directly?
When looking at options for in-home care, determining the best option can get complicated quickly. It is important to understand the benefits, drawbacks and responsibilities of the different options available before making a decision.There are two basic approaches: hiring an independent caregiver directly or hiring a home care agency.
An independent caregiver will usually charge a lower hourly rate than an agency. However, it is important to be aware of the additional costs and responsibilities associated with hiring independently.
Contractor or Employee? Risks and Responsibilities
If you hire someone directly, he or she must be classified as either a contractor or an employee. The IRS and your state government both have guidelines you need to follow to make these classifications. Those classifications impact your responsibilities to the caregiver.
Generally, the caregiver will be considered an employee if you have significant control over the caregiver's hours, responsibilities and behavior. This means you can require the caregiver to be at the home performing specified care duties for your loved one at scheduled times. You can require the caregiver to have particular kinds of training, and determine when and how much time off they can take. In short, you set the rules.
Sounds good, right? Well, there are drawbacks. When a caregiver is your employee, your loved one's home becomes a place of employment. Every state has different legal requirements for a place of employment, and your loved one's home will need to meet them. You will be responsible for paying taxes, benefits such as Social Security and Medicare, and worker's compensation for the caregiver. Forms must be submitted to the federal government on a quarterly basis, and you must provide your caregiver with a W-2 each year. There are professionals who specialize in helping you meet these requirements, but you are responsible for paying for these services, too. If you fail to fill out the necessary forms, and the caregiver does not properly fill out their taxes, you will both most likely be audited.
Working with an independent caregiver as a contractor will reduce — though not eliminate — your legal responsibilities. You will still need to fill out a 1099 for the IRS annually for wages over $600, but many of the other responsibilities will fall on the caregiver. However, when you hire a caregiver as a contractor, you lose significant control over the care your loved one receives. To qualify as contractors, caregivers must be able to set their own schedules. They also determine sick days and vacation time for themselves, and if they are unavailable, they choose how to handle any scheduling while they are away — which means they can choose to send someone in their place, without any input from you on the replacement caregiver. You also do not have any ability to determine training qualifications for a contractor.
You lose a lot of quality control in a contractor situation. Be careful who you hire if you go with a contractor.
If you choose to hire an independent caregiver, whether contractor or employee, it is strongly recommended that you check the caregiver's criminal record and call the caregiver's references.
Home Care Agencies: Quality Control
If you do not wish to take on these risks and responsibilities, a home care agency, like Right at Home, is an option. An agency will charge a higher hourly rate because it manages taxes, training, background checks, bonding and insuring. Often, the overall costs of a home care agency and employing a caregiver directly come out to about the same amount after you factor in the additional costs and responsibilities of employing a caregiver yourself. Because the agency takes responsibility for these, there is greater quality control and consistency. You set the schedule and responsibilities. If your usual caregiver is sick or takes time off, the agency will coordinate an appropriate substitute.
Right at Home knows that finding a caregiver for your loved one is an important decision, and that it can often feel daunting. But with the right information, it doesn't have to be.