What's the best way to find a good in-home caregiver for my elderly mother?
Finding a good in-home caregiver that is dependable, likeable, trustworthy and affordable can be challenging. Here are some tips and resources that can help.
Know Your Needs
Before you start the task of looking for a caregiver, your first step is to determine the level of care your mom needs. If, for example, she only needs help with daily living activities like preparing meals, doing laundry, bathing or dressing, then a "personal care aide" will do.
However, if she needs health care services, there are "home health aides" who can provide the same support as personal aides but who also have training in administering medications, changing wound dressings and other medically-related duties. Home health aides often work under a nurse's supervision.
Once you settle on a level of care, you then need to decide how many hours of assistance she will need. For example, does your mom need someone to come in just a few mornings a week to help her cook, clean, run errands or bathe? Or, does she need more continuous care that requires daily visits or a full-time aide?
After you determine her needs, there are two ways in which you can go about hiring someone. You can either hire through a home health agency or you can hire someone directly on your own.
Home Health Agencies
Hiring a certified home health agency to supply and manage your mom's care is the easiest but most expensive option of the two. Costs run anywhere from $12 to $40 an hour depending on where you live and the qualification of the aide. This is usually a better choice if your mom requires a lot of in-home health care.
The agency will handle everything, including an assessment of your mom's needs, assigning appropriately trained and pre-screened staff to care for her and finding a fill-in staff member on days her aide is unavailable.
However, there can be a few drawbacks. You may not be able to provide much input into the selection of the caregiver and the caregivers may change or alternate, which can cause a disruption in care and confusion.
You also need to know that Medicare does cover some in-home health care services if it is ordered by a doctor, but it will not cover personal care services, such as bathing and dressing. However, if your mom is low-income and qualifies for Medicaid, some personal care services are covered.
To locate and compare Medicare-approved home health agencies visit www.medicare.gov/hhcompare or call 800-633-4227 and request a free copy of the "Medicare and Home Health Care" (Publication #10969), which explains coverage and how to choose an agency.
Hiring an independent caregiver on your own is the other option. It is less expensive with costs typically ranging between $10 and $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire so you can choose someone who you feel is right for your mom.
But, be aware that if you do hire someone on your own, you become the employer. Therefore, there is no agency support to fall back on if a problem occurs or if the aide does not show up. You would also responsible for paying payroll taxes and compensating any work-related injuries. If you choose this option make sure you check the aide's references thoroughly and conduct a criminal background check.
To find someone, you can ask for referrals through friends, doctor's offices or hospital discharge planners. You can also check online job boards like craigslist.org, carelinx.com or carescout.com. Some states offer registries (phinational.org) to help you locate quality caregivers.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.