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Buyer Beware, Hiring a Caregiver

Hiring caregiver assistance for a loved one in the home is not an easy endeavor. LVMC’s Family Caregiver Support Network offers this guide to suggest some best practices for hiring caregiving assistance, to ensure your safety and legal and financial responsibilities as an employer.

Tips for Hiring an Agency

If you choose to hire a professional caregiving agency, you may ask friends or family for
recommendations. Other possible resources include your local hospital’s Social Worker or Case
Management Department; the Area Agency on Aging or local Senior Center.

If possible, consider interviewing at least three agencies. Most agencies will do home visits to discuss the proposed caregiving task list. Be sure to communicate the care receiver’s personality preferences, because the agency will need to match a caregiver with the tasks and schedule you need, as well as personality traits.

When interviewing, list your questions and take note of any areas on your task list that the agency will be unable to perform.

Sample Questions Include:

  • Is the initial evaluation free of charge?
  • Can you provide the services that I need?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What are the qualifications of your caregivers?
  • How are caregivers’ background checks conducted?
  • Are the caregivers employees of your agency or contracted through a registry?
  • Does the agency manage the taxes and reporting for state and federal government?
  • Can you provide a copy of your liability insurance, business license, and worker compensation agreement?
  • How are caregivers monitored? How often?
  • How do caregivers document time worked?
  • Does a supervisor introduce the caregiver to the care receiver in person?
  • Is caregiver coverage guaranteed if my regular caregiver is unavailable?
  • What are the costs associated with hiring your agency? How will I be notified of changes in billing?
  • What is the payment process? Am I required to sign a contract? Is there a deposit required?
  • Are there a minimum number of hours required per day?
  • What is the process for complaints? If I am unsatisfied with my caregiver, can I request a change? Is there a cost to do this? Is someone available 24 hours to report a problem, for example, if my care receiver must go to the hospital, who is to be notified?
  • If your services are covered by my insurance policy, will you complete the paperwork? Do you accept 3rd party billing?
  • What is the process for terminating services?
  • What notice is required?

(Sample questions obtained from the Central CoastCommission for Seniors, Area Agency on Aging)

Once you choose an agency, you can set your start date, sign applicable agreements and ask for the name and contact information of your caregiver prior to the start date. Maintain your relationship with the agency scheduler and ensure that you are providing adequate notice if you need to make changes. Be sure to communicate — most agencies are eager to hear what is working well and in what areas they can improve.

As a consumer, hiring an agency provides you with specific assurances, such as liability coverage, workers’ compensation coverage, background checks, and coverage if your caregiver becomes ill.

Tips for Hiring an Independent Provider

Hiring caregiver assistance for a loved one in the home is not an easy endeavor. LVMC’s Family Caregiver Support Network offers this guide to suggest some best practices for hiring caregiving assistance, to ensure your safety and legal and financial responsibilities as an employer.

Legal and Financial Responsibilities

When hiring a private duty caregiver, the government generally considers this person to be an employee of the individual(s) paying for the service. Check with your tax professional before assuming that you are exempt from financial obligations. As an employer, you are responsible for the following: I-9 employment eligibility verification, Workers’ Compensation Insurance, federal and state Payroll Taxes.

Background Checks

Once candidates have been interviewed, the next step is checking professional references and performing a background check. In order to complete a background check, the employer must obtain a signed consent form from the applicant. When using a background screening company to process the paperwork, it is important to choose a company that adheres to state and federal laws. The applicant may request a copy of the completed report. The employer must follow specific procedures should they decide not to hire the applicant based on the report.

Checking References

Contacting your candidate’s professional references will give insight about reliability and past performance. Look for references that are not the applicant’s family member or personal friend. Some candidates may not have a lengthy work history.

Ask for a reference from a teacher, coach, agency they have volunteered with, etc. You may need to ask the applicant for contact information for recent employers.

Hiring a Candidate

Once you have chosen a caregiver, be sure to call the other applicants to inform them that you have hired someone. You may consider asking them if they are available for fill-in or emergency care work.

Once your new employee is chosen, it’s valuable to review the proposed work agreement with that person. The agreement should include a caregiver’s job description, including tasks and duties. It should also outline the work schedule (hours/days); pay rate and method of payment. You may also want to include a cause for termination. A time sheet filled out by the employee is necessary, to document hours worked and any missed time, in case of disagreement.


Most caregivers are caring and nurturing individuals. But ensuring the safety of your care receiver is necessary with even the most helpful and well-disposed employee. Here are some suggestions for protecting yourself and the care receiver:

  • Do not become overly involved in your caregiver’s personal life.
  • Do not assign your caregiver tasks outside of their expertise (eg. Plumbing/electrical repair, painting, moving large/heavy objects, etc.)
  • Do not give your caregiver access to financial or personal information such as Social Security numbers, checkbook, debit/credit cards. The caregiver should not be added to financial accounts, given PIN numbers or allowed access to any legal documents.
  • Do not leave valuables in plain view. Jewelry, cash and other valuables should be in areas where the caregiver does not have access.
  • Do request receipts for all shopping activity the caregiver performs. Keep a record of the money given to the caregiver, the amount spent and the change returned. This documentation protects not only you but the caregiver as well.
  • Do define for your caregiver what supplies you will provide for them during work hours. You may choose to provide their favorite beverage or snacks. Be sure to set clear boundaries regarding access to your personal groceries and household items.

Do not hesitate to call authorities if you witness, or are told by your loved one, about behavior such as hitting, shouting or actions that cause him/her to become fearful or threatens their health and safety in any way. If that occurs, the caregiver should be dismissed immediately. If you feel there is an immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Abuse may be reported to Adult Protective Services.