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Hiring Private Home Care Help in California

Providing home care for a person with a mental and/or physical disability is always challenging; however, for a person with dementia, especially Alzheimer’s dementia, providing home care is especially difficult because the disability usually worsens over time. As such, the primary caregiver will eventually require a substitute caregiver in order to take care of personal business, to run errands, or simply to take a respite from daily caregiving responsibilities.

Several options are available for finding home care help in California. There are home health agencies that can help with the hiring of a helper, for a given fee, of course. In many cases, a more affordable solution is for the primary caregiver to hire in-home help privately. This requires more research and planning, but it is possible.

California caregivers should first contact their local Caregiver Resource Center in order to find out what kind of help is most required and what types of resources are already available in the community. After this is established, the remaining duties that cannot be fulfilled by a local caregiver resource center can be detailed in a written job description. In essence, the caregiver should write a job description for a prospective home helper that includes what kind of help is needed and what duties need to be carried out. This job description should be designed as a work contract and be signed by the caregiver and the in-home helper.

A typical home care provider job description should include the following information:

Expected duties

Unacceptable behavior (swearing, smoking, etc.)

Termination procedure and conditions

Wages/benefits

When/how payment is made

Work hours

The next step involves finding an appropriate individual to fill the job description. Referrals can be solicited from friends and relatives; however, church groups, synagogues, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities may also provide a good personal recommendation. The job can also be posted on a bulletin board at a nursing college or school focusing on geriatric care. Nonprofit community centers may also be a good source of information on home care applicants, and most community centers do screen their applicants.

Once applicant inquiries about the job begin, one or (probably) several interviews will need to be conducted. It is not necessary to conduct personal interviews for every applicant; an initial phone screen is far more convenient and appropriate for providing general information and asking questions. Some of the information to be provided includes the job description, hours, and pay. The applicant should be asked about his/her work history and references.

If the applicant passes the initial phone screen, a one-on-one interview should then be conducted. At the interview, be sure to provide a sample work contract and job description for the applicant to read. Be sure to ask the following questions too:

Where have you worked previously?

What job duties have you performed?

What training/education do you have regarding elderly/disabled person care?

How would you handle a situation where the elderly/disabled person was stubborn, angry, or sad?

Are you not comfortable performing any of the stated job duties?

Do you have a car? Would you be able to drive to a store, medical appointment, or other location with the elderly/disabled person?

What time commitment are you willing to make for this job?

Are you comfortable dealing with a mentally challenged individual who has memory issues?

Can you provide some work references and a personal reference?

Once the interview is finished, first impressions of each job applicant should be written down immediately. At least two of the references should be checked. Once the applicant is hired, a written statement should be sent to him/her detailing the start date, the number of hours he/she is expected to be on the job, and the pay scale.

Legally, a household employee should be covered by the employer’s homeowner’s insurance in case of an accident. Household employees who are paid over $1,000 per year must have a Social Security tax of 7.65% withdrawn from their pay and then filed with the Internal Revenue Service on an annual basis. The employee is also obligated to pay 7.65%.

Employers should report the household employee’s wages and taxes on their 1040 tax forms. The employers must also fill out a W-2 form and provide a copy to the employee. A W-3 form is required is there is more than one employee.

Should the employers pay $750 or more to a home care employee in one calendar quarter (e.g., April to June), they must register with California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), withhold state disability insurance, and provide quarterly employee earnings reports.

Employees are required to fill out an Employment Eligibility Verification form (I-9) and provide a copy of this form to the employers before beginning work.

Resources:

California Caregiver Resource Centers http://www.cacrc.org/californiacrc/jsp/home.jsp

Employment Development Department http://www.edd.ca.gov/

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