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Hiring a Caregiver

The first preference of most people is to remain in their own home as long as possible, whatever their disabilities. A conscientious surrogate will always try to accommodate such a preference within the limits of the persons finances, care needs, and the condition of the home, among other considerations. This very often entails hiring people to provide care in the home. The art and science of hiring and managing caregivers deserves extensive treatment, which we hope to get on this site at some point. This page deals with the much more limited subject of employment agreements.

When hiring caregivers there are two common alternatives.

There are many, many nursing services such as Kelly or Catholic Community Services that are commonly used and generally provide good care. The caregivers are employees of the nursing service and are supervised by experienced nurses. Generally, nursing services perform assessment of the assisted person’s abilities and needs, and supervisory staff are valuable resources. In the event that a caregiver is unavailable to work as scheduled, nursing services are usually able to provide a replacement on short notice. If care needs increase, the service has staff. Although this is not always the case, the down side of nursing services are that there is greater staff turnover and no guarantee of who the actual provider of care will be over time, or sometimes even from day to day. Nursing services tend to be a little more expensive; but the wages paid to the actual providers of care are usually lower than the following alternative.

The alternative is to hire directly. The assisted person is the employer. In the case of a guardian hiring caregivers, the employer is still legally the ward. The employer must assure that criminal background checks and reference checks are done, and must meet federal and state requirements of employers. The employer must make contributions to Labor and Industries, Social Security, withhold taxes and the rest. It is unwise to hire a caregiver as a "contract employee". This device is sometimes used to avoid the requirements of law that apply to employers. IRS and other regulations define who is an employee, and hiring a caregiver clearly involves an employer/employee relationship. The fact that the ward is the "legal" employer does not relieve the guardian from handling the duties of the employer properly and lawfully.

Staff are recruited through direct means such as the newspaper, or through specialized employment agencies such as McDonald’s Employment in Seattle, which usually performing include the background checks in their services. There are many agencies and bookkeeping services that manage payroll requirements at a very reasonable cost.

The advantage to hiring directly is that the worker tends to be better paid, attracting more qualified people. There is greater likelihood of long term continuity of care. Additionally, the worker’s loyalty is more unambiguously to the assisted person. The disadvantages, other than the legal requirements, are managing emergencies when a caregiver cannot come in, dealing with problem employees and handling similar issues.

If a caregiver is to be hired directly, it is important to have a written agreement setting out the terms of the employment. When a guardian is doing the hiring and supervising, it is important that the caregiver understand the relationships that are being established among the guardian, caregivr and ward. These are not necessarily obvious.

The following is a sample contract to be used when hiring a care giver.

Sample Caregiver Contract