Hiring In-home Help
Reproduced with permission of Family Caregiver Alliance, Caregiver Resource Center, San Francisco. www.caregiver.org
Most caregivers of persons with cognitive disorders reach a point when they need help at home. Telltale signs include recognizing that the impaired person requires constant supervision and/or assistance with activities of daily living. Caregivers also find that certain housekeeping routines and regular errands are accomplished with great difficulty or are left undone. It may become apparent that in order to take care of any business outside the home, a substitute care provider is needed.
Exploring Home-Care Options
For caregivers in California, the local Caregiver Resource Center is available to assist in determining what kind of help would be most useful and what types of resources are available in each community.
Writing a Job Description
Typical duties for an in-home helper include companionship and supervision of the impaired person and direct assistance with personal care such as bathing, dressing and feeding. The in-home helper may also do light housekeeping and home maintenance tasks which pertain directly to the care of the impaired person or which the caregiver can no longer manage without assistance.
A good work contract should include the following:
- Name of employer and “household employee”
- Wages and benefits (e.g., mileage, meals, etc.)
- When and how payment will be made
- Hours of work
- Employee’s Social Security number
- Duties to be performed
- Unacceptable behavior (e.g., smoking, abusive language, etc.)
- Termination (how much notice, reasons for termination without notice, etc.)
- Dated signatures of employee and employer
Looking for Help at Home
Most communities have attendant registries which are an excellent resource for finding in-home help because they typically provide some initial screening of applicants. When calling an attendant registry, it is important to inquire about their particular screening process and/or training requirements as well as about any fees charged. While some are free, fees for using a registry can vary greatly. There are also nonprofit community agencies that maintain lists of individuals available to perform all kinds of household tasks, from cleaning and laundry to repairs and gardening. It is a good idea to shop around and obtain the best service for the lowest fee.
If all of the above sources fail to produce an in-home helper, the caregiver may choose to advertise in the “Help Wanted” classified section of a community college or local newspaper or newsletter. The advertisement, at the minimum, should include hours, a brief description of duties, telephone number and best time to call.
Interviewing the Applicant
In preparation for the interview, the caregiver should have a list of questions pertinent to the job description and a sample work contract ready for the applicant to read. The following are some suggested questions for the interview:
- Where have you worked before?
- What were your duties?
- How do you feel about caring for an elderly/disabled person? Or a person with memory problems?
- Have you had experience cooking for other people?
- How do you handle people who are angry, stubborn, fearful?
- Do you have a car? Would you be able to transfer someone from a wheelchair into a car or onto a bed?
- Is there anything in the job description that you are uncomfortable doing?
- What time commitment are you willing to make to stay on the job?
- Can you give me two work related and one personal reference?
Immediately after the interview, it is important for the caregiver to write down first impressions, and if possible, discuss these with another family member or friend. Consider the person most qualified for the job and with whom you feel most comfortable. Always check the references of at least two final applicants. Don’t wait too long to make the offer, as good applicants may find another job. If the offer is accepted, the caregiver and the in-home helper should set a date to sign the contract and begin work. Both employer and employee should keep a copy of the contract.
Investigating Legal Issues
As of this writing (1996), if the caregiver pays more than $1,000 to a household employee in a calendar year, he/she is required to withhold Social Security taxes of 7.65 percent and file them with the Internal Revenue Service annually. The employee is required to pay an additional 7.65 percent. Employers may report the worker’s wages and tax liabilities on their annual 1040 form. For information on paying federal taxes for household employees, call (800) TAX-FORM and ask for Publication 926 which explains specifically about household employees. The employer will need a W-2 form to file at the end of the year and a copy of the form should also go to the employee. A W-3 form is also required if an employer has more than one household employee and is filing more than one W-2 form.
If the caregiver pays at least $750 to household employee(s) in one calendar quarter (January to March, April to June, July to September, October to December), he/she is required to register with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) by calling (888) 745-3886 and obtaining a DE 1HW form. Employers must also withhold State Disability Insurance from employees and file quarterly wage reports. State income tax does not have to be withheld from household employees but can be withheld if both the employee and employer agree. If more than $999.99 is paid to the employee(s) in one calendar quarter, the employer must pay unemployment taxes. If wages paid total $20,000 or less annually, the employer may elect to file an annual tax return instead of filing quarterly. For more information, see Ed.’s Household Employer’s Guide (DE 8829).
There is one other requirement which every employer should know. Each employee is required to fill out an Employment Eligibility Verification form I-9 and a record of this should be kept on file. The penalties for not paying taxes on household employees include paying the back taxes, plus interest and penalty fines. FCA advises both household employers and employees to be informed and comply with state and federal tax laws. There are often local services available to seniors who need assistance in filing tax statements for household employees. The Caregiver Resource Center or Senior Information and Referral in your community would be able to identify these organizations.
Making Your Home Care Situation Work
Copyright(c) 1996, Family Caregiver Alliance.