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Since I live so far away I'm not sure how to find someone honest and reliable and don't even know where to look or who to ask. And I have no idea what someone like this should be paid per hour. She drives and is mobile but occasionally needs help and I am too far away to come on a regular basis. Please advise.

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Agree with Eye! You might try Angie's list or Yelp and see if they list caregiving agencies and read reviews. You could call the Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) in your area and see if they have any recommendations. You could call the social work department at your nearest big hospital and ask them if they maintain a registry of homecare agencies. I would stick to agencies; I've read SO many horror stories on this site (and have heard a few in person from friends) about private caregivers who take over homes, move relatives in, can't be moved out when the elder needs more care than they can give. An agency gives you peace of mind and a buffer--you don't end up needing to be the HR department.

Also, don't know if your mom is resistent to having in-home help, but there was a great suggestion recently from a fellow-poster; she told her parents she was hiring "a laundress". The parents, who were totally resistent to "in home care" were able to wrap their heads around the concept of "laundress". good luck! You are a wonderful child for helping your mom out this way!
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You have 2 choices on where to start: private duty caregiver or a caregiver who works for an agency. I would strongly recommend going through an agency.

If you hire someone who works on their own you have tax issues to deal with. And what if she gets sick? Will you have someone to call to fill in? If you hire privately you will need to pay a competitive wage so you will have to research and find out what that is in your area. And you will be responsible for checking references, background check, and checking with the national family registry to ensure she has not been reported for any violation in the past. I'm not even sure a private citizen can call the registry and get that kind of info. Also, you will need to make sure your caregiver is licensed and bonded.

If you go through an agency all of this work will be done for you. The caregiver will have had background checks, her references will have been checked and she will have been run through the family registry. All of this is part of her being hired by the agency. If you get a regular caregiver through an agency and she calls in sick you will be sent another one to replace her for that day. If you hire privately and come across problems you are stuck. If you hire through an agency and come across problems you can discuss any issues with the agency. Anyone you hire through an agency will also be insured and bonded.

But how to find an agency? I would suggest you find an agency that is family owned and operated as opposed to these huge agencies that are advertised on tv and radio. Do a Google search. Read reviews posted online. Any employee or client can post reviews. With an agency you are usually required to do a 2-hour minimum shift. And the supervising nurse will come out and talk with you about your mom's needs and what hours might be appropriate for her.

Ask around to friends and family. Maybe someone can give you a referral or maybe someone knows someone who is private duty and can vouch for that person (but you'll still have to do an extensive background check). One thing I would avoid is having a family member or friend become a caregiver. It's so easy for someone to say, "I'll do it" and then you throw money into the mix and personal relationships and it can blow up in your face very easily. Being someone's caregiver may sound like a great idea but it's never what someone expects when they're actually doing it on a regular basis so I'd stay away from hiring a friend or family member. Hire a professional caregiver.
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