I'm considering hiring a companion/sitter for my dad for 4 hours a day. I have used an agency before for a short term situation, but am getting approached by many private sitters who work with other people in his Assisted Living Facility. The cost of private is lower, but is there a "catch"? I like the idea of having the "umbrella" of the agency in case there are any problems. Should I save the money and go private, or is it worth the extra for the agency to oversee the person?

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Liulliput covered this well. I've written about the pros and cons - you do become the employer - unless, since these are people already working for others in the facility, they are set up as a small business and have their own worker’s compensation and such. You should check into this. If they are an independent contractor, you may not be liable. If they are not – then you become the employer. It’s easier to go with an agency in many ways because of backup help and they do the background check. However, there are some gems that are self-employed. If you go with someone private, you may want to check your responsibility with our state small business people.
Take care,
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I have had pretty good luck using both. The best thing about agencies is that they do some of the screening for you. You still have to help them match the right person to your parent. Agencies also have back up people that they can send if regular caregiver cannot show up. The downside is the cost and the 2 - 3 hour minimum...which would not effect you if you are looking at 4 hours per day. (Ask them about discounts for extended care.)
If you hire privately, you need to do the screening. There is no back up support, unless you arrange for it yourself. Since you are hiring for several hours each week, indefinitely, you will have to do the tax paperwork. (The IRS has information on their site for caregivers.) Also, since your father will become the "employer" there may be Medicare/Medicaid implications.
When you hire either way, have a page of the types of care your father will need. Have them look over the list and tell you if there is something that they are not capable doing or do not want to do. Better that they know upfront what your expectations are.
There is also the issue of insurance liablility in case of injury. Agencies usually cover this. You may have to ask your insurance person or attorney about it if you hire privately.
good luck
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First of all, I did not consider using an agency because it would cost my parents more money and then I would have the added hassle of dealing with a third party. As with most family caregivers, I spend a great deal of time interacting with medical professionals on my parents' behalf so there's no time or energy left for me to add an agency to the mix.

The benefit of going with an agency, I understand, is that you will have somebody sent to the home no matter what. We have had 2 private caregivers and over the past 2 years neither one failed to show up without warning. Between the three of us, we have always managed to provide care for my parents.

Since I recruit and train volunteers at work, I have learned how important the interview and training process is. It makes sense that there's going to be trust and cooperation if you provide the paid caregiver with a job description and guidelines on a parent's needs.

During the interview, I explained to each caregiver that the position was not as an employee but as an independent contractor. Independent contractors set their own hours and rate of pay. Fortunately one wanted to work mornings and the other afternoons. As for pay, I told them what we could pay and they both accepted the position. At the end of the week, I receive an invoice from each caregiver with the hours and charges.

Bottom line, independent contractors pay their own taxes at the end of the year. We are responsible for providing the 1099 so they can file by January 31st each year.

Our caregivers are like members of the family. For me, I feel like are closer than if they worked for any agency. That is, if they worked for an agency, the agency is their employer and sometimes miscommunication can occur when there's more people involved. I think the caregivers have a greater sense of control over their work so in the end it's more like a partnership between us.

As far as a criminal background check goes, it's something that a family caregiver can do at little or no cost with a name and birthdate online. The more I think about this issue, I am coming to the realization that it's very important for me to have control over this process.

After all, who cares more than we do what happens to our parents? From past experience, I have found that service providers are liable to make mistakes just because of the number of clients they have. I'm not willing to take any chances I don't have to with my parents' care.
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