Choosing a Companion for the Elderly

If you’ve ever cared for a seriously ill or aging loved one, you’re not alone. According to the latest figures in the AARP 2020 report, Caregiving in the U.S., more than 53 million Americans reported providing unpaid care to another adult or child over the past 12 months.

Personal assistance enables the 12 million Americans who are unable to live independently to perform such daily routines as eating, bathing and dressing. In the case of the elderly, it allows them to continue to live in their own homes.

Increasingly, seniors and their families are hiring caregivers. Many states and the federal government are setting aside funds to allow people who otherwise couldn’t afford outside help to pay for it.

If you’re thinking of hiring someone to help you care for a loved one, here are some tips:

  • Assess home care needs. Evaluate what’s needed for the patient’s health care, personal care and household care. Do you need physical therapy or medication management? Do you need help with meal preparation or assistance with bathing and grooming Are you mainly looking for a companion or sitter? Do you need help with shopping and running errands or with managing money and paying bills?
  • Write a job description based on the help that’s needed. Include the health care training you expect from a successful applicant, whether a car or valid driver’s license is needed, and whether the successful applicant will need to lift the care recipient or operate any special equipment. Be sure to include whether you are willing to accept a minimum or a maximum number of hours of work per day or week, as some agencies are implementing a minimum hour requirement.
  • Develop a job contract. It should be based on the job description and include:
    • Wages, including when and how payment will be made.
    • Hours of work.
    • Duties the caregiver is expected to perform.
    • The employee’s Social Security number, in order to report wages paid to the IRS. If the caregiver makes more than $2,100 per year, the IRS considers them to be a “household employee.” For this reason, the family hiring the caregiver takes on all of the responsibilities of being an employer, including payroll and taxes.
    • What you consider unacceptable behavior, such as abusive language or tardiness.
    • If Paid Time Off is offered, how much, and when the caregiver becomes eligible.
    • Be specific about federal holidays the caregiver will be expected to work.
    • Some information about termination, including how much notice you’re willing to give and reasons for termination without notice.
  • Seek a caregiver by talking to any qualified neighbors and friends. If you belong to a religious congregation, ask your pastor, rabbi or imam for prospects. You might reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to see if they know caregivers in your area. You may try a caregiver agency or referral source, which may be able to do the screening for you. If your loved one was in rehabilitative care, the care center may be able to assist you with finding an agency or agencies that provide these care services.
  • Once you find a candidate, prepare for the interview with a list of questions and screen applicants on the phone. If you find someone who sounds acceptable, ask a friend or family member to sit in to provide a second opinion. Observe interactions between the worker and the person who will be receiving care. If you use an agency, always ask to interview the in-home caregiver yourself to see whether the person is the right fit.
  • Require references and check them carefully. You are looking for someone dependable, reliable, and qualified to do the work.
  • If you are hiring from an agency, make sure it does criminal background checks. Thorough background checks would include verifying prior employment, obtaining DMV records, checking credit reports, and verifying any relevant certifications or licenses.
  • Hire a caregiver with experience in the specific area(s) you need help with.
  • Be ready to train the caregiver in tasks that are expected of them. Training may be needed in the areas of food preparation, bathing, housecleaning, and medication administering. It is important to train the employee to perform his or her duties to the satisfaction of both the care receiver and the employer.
  • Hire a licensed or bonded caregiver. But if you want to hire a neighbor because he or she meets all your other requirements, go for it. Just be sure you are covered by workers compensation or disability insurance in the event the employer or the employee is injured In Connecticut, Worker’s Compensation Insurance is required for employees who work more than 26 hours per week in and around a private home.
  • Set a schedule to monitor the quality of services the caregiver is providing. Make personal contact with the caregiver and visit regularly with the person receiving care. Get periodic reports from the caregiver and the agency. Consider hiring an independent geriatric care manager to monitor the situation if you’re unable to do it yourself.
  • Have a backup plan if the caregiver or agency fails to follow through or problems arise.
  • Watch for signs of abuse, theft, neglect or exploitation, and report suspicious activity to the agency or state authorities.

Caregiving can be demanding, draining, and difficult, but also a source of well-being when you feel closer to the person who needs care. Create a care team you can count on. Our experienced team at Ericson, Scalise and Mangan are able to provide sound guidance on decisions about caring for the elderly.

Do you have questions?

Count on your experienced team at Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance for your Estate Planning, Elder Law, Real Estate, Probate, Trust & Estate Administration, and other legal needs. For assistance, contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at

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