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Hiring a Caregiver: Should You Employ One Yourself or Go Through an Agency?

Last Updated: 7/27/11

Most seniors prefer to stay at home as long as possible rather than move into a nursing home. For many families, this means eventually hiring a caregiver to look after an aging relative. There are two main ways to hire someone: directly or through a home health agency.

Hiring directly: When you hire a caregiver directly, you need to consider all the tax and liability issues. As an employer, you are responsible for filing payroll taxes, tax forms, and verifying that the employee can legally work in the United States. If you pay $1,700 or more in wages in 2011 to any one employee, you need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you pay more than $1,000 in wages in 2011, you need to pay unemployment taxes. In addition, a private caregiver may not carry his or her own liability insurance or workers' compensation. If an accident occurs on the job, you could be responsible.

The benefit of hiring a caregiver directly is that you have more control over who you hire and can choose someone who you feel is right for your family. In addition, hiring privately is usually cheaper than hiring through a home health agency. For more information from Caring.com on hiring a caregiver directly, click here.

The agency route: When you hire through a home health agency, the agency is the employer, so you don't need to worry about tax and liability issues. The agency takes care of screening the employees, doing background checks, and providing insurance. In addition a licensed home care agency must provide ongoing supervision to its employees. It can help the employees deal with difficult family situations or changing needs. The agency may also be able to provide back-up if a regular caregiver is not available.

The downside of going through an agency is not having as much input into the selection of the caregiver. In addition, caregivers may change or alternate, causing a disruption in care and confusion. To find a home health care agency near you, click here.

To discuss elder law issues with an attorney, please email the Elder Law Center or call 630-844-0065. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.