Ask Questions Before Hiring In-Home Care


A Column By Carol Bradley Bursack

Dear Readers: In my community we have many choices when we consider hiring in-home care for our loved ones. The agencies all offer similar services, but each is unique. Some offer medical services and others do not. If you are considering in-home help, you may want to check with several agencies before making a decision. Also, ask for references and check them out.

In-home care was in its infancy when I began caregiving. I used a service briefly for my neighbor, Joe, after he suffered an injury. That was a rocky experience for us, though some of the problems were due to Joe’s attitude. A few years later, we used a service for my uncle and very briefly, for my mother-in-law.

The number of businesses that offer in-home care has blossomed in the past few years, and I believe many of them have improved their record as far as dependability and the need to consider the elder’s preferences. Still, you need to be cautious. Here is a sample of questions that may help you interview prospective agencies:

How long has the company been in business?
Is the agency licensed and bonded and does it provide insurance for its employee, sometimes known as workers’ compensation?
What is the screening process for caregivers? What kind of background checks are done? What are the caregivers’ qualifications?
What services are available?
How much do services cost, and are there different rates for different services?
What are the payment options? What financial resources are available?
Will more than one caregiver come to my home?
What happens when the caregiver does not show up? Is there on-call staff ?
What if I don’t like the caregiver. Can I get a different one?

All of the above are valid questions to ask of any agency or individual you are planning on hiring. I’ve written before about the potential pitfalls of hiring a freelance person to work for you. This arrangement can work out well if you find the right person. However, there are some serious risks involved. Two advantages of hiring an agency rather than someone on their own are:

• They assume all employer responsibilities, such as payroll, insurance, staff scheduling and workmen’s compensation.

• They must request and pay for background checks and staff training. If you decide to hire an independent caregiver, please check with your state’s insurance department to see what you, as an employer, will be responsible for. You don’t want any nasty surprises should the caregiver you hire get hurt on the job.

Again, I’m not suggesting that hiring an independent worker to help with elder care won’t work. Just know the rules so you don’t run into problems.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at Her blog can be found at