Home health care: Agencies vs. independent contractors

A rapidly increasing number of older Americans living at home has led to an increasing shortage of available home care aides. With high demand and a shortage of supply, this means an increase in cost to the consumer, i.e., the person in need of care and/or their family. As such, some families turn to private persons to provide home health care assistance instead of seeking out help from a licensed agency. While this may seem like a reasonable option, there are many problems that can arise, creating unexpected financial and legal liabilities for the family, now burdened with the responsibility of acting as an employer. Nearly all of these risks can be eliminated by choosing a state licensed home care agency.

Tax issues

When a family acts as an employer, they are required to pay taxes tied to Social Security, unemployment and payroll. They are also responsible for making sure the private individual they hire meets the criteria of an independent contractor and is paying their own taxes. If not, the responsibility falls on the backs of the employer. If this is the route your family is going, it’s best to seek assistance from a lawyer. Of course, hiring a home care agency would avoid many potential dilemmas.

Workers’ compensation and other liabilities

The individual or family paying for the independent home care aide is liable for any work-related injury occurring on the job, including all medical expenses and (if applicable) disability payments. Also if the home care aide causes an accident where other family members suffer harm or any loss, full financial responsibility and compensation falls on the shoulders of the employer. An easy way to avoid these problems from the start is to hire an agency, where all provided home care aides are licensed, fully insured, professionally trained and supervised on a regular basis.

Abuse and exploitation

Sadly, there are some individuals out there who will physically and mentally abuse the person they are caring for. Financial exploitation is also not at all uncommon, as a frail, aging individual with limited functionality can be an easy target. On top of this, supervising the home care aide can be particularly difficult due to time and geographic restraints. If you simply can’t use an agency, use extreme caution when hiring an independent caregiver, including running a criminal background check and making sure to follow up with references.

Agency supervision

A licensed agency is well equipped to handle nearly any home care aide situation and can adjust to the changing needs of individual clients. To boot, agencies have the responsibility to provide ongoing supervision for their employees — a service that can be as important for the aide as it is for the family.

Encompass Senior Solutions currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of the available care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. All Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today for help with your senior care needs.

Photo credit: bradleygee via photopin cc

“Encompass Senior Solutions solves the problems families face in finding home health care providers they can trust. Providers who will focus on strategies that keep parents in their homes. To learn more about our health care services, visit http://www.encompass-home-health-care.com.”