Piecing It Together: Informal vs. Professional Home Care

From finances to work, family to doctor appointments, it can be difficult to make all the puzzle pieces fit as a caregiver. To make it all work and minimize the impact of elder care, family caregivers are often piecing together informal care with a combination of hiring private caregivers, caregiving themselves, and having friends and other family volunteer to take a shift. Applying this type of short-term solution to a long-term issue can have adverse effects for everyone involved. Particularly when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers, the average duration of a caregiver’s role is 4.6 years. Only 3 in 10 caregivers provided care for less than a year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Disease Facts and Figures.

The Risks of Informal Care: Hiring Private Caregivers 

We are only able to make good decisions with good information. As family, weighing the risks of privately hiring a caregiver for a loved one can help us better understand the responsibilities and options available. 

Privately Hired Caregiver

  • No backup care coordinated to fill in gaps from caregiver absences, sick time, or vacation.
  • No enforced polices (such as giving notice when quitting)
  • No professional supervision and mentoring 
  • No verification of prior experience and skillset
  • No continuing education and training to diversify and deepen skills
  • No national background checks run on caregivers  
  • No protection for injury or misconduct that occurs by private caregiver
  • No mediation for difficult issues such as ongoing tardiness, inappropriate conduct, accusations of theft, etc.
  • No third party management of payroll and taxes including Social Security and Medicare. The family/aging adult maintains tax liability. 
  • No third party management of overtime, worker's compensation insurance, L&I, or unemployment claims.
  • No third party professional documentation of services. 
  • No verification that private caregivers have a social security card or legal permit to work in the US
  • No verification that private caregivers have a current Certified Nursing Assistance license with the State of Washington.
  • No ability to be nurse delegated to handle more complicated tasks such as insulin injections, catheter care, administering medications, etc.

Professional Agency Caregiver 

As you look at options in home care, it is important to understand the value as well as the cost of the care. While the everday care is most visibly what you are paying for, agencies are also relieving families from taking on complicated tasks such as managing taxes, payroll, and insurance. You may find that hiring a private caregiver is a less expensive option in the short-term; however, the increased responsibilities of being an employer make hiring an agency worth every penny. When looking at home care agencies, not all options are the same and you really have to know what you’re paying for.

You should expect that all professional caregivers working with an agency:

  • Have a license with the State of Washington as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Registered Nursing Assistant, or Home Care Aid and have a verified social security card or permit to work in the United States
  • Have undergone a state background check
  • Professionally supervised and are receiving the state required minimum of continuing education.
  • Receive disciplinary action and support from a supervisor
  • Have their pay and taxes administered by the company
  • Have backup care provided for when caregivers are sick or on vacation
  • Are held to standard policies set by the state and the agency  

A Cut Above: The Value of a Sound Options Caregiver

As a Geriatric Care Management firm and home care company, Sound Options has combined an elite team of Certified Nursing Assistants and RN & MSW Geriatric Care Managers to provide more options in home care. In addition to the standard expectations of home care agencies, you can expect a higher value from Sound Options home care including:  

  • A rigorous screening process of caregivers including an aptitude test and the CareProfiler exam that tests attributes like responsibility, attitude, honesty, compassion, and skillset to make sure we choose only the best fit for our clients.
  • Expanded national background checks to ensure safety.
  • Free continuing education opportunities over and above the state minimums to ensure caregiver growth and engagement in their profession.
  • Reaching a live person 24-hours a day 7 days a week  
  • Employing CNA caregivers and RN Care Managers who are able to do professional “Nurse Delegation” which allows caregivers to legally carry out more complicated tasks such as catheter care, insulin shorts, administering medication, etc. This allows clients to have their care rise up to meet their growing needs all the way to end-of-life care.
  • Access to Care Management services for advocacy, elder care consulting, crisis management, and care coordination.

If you’re a family caregiver, you have Sound Options for professional caregiving services.  We know you do your homework, so check us out online at http://www.SoundOptions.com or give us a call at 800.628.7649. 

Published on March 28, 2014.