Whether you live near your parents or several states away, at some point you may be making arrangements for some sort of assisted care for your aging parents. It is not unusual for an incident or crisis to prompt action, and you’ll have to make quick decisions.
In these situations, especially if there are no relatives available nearby to help, you may be under pressure, leaving no time for thoughtful research. Most elderly people prefer to stay in their own home, instead of assisted living arrangements in a sterile environment. Generally, you have a choice of hiring home health care individuals or contracting with a home health care agency that supplies the home health care assistants.
Hiring an individual who is not affiliated with a bonded, insured agency has its risks. Over the years, Richard Talbert, local estate planning attorney and CPA, has developed tips to consider when you are in the market for home health care assistance for your aging parents. Mr. Talbert explains, “Home health care providers can provide good physical care and/or companionship, when it is greatly appreciated or needed. But not all caregivers off the street have your sole interests at heart.”
Background check – Begin with getting their drivers license number and Social Security number. A simple internet search may turn up a criminal record. Or get permission to do a background check. Then, unless you are a private investigator by trade, hire a company to do the check. Some are opportunists hoping to steal jewelry and silver pieces that fit in their pockets. Some want to get identity theft information for their own use or that of accomplices. Others are looking for pain medications, which they and will replace with placebos and sell Mom’s prescription on the street.
Hire as an employee, not as a contractor – For home health care individuals, you are setting their hours, providing the workplace and the equipment. You will likely have payroll tax liabilities. The IRS has severe penalties if you run afoul of Social Security tax procedures. Check with a CPA to ensure you set this up correctly before you hire a home health care employee.
Risks of paying with cash – You may be tempted to pay your employee with cash to save money or avoid the hassle of payroll tax reporting. Don’t do it. Later, if a few of the silver spoons go missing and you accuse your employee of theft, he/she may claim injury on the job or improper handling of their Social Security taxes. This will lead to bigger and more complicated issues for you.
Get workers compensation insurance – If your employee is injured while helping your parent get out of the bathtub and you do not have workers compensation insurance, you have set yourself up for another liability.
Driving risks – If you want your employee to drive your parents’ vehicle to run errands and take your mother to the doctor, check their driving history before hiring. You have personal liability for negligent entrustment if you hand over the car keys to someone with a prior DWI conviction or revoked license who causes an accident. Your personal liability is much greater than the value of that vehicle.
No substitutes – When you hire an individual who is not affiliated with an agency, you have no guarantee that someone will show up every day. The absenteeism will likely happen on a day when you cannot drop what you are doing to stay home with Dad.
Executor liability – Finally, consider that an executor has personal liability for, among other things, tax compliance of the decedent. After the funeral, home health care assistants can file job claims against the estate. If you are executor, you will be personally liable for that claim.
It is tough enough to see your parents go from being there for you to needing you to be there for them. Getting tied up with the police or the IRS is not going to make your life easier. Cut this article out and tape it to the inside of your closet door so it is there if you ever need it.