- Aging & Longevity
Hiring Caregivers for Senior Citizens: A Personal Experience
A few years before my dear Aunt passed away at the remarkable age of 98, she asked me to make sure she had good elder-care aides to help her. She wanted to be able to live out her remaining years in her own apartment.
Now that I've had the experience, I can help you learn what you need to do when faced with a similar situation. I’ll explain how to hire caregiver aides, how to write a health care contract, and how to work with elder-care agencies.
Maintaining the Well-being of a Senior Citizen
Handling her finances was the easy part. I paid her bills and managed her health insurance. I arranged her budget so that her social security and pension payments covered her expenses. That was crucial to be sure she would be able to continue in her own home as long as she lived.
The hard part of making sure everything was handled to maintain her quality of life. I realized I couldn’t do it alone and I needed to hire aides to take care of her around the clock.
Aides were useful to help her get around. They took her to the grocery store, to the beauty parlor, museums in the city, to the park on nice days, and to the doctor when she had appointments.
Aides are expensive. You’re lucky if you can work out deals around $12 an hour. This is not live-in. They work their shift and go home. Live-in aides are cheaper because you’re also giving them room and board. Then you need to share your home with them entirely. My Aunt only had a one-bedroom apartment.
Dealing with an Abusive Health Care Aide
Not all aides are trustworthy.
Her aides went shopping for her. When they needed cash for groceries they would take her to the bank to withdraw money. I noticed over time that the requests for cash were steadily increasing.
They took advantage of her by telling her it’s because of inflation. She was always so gullible and believed everyone.
I had to ask the aides to keep a record of the items they purchased. My Aunt couldn’t have been eating so much and using so many of the staples being purchased. They must have been taking them home for themselves. This is something that needs to be monitored carefully.
Over time my Aunt started complaining that one of the girls was yelling at her and losing her temper. I had to find new aides, and this time knew I needed to use a contract.
Video - List Your Elder Care Needs
Contract and Agreement for an Elder Care Aide
How to Write a Contract for a Home Elder Care Aide
I needed to make it clear I expected of the aides I hired. I created an elder aide contract that I would have them sign so we all knew what to expect from one another.
The contract had to make it clear that the aide is an Independent Contractor. It also needed to specify the work to be performed.
This is what I wrote for that clause:
The Patient and the Independent Contractor agree that the Independent Contractor will perform the work as Home Health Aide with the following Elder Care Responsibilities:
- Provide patient with help moving in and out of beds, baths, wheelchairs, or automobiles, such as for transportation to doctor appointments.
- Personal Care such as dressing, grooming, and maintenance of hygiene.
- Administer medications as instructed per “Technical Direction” below.
- Preparing healthy meals, Local Errands & Shopping.
Due Diligence with Elder Care Agencies
Now that I was prepared to find better aides, the time came that I needed to fire the two aides causing trouble.
I needed to find a better agency. I did my due diligence by asking for references and doing Google searches to see if anything negative could be found.
On the Internet you can also search for court judgments on companies and on individuals. These are important steps to take.
I hired two new aids and it took some time for my Aunt to adjust to them. That is to be expected. Happily, after a warm up period she ended up loving them.
I thought I was all set, until...
Elder Care Agencies Are Not Loyal to Their Customers
Early one day before dawn one of the aides called me and asked why she was being fired. What!
I was shocked to hear that and I told her if anyone were doing any firing, it would be me.
It turned out the agency told her not to come back. They were sending another aide that morning.
I was furious. I called the agency and made my feelings known: How can they switch people like that and expect an elderly woman to be comfortable with a total stranger all over again. And to do that without warning is totally unacceptable! My Aunt could have died from heart attack!
It was difficult for my Aunt to accept the last change and I didn't want her to go through that again. I told the agency that I want the girl to stay and that I already told her to come in as usual.
I found out later that the agency tried to fire the aide because they make more money placing her with another elderly person. The first week with a new client needs to be paid twice, one payment to the aide and another to the agency. By moving them around they get more of these extra payments. Not all agencies get paid extra for the first week, but it is something to check into.
Video - Hiring An Elder Care Aide
Durable Power of Attorney (POA)
Legal Issues and Why You Need Power of Attorney
There were a number of times that I hit brick walls when trying to help her. One time I had to call customer service of her credit card to discuss a problem. They didn’t want to talk to me because they didn’t have my Power Of Attorney (POA) on file.
Another time I had to handle litigation after firing one of the aides that abused her. You need to consult a business attorney if you get into this predicament. Healthcare aids are independent contractors and cannot be fired unless they fail to meet the terms of the contract. I won that case, but that’s another subject.
Having a General POA is useless because banks don’t accept it. I discovered that banks usually want one to file a POA using the banks own forms.
In addition, it's important to have an additional POA made from a standard form that can be used when needed. There are many good sites where you can purchase legal forms that you can find with a Google search. You can download a standard power of attorney form.
The form has options to check-off that show which permissions you have. Make sure you include litigation rights. You never know when you might need that. I needed to defend my Aunt in court for that lawsuit I just mentioned when I fired an aide.
Once you complete the POA form, you have to get it notarized. In my case this required bringing my elderly Aunt to the bank in a wheelchair to get it notarized. If that’s what it takes, you just need to get it done.
One last thing, not many people realize this, but the Power of Attorney is only valid while the person is alive. It becomes null and void upon death. If you were expected to handle the estate, then you would have had to be assigned as executor in the will. This is definitely something that needs to be handled well in advance.
With all the legal issues that can arise with any of this, it’s crucial that you speak with a family attorney.
These can be the most struggling times for both the elderly and the family members who look after them. When all the issues are handled properly, and with foresight, one can keep things going smoothly and assure that the elderly relative is comfortable and happy.
© 2010 Glenn Stok