By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
I would like to hire a personal assistant/home helper for my mom to assist with some simple household chores like house keeping, errand running, driving her to the doctor, and keeping her company. But mom doesn’t require personal/physical caregiving nor does she require any home medical care. Any tips to help us find someone?
Looking for Mom
Getting your mom some help at home to handle some of her household chores can make a big difference keeping her independent longer. Here’s what you should know, along with some tips to help you find someone reliable for your mom.
For seniors who could use some help at home – but don’t need a caregiving aide for personal care – there are a bevy of personal assistance/home helpers out there that can help make life a little easier.
Most home helpers can assist with any number of things like shopping, running errands, transportation, light house keeping, laundry, meal preparation, arranging services (home maintenance, lawn care, etc.) and other household chores, along with providing companionship and support. And, if your mom gets to the point she needs personal/physical care like bathing or dressing, they can usually help with this too.
Most home helpers are part time workers who work a few hours a day or a few days per week. You also need to know that while Medicare does cover home health care services if a doctor orders it, they do not cover home helper/personal assistant services.
There are two ways in which you can go about hiring someone for your mom; either through a home care agency, or you can hire someone directly on your own.
Home Care Agency
Hiring a home helper through a non-medical home care, or non-medical companion care agency is the easiest, but most expensive option of the two. Costs run anywhere from $12 up to $30 an hour depending on where you live and the qualification of the assistant/aide.
How it works is you pay the company, and they handle everything including assigning appropriately trained and pre-screened staff to care for your mom, and finding a fill-in on days her helper cannot come.
Some of the drawbacks, however, are that you may not have much input into the selection of the aide, and the helpers may change or alternate, which can cause a disruption.
To find a home care agency in your area, Google “non-medical home care” followed by the city and state your mom lives in, or you can use Medicare’s home health agencies search tool Medicare.gov/hhcompare. Most home health agencies offer some form of non-medical home care services too. You can also check your local yellow pages under “home healthcare services.”
Hiring a personal assistant/home helper on your own is the other option, and it’s less expensive. Costs typically range between $10 and $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire so you can choose someone who you feel is right for your mom.
But, be aware that if you do hire someone on your own, you become the employer so there’s no agency support to fall back on if a problem occurs or if the assistant doesn’t show up. You’re also responsible for paying payroll taxes and any worker-related injuries that may happen. If you choose this option make sure you check the person’s references thoroughly, and do a criminal background check.
To find someone, ask for referrals through friends or check online job boards like CraigsList.org, or try Care.com, CareLinx.com, CareFamily.com or CareSpotter.com.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.