Many of us are caring for, or helping to care for, older members of our extended families. There are over 47 million people over 65 in America today. In 2060, that number will likely double to 98 million.
The responsibility can be challenging and difficult for family members caring for several generations at the same time, and often, you need extra help. When looking for support for your elderly family member, it is important to ask the right questions to assure that the company you hire is properly registered, and the person who comes into your home comes with the proper skills, security and with a strong and reliable agency representing them.
Homemaker Companions are NOT allowed to provide medical or health services. If you need medical help for your loved one, you should contact the Department of Public Health for information on home health agencies.
What does a homemaker companion do?
- A homemaker companion’s job is to help people complete daily tasks that they may not be able to do on their own. Homemakers and companions can provide people with services such as food preparation, driving, running errands and routine chores around the home.
How can a homemaker companion assist your family?
- They can provide the extra assistance that allows your loved one to continue to live independently and offers a sense of comfort and routine.
- Before hiring a homemaker companion for a family member, it’s important to work to make sure that the family member to be cared for understands the relationship, and feels they have a choice in the matter.
How do I hire a homemaker companion?
There are two ways you can hire homemaker companions in Connecticut; either the employer model or the registry model.
- The employer model is when the homemaker companion is an employee of the agency. You will pay the agency, and the agency is responsible for paying the homemaker companion.
- The registry model is when you hire a homemaker companion from the agency’s list of available employees, and the agency will charge a fee for their service. You will be responsible for paying the homemaker companion directly.
If you use a registry model, the agency must provide you with a written notice that specifies your legal obligations to the homemaker companion you hire. You must sign and date this notice and return it to the agency before services can begin. In addition, it is important to remember that if you choose the registry model, you may be considered the employer under the law, and you will be responsible for the payment of federal and state taxes, social security, overtime and minimum wage, unemployment, worker’s compensation payments and any other applicable payments required under federal and state law.
It is advisable to speak to a tax professional or a lawyer to help you understand your financial responsibilities under the registry model.
Every HCA (both using employer and registry models) must provide you with a written contract that clearly states:
- Your right to request changes to the contract or service plan;
- Notice that the employees of an agency are required to complete a comprehensive background check;
- The terms and costs of each individual service. Clarify that there are no hidden costs or extra charges;
- A clear definition of the employee (homemaker companion), client (yourself) and employment relationship;
- The agency’s policies for accepting gratuities or tips;
- List the homemaker companion’s job description, including if they are “live in” or “daily call,” etc.;
- Notice that the agency’s records can be made available for inspection or audit by the Department of Consumer Protection; and,
- Instructions on how to file a complaint regarding any issue with the agency.
Things to remember when hiring a homemaker or companion:
- Make sure the services offered are clearly outlined. If you do not understand what services are being offered, ask the agency to clarify in writing.
- Be clear about billing and payment. Make sure that you and the agency are clear about how much you will be paying, whether that payment will be directly to the homemaker companion or to the agency, and how often and when payments are due. You should also be clear about who is responsible for paying – the individual receiving the aid or yourself (or both).
- Check for additional costs and hidden fees. Read the contract carefully, and check if there are holiday pay, driving or gas costs. Check to see if you may be charged extra for cancelling services before the end of your contract.
Choosing home care is an important decision for any family, and if you need more information or guidance, you will find DCP’s Homemaker Companion Guide for consumers in Spanish and English at: http://www.portal.ct.gov/DCP/Agency-Administration/Publications/Manuals.
You may also file a consumer complaint with DCP at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 860-713-6300.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.