The Personal Caregiver

The personal caregiver has been utilized in one form or another since recorded history. She is a compassionate person who takes care of the needs of infirm, elderly or disabled individuals in the comfort of the patient's own home. For many she is what defines home health. They are known by several other names. Certified Nurse Aide (CNA), in-Home Assistant/Attendant, Personal Care Assistant/Attendant, Companion, Home-Maker and more. Their basic functions are the same as you'll see. The personal caregiver can be a neighbor, friend, or relative who becomes involved in the care of the patient on a voluntary basis.

These caregivers may be untrained and unskilled, but they are compassionate, caring people who want to help. If the patient is not having health care issues and just needs assistance with activities of daily living, this arrangement can be very good. There is usually no payment other than a grateful thank you and the patient can remain at home and independent.

So let's look at when this arrangement would be good and when it wouldn't be. As I said above, the patient may only need assistance with household chores. These household chores would include tasks such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, shopping for groceries, making telephone calls, minor maintenance such as changing a light bulb, etc. If this is the case, a volunteer from your church or a family member can assist you with this. If they are not available you may want to hire someone yourself or hire a home health agency to provide you with one.

If the patient is incapable of transferring from bed to chair, is non-ambulatory, cannot stand, is incontinent of bladder and/or bowel, you have a much more delicate situation and a trained and skilled home health worker like a certified nurse aide (CNA) is more appropriate. These are workers who have gone through a rigorous and thorough training in the care of the elderly, the infirm and the disabled can be highly skilled. You can read about the CNA in another section of this website.
You have probably been doing a lot of this yourself and may have become an informal health care expert. You learn as you go by trial and error. If you have, you know how stressful caring for someone with multiple or complex healthcare needs can be. Elder care of an infirm adult for long periods of time can deplete you of your energy and leave you with emotional and/or physical problems yourself. You need to be aware that taking a break from your caring tasks is essential for your own well-being. If you see yourself in this potential situation or are already feeling the strain of caring for your loved one, now is the time to consider finding help.

Caveats to Hiring a Personal Caregiver

There are caveats to trying to hire a personal caregiver by yourself. You don't know how long this person may be willing or available to continue providing the service. If the person is untrained or unskilled to do personal elder care services such as bathing, it could be hazardous for the patient and/or the volunteer worker. You don't want to risk a fall of the patient resulting in a broken bone or the injured back of the volunteer.

You should have a clear understanding upon hiring the personal caregiver whether she will be your employee or will be working as an independent contractor. If she is your employee, you will be responsible for reporting to the IRS what wages you paid her and what taxed were withheld.

If she is an independent contractor, she is responsible for filing and reporting to the IRS what wages she has earned. This is clearly the easier way to hire a worker. Just make sure that if you choose to hire her as an independent contractor, that you have a written signed agreement to that effect.

Something else to consider is whether this personal caregiver has been reported to the authorities or the state association for abusing her patients. This can also be checked by calling the state registry in your state. It is usually a department of the State Board of Nursing for your state.

Another caveat or consideration is whether she has a criminal history. You want to know that she has a clean record. You don't want to invite someone into your home who has a recent criminal record for stealing, robbery or burglary.

Now, there are people who got in trouble with the law at a young age, paid their penalty and learned from it. Perhaps the aide you are considering did something illegal when she was 20 years old. She is now 40 years old and hasn't done anything illegal since. It is now your call whether you want to hire her anyway or not take the chance.

Men as Personal Caregivers

Although most personal caregivers are women, there are some men who have a calling as elder care providers. The vast majority of workers in elder care are women. There are several reasons for that. Traditionally, women have always been the caregivers of the world. In my opinion and generally speaking, they are more meticulous than men. For simplicity, I will use the pronouns she and her in my discussions.

The advantage that men have, generally speaking is their size and strength. If the patient is large or heavy, a strong worker who is skilled in transferring is essential for the safety of the patient and the worker. There are some male patients who prefer a man to tend to their personal hygiene. In my experience, I have seen some very compassionate men in home health who perform just as well or better than most women in caring for their patients.

These personal caregivers do this work for a living and take pride in their work. Most do it because they love helping people, especially the elderly and disabled.

Some take on a part-time job to help pay their way through college. With today’s economic problems, some do it as a second job. Most have been doing this for some time and are expert at it. They may not have formal education but because of their years of experience, they've become experts.

Your next step is to hire the personal caregiver. Don't worry about not having the experience in hiring. I will provide you with information on how to do it like an expert. Just click on this link to learn how to hire a personal caregiver.

To browse through other elder care options, leave the Personal Caregiver page and go to the Home Page.