HOMECARE PROVIDER PITFALLS
As our parents and relatives get older, we are all faced with affordable homecare/companion decisions. Many try to accommodate a loved one’s desire to remain home and limit “strangers” in their home. To that end, many people hire relatives, friends and/or neighbors to fill the gaps in the care coverage that one needs and these people are usually paid cash “under the table”. This way our loved ones don’t have strangers in their home and the cost is a lot less than hiring a caregiver service; this is a win, win, right?
By law your relatives, friends and neighbors filling this gap become employees of the person paying them. Payroll taxes need to be withheld, and workers compensation insurance needs to be obtained to protect everyone involved, especially your loved one. What if your friend, while caring for your Dad, falls down the stairs and breaks her leg? Although we all like to think our relatives, friends and/or neighbors won’t do what I am about to describe, I assure you, it happens. Your friend seeks medical treatment and then goes to an attorney who recommends filing a worker’s compensation claim against your Dad even though he doesn’t have worker’s compensation insurance. In this particular situation, the State of Connecticut Second Injury Fund will step in and pay your neighbor both her medical and indemnity benefits on behalf of your Dad. So far so good right? Wrong again. Now the State of Connecticut will pursue your Dad for every dollar they pay out to your neighbor or for her benefit (medical bills) and will also assess hefty fines for failing to maintain worker’s compensation insurance. Is it still cheaper? What if the IRS and CT Dept. of Revenue Services also decide to investigate Dad for failing to withhold payroll taxes and unemployment taxes? What appeared to be a good, inexpensive solution to your Dad’s problem just cost him his life savings in one swoop.
Here is another option. Dad lives alone but needs care (companion). After interviewing several people you allow one to move in to take care of your father. He helps him with his daily needs including cooking, laundry and house cleaning and in exchange he resides in Dad’s house free of charge. However, you don’t have a caregiver contract with this person. Dad and this person have a falling out and Dad wants him out of his house. He refuses to leave. How do you get him out? There is a law that allows the police department to remove an uncooperative caregiver but the police come and after hearing both sides and discovering there is no written caregiver agreement, the police are not sure this is a caregiver relationship or a landlord tenant relationship. They refuse to remove him and tell you to take it to court. Now you have a stranger living in your Dad’s house who is no longer caring for him, eating his food, having friends over, blasting the radio and TV at all hours of the night and Dad fears for his well being although no physical threats have been made. Your only option is to evict him which may take several weeks. This is not a good situation for Dad at all but he is stuck with it.
It is best to use a caregiver service or at least have a caregiver contract with your providers. It eliminates all of these pitfalls although the hourly cost is higher, the risks are minimal.