Hiring and Managing a Personal Care Worker

As you begin the process of choosing a personal care worker, you may wish to compile a list of the skills, qualities, and attributes you are seeking in an employee. Five important characteristics to consider are:

  • Competence
  • Caring
  • Compatibility
  • Cooperation
  • Communication

Interviewing

Interviews with potential candidates should be approached as a time for honest dialogue. Questions should be asked in a manner that encourages open discussion. Questions should be asked that would help you determine the following attributes of the applicant:

Maturity, dependability, and responsiveness

Experience and/or training in assisting seniors or people with disabilities

  • Adaptability, patience, tolerance, and self-control
  • Interests
  • Ability to follow spoken and written directions
  • Ability to communicate clearly in spoken and written language
  • Medically and physically fit, free of communicable disease
  • No history of abuse or neglect as indicated by professional references and background checks

It is important to gather as much information (personal and professional) as possible about the person. Request several references from former employers and personal friends. Get facts surrounding family background, as well as ask to see their driver’s license and social security number. Check their driving record through the State Department of Public Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles. Verify the details of any related work experience.

Discuss the duties you want them to perform, as well as the hours, pay and start date. Below are some sample questions you may want to ask:

  1. What kind of work have you done in the past?
  2. What experience and skills do you have that will help you in this job?
  3. Why are you interested in this job?
  4. Do you have any training that relates to this position
  5. Do you need training for this position?
  6. When are you available to work?
  7. How do you take suggestions about your work?

Training

Most seniors or people with disabilities do not need care provided by skilled health care professionals. Personal care workers do, however, need to have you and/or your family to demonstrate the specific tasks that need to be done. In addition, they need to be knowledgeable of basic first aid and CPR. Basic first aid and CPR training can be coordinated through your local Red Cross chapters.

Listed below are some general suggestions to follow in training your personal care worker:

  • Be patient. Explain why you need help in doing certain things. Likewise, explain those things that you can do for yourself. Remember your personal care worker cannot read your mind. Communicate clearly.
  • Show your personal care worker exactly what, when, and how you want certain tasks performed. Be specific.
  • Encourage your personal care worker to ask questions as they become familiar with routines.
  • Let your personal care worker know what behaviors are unacceptable – tardiness, not performing job duties, poor attitude, discussing personal problems, borrowing money, not keeping information confidential.
  • Explain to your personal care worker symptoms that are common to your disability. Refer them to appropriate books, articles or magazines that will help them understand more about specific disabilities and disability-related issues.
  • Be sure that your personal care worker understands their role in maintaining and repairing your equipment.
  • Be courteous and appreciative. Let your personal care worker know when you are pleased with his/her work.

Working Relationship

It is important to establish a good working relationship with your personal care worker. A long-term relationship requires a diverse balance of skills on your part, as well as your personal care worker. Respect for each other is key to maintaining a good working relationship. A contract is also critical in helping you maintain control and specify what you expect from the personal care worker.

A clear, concisely written contract between you and your personal care worker should address issues of potential misunderstanding. The contract should define and explain all known and potential duties and services in detail. Grounds for warnings or dismissal should also be addressed.

Other items to cover with the personal care worker include the use of the telephone and what food you will and will not provide. You will want to inventory personal items to safeguard against loss. It is also important to discuss what you expect in terms of personal habits such as dress, sobriety, smoking, language, etc.

In summary, your personal care worker is a person first, just as you are a person who happens to have a disability. It is important to have regard for your employee’s personal life and needs.

Compensation

In a payment for services arrangement you compensate the employee after services have been performed. Generally compensation is provided through a regular paycheck in an amount that is mutually agreed upon.

Sometimes assistance can be provided through volunteers. These arrangements, however, are usually successful on an interim or short-term basis. In most cases using volunteers are successful when there is more than one individual to share responsibility and rotate working hours. Paid employees typically have a greater incentive to show up on time and provide assistance in a dependable manner.

If your assistance is not being reimbursed privately, such as through Medicaid, then you will need to be knowledgeable about the policies and other regulations that determine the qualifications, training, and types of activities these providers can perform in order to be reimbursed.

Written Arrangements

A clear, concise business type contract should be prepared before hiring anyone. The contract should outline the specific duties, expectations, and services to be provided. The contract helps establish specific job duties, performance, termination, compensation, etc. This document protects you and the employee in the event of a misunderstanding or other changes occurring during the course of employment. A sample contract is included.

Employer Responsibilities

It is important to know what you need to do to comply with all applicable laws concerning employment.

When you hire a personal care worker:

  1. It is important not to discriminate against an applicant because of their age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.
  2. You must hire people who are authorized to work in the United States -citizens and legal aliens with proper documentation. Your personal care worker will need to provide a copy of his/her social security card, driver’s license, or other forms of acceptable identification.

After you hire a personal care worker:

  1. The work environment must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
  2. Your personal care workers should not be subjected to circumstances that would create a “hostile work environment.” Such an environment can be many things, but a personal care worker should never be subjected to sexual harassment or belittlement, jokes, or prejudice because of their age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.
  3. You must pay your personal care worker at least minimum wage.
  4. You must pay your personal care worker at least one and one half times their regular pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.
  5. Keep accurate record to document hours worked by your personal care worker.

Worker’s Compensation

Domestic employers in South Carolina are exempt from worker’s compensation requirements if they have less than four domestic workers. However, if your personal care worker is injured on the job, you could be liable for covering the cost of that injury, follow-up and related disability. Your employees do not have worker’s compensation coverage unless you provide it. Your best protection is to obtain a worker’s compensation insurance policy through a private carrier. In addition, your homeowner’s insurance policy may provide you with some limited protection. Check with your insurance agent and explain what you are doing so he/she can advise you relative to your policy and your coverage.

Feedback

Once you have hired your personal care worker it is important that you talk to your worker about how she/he is doing. Praise is helpful.

If you are not satisfied with your worker’s performance, talk to them about how to correct the problem. Be honest with your worker about what you think and how you feel about his/her job performance. You may find the following tool helpful in assessing your worker’s job performance:

Attendance Always Usually Sometimes Rarely Never
1. Does your personal assistant report to work when scheduled?          
2. Does your personal assistant talk to you about being absent or late ahead of time?          
3. Does your personal assistant have good reason for being late or absent?          
Performance Always Usually Sometimes Rarely Never
4. Does your personal assistant do the work the way you want it?          
5. Does your personal assistant follow your instructions?          
Over Performance Great Good Okay Bad Horrible
6. How would you rate your personal assistant overall?          
2. Does your personal assistant talk to you about being absent or late ahead of time?          
3. Does your personal assistant have good reason for being late or absent?          

7. What changes does your personal assistant need to make?

8. Is more training needed? Yes _____ No _____

If you continue to have problems, you have a choice to fire them. It is important to treat your worker professionally and fairly. You can’t fire an employee because of their age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

Fraud, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

Adult Protective Services are provided to individuals who are 18 years of age or older and are victims of actual or potential abuse, neglect, or exploitation. This mistreatment may be caused by others or self-inflicted. DSS is authorized, by the Omnibus Adult Protection Act of the South Carolina Code of Laws, to investigate all reports and provide services. Services are provided to meet the adults' basic needs and to ensure their safety. If you are experiencing problems of fraud, abuse, neglect, or exploitation from your personal care worker, call Adult Protective Services at your local Department of Social Services.

Below are some definitions and examples of fraud, abuse, neglect, or exploitation to help you understand what these terms mean:

Fraud is the intentional twisting of the truth to trick you into giving up something or value or to surrender a legal right. Example: Your personal care worker ask you to give him/her your valuables or put his/her name on your checking account.

Abuse is an intentional act that results in mental or physical injuries. Example: Your personal care worker calls you names or hurts you physically.

Neglect is a repeated act of carelessness. Example: Your personal care worker arrives late to work everyday and has no legitimate reason for it.

Exploitation is when you trust someone and he/she lies or scares you in order to use your property or money for himself/herself. Example: Your personal care worker takes or uses your valuables without your permission.

Sample Employer/Employee Contract

This agreement between
(Employer) _________________________________________ 
and (Employee) _____________________________________

is intended to reflect the terms of employment.

Work Schedule:

The employee’s work schedule will be as follows:

Day of the Week Time to be Worked Time to be Worked Total Daily Hours
Monday      
Tuesday      
Wednesday      
Thursday      
Friday      
Saturday      
Sunday      

 

Total Weekly Hours __________

Compensation:

The employer agrees to pay the employee $ ______ per hour.

 Hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week must be reimbursed at time and a half. Agreed upon hours in excess of 40 hours, worked within one week, will be reimbursed at an hourly rate of $ ________.

The employer will withhold and send to federal and state governments all taxes, social security and federal withholdings as specified on the W-4 form. All necessary employer matches of withholding will be made and reported according to federal and state law. Wages will be paid ________ (weekly, semi-monthly, monthly) for work performed during the preceding (week, semi-month, month).

Job Duties:

1. ________________________________________________

2. ________________________________________________

3. ________________________________________________

4. ________________________________________________

5. ________________________________________________

6. ________________________________________________

Employee Responsibilities:

(Please initial)

I ____ agree to carry out the assigned duties and responsibilities as explained by my employer as agreed upon.

I ____ agree to tell my employer two weeks in advance when I need time off.

I ____ agree to call my employer with as much advance notice as possible if I am ill or if I am unable to report to work to other unforeseen emergencies (car trouble, severe weather, etc.)

I ____ agree to give my employer two weeks written notice if I decide to end my employment agreement.

I ____ agree to respect my employer’s confidentiality.

I ____ agree to respect and not misuse or damage any of my employer’s personal belongings or real property.

This agreement is subject to renewal, termination, or modification upon agreement by the employer, employee, or other parties to this contract.

I have read and understand the job duties and responsibilities expected of me.

I understand and agree that nothing contained in this agreement, or conveyed during any interview, is intended to create an employment contract. I further understand and agree that if I am hired, my employment will be “at will” and without fixed term, and may be terminated at any time, with or without cause and without prior notice, at the option of either myself or this employer.

_____________________________________ ___________________

Signature of employee  and Date

_____________________________________ ___________________

Signature of employer and Date

_____________________________________ ___________________

Witness and Date