How to Find a Home Health Aide for Dementia Patients

By American Geriatrics Society (AGS)

You can start by checking the bulletin board in your local senior center or community center. People looking for work as aides often post their credentials there. If you can’t locate any potential candidates that way, place an ad in the local paper or post a notice at the senior center. If you’re a member of a church or synagogue, ask around to see if anyone is interested in the job or has used such a service.

Talk to friends or coworkers, ask your doctor’s office staff for suggestions, call assisted living or other care facilities to see if someone is seeking part-time work, or call the Alzheimer’s Association for information on local agencies.

The Family Caregiver Alliance has an excellent webpage entitled Hiring In-Home Help. This guide can help you assess your needs, write a job description, rehearse a sample interview, and determine whether to use an agency or privately hire a home health aide. It also helps you locate resources within your own community that may be able to assist you in your search.

Or look at New LifeStyles: The Source for Senior Living for an area guide to senior care options in your area. Their home page can help you find senior care providers and options, just by searching with your zip code.

You and your loved one should interview several candidates. If he is able, allow your loved one to ask questions of the candidates and interact with him to assess whether they could be compatible. Also be sure to do the following:

  • Ask for a work history and references, and actually call them, even if the person is someone you know.
  • Discuss salary requirements and pay frequency.
  • Ask whether the candidate has dependable transportation.
  • Ask what services the aide will provide and what hours he or she is available to work.
  • Clearly outline what the aide’s responsibilities will be and invite her to ask any questions about the job and about your expectations and requirements.
  • Describe a difficult scenario and ask her how she would handle it.
  • Ask her if she knows what AD or dementia is and what it means to her. This will give you a sense of her knowledge and experience of the disease, as well as her personal perception of those afflicted by it.
  • Ask her why she chose to go into this line of work, particularly her desire to work with patients with memory disorders.
  • Ask her if a free training program for caregivers of patients with memory disorders is available through your local Alzheimer’s Association, would she be willing to attend.
  • Ask if she would be willing to read literature about ways to care for patients with dementia or AD.

For a different approach to finding a home health aide or companion, eldercare.com maintains a database of aides seeking employment caring for seniors in their homes as well as other senior care options.

Tell the aide about your loved one’s condition, but don’t make the mistake of talking about your loved one as if he wasn’t right there in the room with you — this dehumanizes the person with the memory disorder and can make him angry or unhappy! If you need to share things with the aide that may upset your loved one, do so privately. Also tell the potential employee about any special needs your loved one has, such as requiring assistance with toileting, bathing, or dressing, and your routine for doing these tasks.

Check with your insurance agent to see whether you need to adjust your home insurance policy to cover an in-home employee. When you do hire someone, make the job offer in writing, specifying hours, duties, and salary. Tell the aide how often you’ll pay her and on what days. Make a copy of the aide’s Social Security card and driver’s license. You’ll need the card for tax purposes and the driver’s license copy as a security measure. These steps can avoid a lot of confusion later on.

If, for whatever reason, the aide you hired doesn’t prove to be a satisfactory choice and you find it necessary to replace the aide, give her written notice and a couple of weeks’ severance pay to tide the aide over until she can find another job. Although you’re not strictly required by law to offer notice and severance pay, doing so is a generous gesture that can go a long way toward smoothing out any difficulties that the firing may bring up.

If you pay the aide $1,900 or more during a year, you must deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes from her wages. Once a year, you’re required to report the income to the IRS and pay the taxes you’ve deducted. By law, you must provide your employee with copies B and C of IRS form W-2, outlining her wages and the taxes withheld by January 31 of the year following the year the wages were paid. You have until the last day of February to send Copy A to the Social Security Administration.

After you hire someone, make sure you pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes that are due on the wages you pay her, or else Uncle Sam may pay you a visit. Consult your financial adviser or visit the Social Security website for information about the financial responsibilities of people who employ household workers. If you don’t pay the taxes on time, you’ll have to pay the overdue taxes plus a penalty.