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Even movie and television stars can have issues with their caregivers.

Betty White is being sued by her longtime independent caregiver who says she was not paid overtime wages or allowed breaks as required by federal and state employment regulations. The lawyer for the caregiver is asking for wages and overtime costs owed for the last twenty-two years, as well as big penalties and lawyers’ fees. White may also be held responsible for back federal and state taxes and unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation payments.

“Hiring an independent person as a caregiver is no longer a legal option in Illinois,” said Bob Tucker, a qualified dementia care provider (QDCP) and co-owner of Northbrook-based Senior Helpers. “When you hire an individual privately, you are taking on a lot of responsibilities. For example, as the employer, you are liable for any work-related injury that occurs.

“This can include the cost of all medical expenses and any disability payments that might be applicable. Unfortunately the home-care industry is noted for work-related injuries because the tasks often include lifting, transferring, bathing and fall protection for clients. This is a big risk for the family, since they are considered the employers if they haven’t taken out have worker’s compensation insurance for their caregivers.”

The other things to be aware of include possibility of being held responsible for state and federal taxes and unemployment payments, and what happens when the independent caregiver gets sick, has an accident or loses her childcare or just stops showing up and answering her phone?  What do you do if something ends up missing or broken? What type of training have they had-and what type of ongoing training opportunities will they have. Have they been background screened?

“Before we send caregivers to work with our clients, we make sure fingerprints have been taken and sent to the Illinois State Police for their approval to employ each caregiver. Those that are approved must then be listed in the Illinois Department of Public Health Registry,” said Abbie Tucker, senior advocate and client services director, certified senior advisor (CSA) and a qualified dementia care provider (QDCP). The next and final hurdle for the state is eight hours of specific senior care training.

“But we don’t stop there. We also conduct national screenings including a Sexual Abuse Registry, the Medical Fraud & Abuse Registry and a national criminal database. We also confirm their Social Security number, complete an e-verify Federal check, driver’s license, driving record and insurance check” she added. “And...we interview them three times. It’s a complex, exhaustive process, but we know it’s worth it.”

Senior Helpers also requires additional education including Senior Gems Dementia Education training. If their office is placing the caregiver with a client that has Parkinson’s or other issues requiring further specific training, the caregiver is brought in for a special in-service training.

It is also important that someone comes out to the home for an initial assessment and prepares a written care plan. If your caregiver has an emergency, the agency should have a replacement caregiver available who can quickly be acclimated on the care required for your loved one and introduced by a knowledgeable agency staff member.

When a person needs in-home care, there is a great deal of legal, financial and management responsibility in legally and safely hiring a home health aide for yourself, a friend or loved one. State licensed, bonded and insured agencies take most of these hiring risks away.

Bob and Abbie Tucker know that hiring the right caregiver for each client is important. If you are concerned about the health of a friend or loved one and want to know what you can do to help them find the right caregiver, please contact Bob Tucker at Senior Helpers: 847-564-7500 or email him at Initial consultations are offered at no charge.