Independent Caregiver expert advice on caregivingFinding an independent home care worker requires time and research. Ask people you know for names and referrals. Talk to as many people as possible who may have experience in obtaining home care services. Screen all the candidates carefully before choosing the right person or you. 

Avoid Trouble

You are about to become a private employer with responsibilities. In addition to your responsibility for your loved one, you must manage someone else. Be sure to check applicants’ certificates, licenses, references, and criminal background. You must pay and withhold Social Security and Medicare when required. You will be subject to penalty if you do not comply and are reported. Unemployment taxes are required if a caregiver earns over $1000 in any quarter. Work-related injuries are your responsibility as an employer, and might include medical expenses and disability.

If you are not able to successfully hire someone through an agency, try the following resources:

Home Care Registry or Employment Agency
  • Search the Internet or check your local phonebook for listings of these professional agencies that can provide names of individuals for you to interview. They may already have screened applicants but are not their employers. You may be responsible for interviewing, hiring, training, supervising, and paying the worker. There may be a fee for this service, either a one-time finder’s fee or a monthly service charge. Churches, Synagogues and Mosques often have a community bulletin board or newsletter that may be able to help you find home care workers. Place an ad in your community newspaper or on your local Craig’s list. 


Before you start interviewing candidates, think about what services you need. Write a list of questions to pre-screen applicants. Plan to interview a number of candidates in person. Ask a friend or family member to assist. Above all, check references carefully. It would be helpful to develop and prepare a job description that summarizes your expectations.

Sample Job Description

Position: Home Care Worker
Reports to: Client’s daughter
Hours: Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Requirements: 1-2 years experience in home care, good interpersonal skills
  • Assist with dressing
  • Bathe
  • Prepare lunch
  • Shop

Your interview with the prospective home care worker will emphasize the candidate’s abilities in several important areas: skills, experience, and personality. Some people feel that compatibility is as important as skill. Be sure to include the following in the interview and screening process:

  • Full and honest discussion of the older person’s needs: It is helpful for the prospective worker to understand the client’s needs and limitations, including problem behaviors or cognitive impairments, to determine whether or not he/she can accept the position.
  • Reference check: Request references and be sure to call them! If a worker is sent by an agency, check the agency’s reputation and record.
  • Criminal Background Check: A criminal background check can be conducted to determine if the candidate has been convicted of a crime, but in your state only. The candidate must give consent prior to the check. The Illinois State Police use a Special Uniform Conviction Information Act Form (UCIA). The form must be requested from the Illinois State Police. Each state varies in cost and response time.
  • Driving Record Check: Contact your local Secretary of State to check the driving records of potential candidates. Each state varies on cost and response time.

Be aware of the candidate during the entire interview: Was he or she on time, did the candidate make eye contact, and ask to meet the person the candidate would be caring for, did he or she appear neat and clean, and did the candidate exhibit any questionable behaviors during the interview?

Other suggested interview questions include:

  • Why are you interested in this job?
  • Tell me about your current and past home care experiences.
  • What do you like best about home care?
  • What do you find to be the most difficult part of working in home care?
  • What would you do in case of an emergency such as _____________?
  • What salary and benefits are you looking for?
  • What days are you available?
  • Why did you leave your last place of employment?
  • Do you have a driver’s license?
  • Do you have a car that you can use?
  • Do you smoke?
  • What is the contact information for professional and personal references that I may call?

Evaluate the personality of the candidate. A good match will be someone who will get along well with the person for whom he or she will be providing care. Take notes during the interview. The following sample chart may help you organize your thoughts after an interview.

Takes charge
Ethnic background
Able to drive (has own car)
Shows initiative
Likes pets

Reference Check

When checking references, introduce yourself and inform the reference that the candidate gave his or her name as a reference. Ask to discuss the candidate’s qualities. The following are sample questions you may want to ask the reference:

  • In what capacity did/do you know the candidate?
  • How long have you known the candidate?
  • Why did this person leave your employment?
  • Describe the position for which you are hiring and ask the reference for comments on the candidate’s ability to perform this job.
  • How does the candidate get along with others? (client, family members, etc.)
  • Did you encounter any problems with the candidate? How were they resolved?
  • What were some of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Would you rehire the candidate?
The following sections may assist you in finding help for your loved ones: