Elderly Care Tips
Start off on the right foot with the family of any elderly or disabled person in your care, and everyone will live happily ever after.
Before you agree to work for anyone who contacts you, have an in-depth conversation about their expectations and their (or their loved one’s) needs. You and those in your care will both benefit, and will avoid frustration, if you can give the family the specific results they expect.
Interviewing the senior and his family
During the initial meeting with the senior or their family — meeting by phone is OK, but meeting in person is highly recommended — ask them some basic questions:
Questions about your role
What are his needs? What are my primary care responsibilities?
Can you walk me through a typical day? (Or night or week, depending on the job.)
What are his routines, and who are the people involved?
What else would you expect of me? Will I cook meals? Do housework? Wash clothes? Administer his medicine and check vitals? Bathing?
What are your household rules? You will want to know if you can take a few personal calls, if necessary.
What resources and contacts do you have if there is an emergency?
Questions about the senior
What are his specific medical needs, and what medications is he on?
What is his level of independence? Cognition? Function? Memory?
What are his allergies or other avoidable conditions?
Does he have unusual habits?
Does he have any habits you are trying to break? Reinforce?
What are his favorite pastimes, books, and things to do?
Does he prefer company or to be left alone?
Is there anything that scares him?
Are there any religious or cultural matters I should be aware of?
At what point should I contact you if an issue arises?
Be prepared to answer questions the family will have for you
Once you’ve finished asking the questions, it’s their turn to interview you. Make sure you’re prepared with answers and examples, or be proactive and have a “pitch” ready — jump right in and tell them what you can offer to meet their (and their loved one’s) needs. Also, be crystal clear on your fees and services.
Outline your services
For families to know what to expect, it’s very important that people know exactly what you do and what services you offer.
If you’re a companion, it’s important that the family know that you are not a medical professional (unless you have that training and want to provide both services, in which case additional charges should be discussed).
Let them know you will do light housework, food prep and cooking, errands, transportation and outings, maybe laundry, but don’t have the requisite training to administer medicine or check vital signs on a daily basis, etc. This type of clarity is especially important for families of disabled or critically ill persons, who may naively think that you can substitute for a (more expensive) registered nurse or certified home health aide.
Walk through your routine
Talk them through a typical day. What time will you arrive or leave? Most families are thrown into the situation ofneeding senior or elder care without much warning. They most likely will not be used to having strangers in their home and the need to schedule care. Help them plan accordingly, and let them know exactly what to expect/depend on.
Payment and cancellations policies
Make sure to be explicit about your fees, extra charges, and cancellation policy up front.
How many hours or days in advance must they contact you in order to not be charged if they have to cancel?
How can they contact you?
How will they deliver payment to you?
Do you accept both cash and checks, or only cash?
Confirm details about entering/exiting their home: will you have your own set of keys, is there a doorman, have they told their neighbors, doctors, other family members, etc.
You can discuss the senior with his family, but the senior is the one who will really tell you what you need to know. Spend your initial meeting getting to know one another. Try to determine his demeanor, personality, and level of ability to function independently. Try to make him feel comfortable with your presence. After all, the senior is the one with whom you’re going to be interacting closely.
Whether you’re just starting out, working part-time or launching your own full-time senior and disabled care business, these smart tips and tricks for accounting should help you keep your books balanced — and your sanity intact.
While rates will vary based on location, intensity, and the duration of a particular senior care job, a senior care provider or caregiver can generally charge from $12 to $100 an hour. Providers who offer included services like shopping, house cleaning, bathing, administering medicine, etc., can charge more — or can offer a la carte services on top of their base rate. Research the market for senior care in your area by looking through listings on Craig’s List, SuperPages, Yelp, CitySearch, or contact your local hospital. Base your rates on those charged by other senior or elder care providers with comparable skills.
Register as a “Sole Proprietor”
Regardless of how much you think you’ll make, first you need to register as a “sole proprietor.” To do so, visit the state department of taxation or business, and your town or city hall. Once you complete the registration process, you’ll be assigned federal and state employer and tax ID numbers. If your business grows to the point that you’re making more than $5,000 a year, you will need to update your business status to an LLC (limited liability corporation) or other corporate entity.
Keep Accurate Records
Keep your records safe, and always keep a history dating back at least three years. Store backup computer files at least once a month. Don’t let a computer crash ruin your business — the IRS reserves the right to audit you at any time.
Invest in Finance-organizing Software
Look for programs that cater to small-business owners. These packages provide business forms and templates, and plenty of information to get you up and running. Begin by creating business ledgers, which should include cash-flow worksheets to track your spending, fixed and variable expenses, income, and other financial records. Quicken, QuickBooks, Microsoft Money, and PeachTree are some popular options.
Hold on to Receipts
Cell phones, computers, equipment, and office space are only a few of the items that can be deducted come tax time. You can deduct groceries, medical supplies, cleaning products, and more, so keep a record of all of your expenses.
Use???Local Resources to Promote Your Business
Speak with someone at your local chamber of commerce — which has resources to help you set up, run, and finance your elder care business. The chamber of commerce can help you promote your business, and might even lead you to potential clients. Another great source is your local hospital, assisted living facility, nursing home, or Council on Aging.
The nuances of small-business tax law are best left to an accountant. What you can do is keep accurate records of all the money you spend and earn. You have to be pretty numbers-savvy to avoid getting tangled in the financial web that’s spun when you’re running a small senior, disabled persons, or elder care business, but with these tips you’ll be on the right track!