Should I Hire Home Care Through an Agency? – Massachusetts

By Harry S. Margolis

We’re often asked by clients who need to hire an in-home caregiver for family members whether they should advertise and hire someone privately, or go through an agency?

It’s definitely easier to go through an agency, at least if you plan to “go by the book.” Various laws make it difficult to hire anyone on one’s own.  You have to get worker’s compensation insurance, pay into your state’s unemployment insurance pool, and take FICA and income taxes out of your employee’s pay and deposit it with the federal and state governMarshall Margaretments. 

Former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall recently spoke to an Alzheimer’s Association breakfast about caring for her mother who suffered from the disease and commented on the near impossibility of a non-business satisfying all of these requirements, something she had to do in her role as the top judge in the Commonwealth.  She said she had the resources to hire an attorney to handle any problems that arose, but recognized that most family caregivers do not have this option available.

A private agency will be set up to do all of this for you. In addition, private agencies conduct background checks on employees as well as provide for supervision and backup if your homecare worker is unavailable on a particular day. 

For all of these reasons, in most cases it makes sense to use a private agency, the number of which seem to be proliferating in recent years.  But, as with everything, ask around before you choose a particular agency to see what experience others have had with it.  And ask to speak to a few of the agency’s clients before making a decision.

Are there any drawbacks to using a private home care agency?  Mainly price and loss of control. Anyone you hire through an agency is serving two masters, for better or worse.  This can help if there’s a problem, but also means that you will have less control.

In addition, agencies charge for the services they provide over and above what they pay the caregiver.  If you already have someone you know well and trust, perhaps a family member, you may want to hire him or her directly.  This may also be the case if you simply cannot afford the agency rates and can find someone to hire for less.  But be aware that if that person is injured on the job, you could be personally liable.

In short, go with an agency if you can, but look at other alternatives if necessary.

To websites to start your search for both private agencies and individual caregivers are and

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