You and your family have decided that it is time to bring in outside help to assist with the care of a loved one in need. Because you want them to be able to remain safe, comfortable and independent in their own home for as long as possible, you have chosen to hire an in-home caregiver or home healthcare agency. The next step is choosing the best care provider for you and your loved one. But how do you know who the best is?
Here are five tips for finding a quality home care provider:
- Get recommendations. Talk to trusted professionals and community members. Your parent’s doctor, financial advisor, attorney, other medical providers, friends or family members may have familiarity and experience with local companies that do a good job. A list of providers is also available from your local Area Agency on Aging or hospital social work department. However, it is rare for these resources to make specific recommendations.
- Know your liability. Understand the possible liabilities and ramifications involved when hiring a caregiver privately. Consider issues such as taxes, insurance, liability and worker’s compensation, backup coverage, background checks/oversight and training. If hiring through a nurse registry or employment agency, the family may end up being the official employer, responsible for pay, taxes and other obligations. On the other end of the spectrum, fully licensed private duty home health agencies offer more comprehensive services and protections as employers of the caregivers. To learn more about state agency requirements and protections, contact your state licensing agency for healthcare organizations, or visit the National Private Duty Association at www.privatedutyhomecare.org.
- Consider innovation. Research how current their monitoring and communications technology is. How easy is it to monitor the care your loved one is receiving? Do they use technology like telephone clock in systems and scheduling software for quality assurance? How quickly are they aware if a caregiver has not shown up to provide care? What methods do they use to communicate with you? Do they offer you conveniences such as online monitoring and paying bills online or via credit card? Do they keep up to date with aging in place technology and can they provide you recommendations that may bolster care?
- Get to know who you’re hiring. When talking with an agency, get a feel for their process. Will they allow you and your loved one to interview potential caregivers? How do they handle replacing a caregiver that is not a good fit? What steps do they take to ensure coverage and accountability? How do they supervise, train and support staff? Do they strive for continuity or will your loved one have different staff each time? How many caregivers will cover the shifts your loved one requires? It is important to discuss your loved one’s specific diagnosis and needs, finding out the agency’s experience with similar situations and any special training and guidance they provide, for example training on working with clients with Alzheimer’s disease. While regulations standardize licensed home care agencies to a degree, these are the things that will set one agency apart from another.
- Research involvement. Seek out providers who have a history in the community and the industry. Check if providers are involved with local and national associations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, the Area Agency on Aging and the National Private Duty Association. Their involvement demonstrates passion and dedication for their field. Management staff that has a history in the community and the profession demonstrates a commitment, stability and a positive reputation that they would want to protect.
Photo credit: familymwr
About the authors: Alex Chamberlain is executive director at EasyLiving, Inc. (http://www.easylivingfl.com), a fully licensed, private duty home health care company serving individuals and families in Pinellas and Pasco counties in Florida.
Shannon Martin, M.S.W., CMC, serves as Director of Communications for EasyLiving, Inc. and Aging Wisely, LLC (http://www.agingwisely.com). Shannon has worked for Aging Wisely, a professional geriatric care management and consultation firm, for over 8 years.