So you’ve decided it’s time to find a caregiver. You need someone who can help your loved one with meal preparation, light housekeeping tasks, personal care, or medical conditions. You want the best possible assistance, but it’s hard to tell which provider will do the best job.
Luckily, there are a few different ways you can determine which agency will work best for you. Here are some tips to help you choose the right home care agency to meet your loved one’s needs.
What is a Home Care Agency?
A home care agency is a licensed organization that employs trained caregivers who work in clients’ homes. Depending on the agency and the client’s needs, care agencies may provide both light medical care and non-medical assistance such as preparing meals, doing light housework, and taking the client to appointments.
In Washington State, non-medical care is usually provided by a licensed caregiver known as a Home Care Aide (HCA-C). Clients who need regular medical assistance may require additional help from a Nursing Assistant (NAC).
10 Things to Consider When Looking at Home Care Agencies
Your Care Needs
Home care can include anything from assistance with light housekeeping tasks to skilled nursing for individuals with severe health concerns. Many new care recipients only need mild care, but if you are unsure what level of care you need, you can ask your physician or schedule an assessment visit from a home care provider.
The Home Care Agency’s Reputation
Not every care agency provides equally good care or has the same screening process for caregivers. Before you hire a home care agency, it’s a good idea to do your research and find out what other care recipients think. Be sure to talk to current care recipients or check online reviews for repeated negative comments.
Your Financial Situation
Your best home care option may depend on your financial means. While there are assistance programs for people who cannot afford care, they may not work with every care agency and may only cover the medical aspects of care.
In-Home Health Care Costs
A 2019 survey by Genworth found that the median monthly cost of employing a home health aide was $4,385. Costs are higher in some parts of the U.S. than others; in Washington State, the median cost is $5,815.
Some care recipients are able to fund the cost of in-home health care or homemaker assistance through a combination of investments, savings, life insurance policies, annuities, and home equity loans. Many people can also get assistance through Medicaid or Medicare.
Qualifying for In-Home Health Care With Medicare
Medicare pays for skilled in-home health care services such as nursing and therapy under certain circumstances. To qualify for these benefits, a person must meet the following requirements:
- The person is getting services under a plan of care established and regularly reviewed by a doctor.
- The doctor certifies that the person needs intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology services, or continued occupational therapy.
- The home health agency is approved by Medicare.
- A doctor certifies that the person is homebound.
- A doctor or other health care professional documents that they’ve had a face-to-face encounter with the person within a specified period of time. The encounter should have been related to the reason the person needs in-home health care.
Medicare covers 100% of certain skilled care services for homebound patients following an acute episode such as hospitalization or a change in health status. For continuous medical care, Medicare covers a percentage of the cost. However, it does not cover care workers who help with less skilled tasks such as housework, bathing, dressing, and meal preparations.
The Care Agency’s Billing Process
Not all home care services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance. If you or your loved one uses these insurance methods to pay for care, it’s important to make sure the agency can work with them and the services you need are covered. You should also ask the home care agency’s intake coordinator about the rates for services and the agency’s billing practices.
Each state has its own requirements for home care agency certification. It’s a good idea to ask about your care agency’s state certification status to ensure they are fully legitimate and being monitored by regulatory agencies. To find out about requirements in your state, check the Family Caregiver Alliance’s Family Care Navigator.
Agency Caregiver Training
Caregivers need a fair amount of training to provide quality assistance. In some states, such as Washington, caregivers may be required to go through as many as 75 hours of training before they can receive certification. In others, there may be very few certification requirements.
As a minimum, be sure your agency’s caregivers are trained in CPR, first aid, and any specific healthcare concerns you may have. Depending on your needs, you may also want to look for caregivers who are proficient in a second language or familiar with your loved one’s culture and community.
Caregiver Screening Procedures
It’s understandable to be picky about who provides care for you or your loved one. You may wish to ask home care agencies if and how they do background checks on caregivers before committing to a provider. If you feel uncomfortable with a care agency’s procedures, you can find another agency.
The Caregiver Supervision Process
Since home care makes it difficult to provide the same level of caregiver supervision that you would see in an assisted living environment, families often worry whether there’s enough oversight. Many agencies have procedures to help with this concern, such as drop-in supervisor visits and software for clock-ins and care plans. Asking about these procedures can help you choose an agency you are comfortable with.
What References Have to Say
Most reputable care agencies can help you get in touch with current clients or partners who can provide a referral. If you are considering a home care agency, you may wish to get in touch with these references and ask about the quality of care available.
The Complete Care Plan
Every client is different and needs a unique care plan. When you hire a home care agency, you should take the time to discuss this plan with intake personnel and caregivers. Ask how the agency tracks care plan completion and check that the plan includes all the assistance your loved one needs.
Interviewing a Home Care Agency
After you narrow down your care agency options, the next step is to interview the people working there. Set up a call or appointment to ask questions like the following:
- Do you train caregivers? How do you test their competency?
- Do you perform background checks before hiring caregivers?
- Will my loved one have a consistent caregiver or different people coming in and out?
- What will you do to ensure the caregiver is a good fit for my loved one?
- Who is overseeing the caregiver, and how do they make sure the caregiver is providing sufficient care?
Think of this interview as a chance to confirm which option is best. After going through this process with each home care agency you are considering, you will likely have a good sense of which one is the best fit.
Explore Home Care in Western Washington With Sunrise
Sunrise Services provides home care services throughout the Puget Sound Region. We strive to provide compassionate care that maximizes independence and comfort for each individual. Reach out to us today to learn more about partnering with us.