The decision to hire an in-home care provider for yourself or a loved one is a big deal.
This is due to the fact that a home care agency is responsible for the health, safety, and well being of an individual. The caregiver that is assigned to a senior citizen quickly becomes a major part of their life. Therefore, they must be trustworthy, hard-working and have a friendly personality. The nature of the tasks performed by an in-home care provider necessitates compassion and patience. The last thing anyone wants is to end up with a senior care agency that assigns a caregiver whose heart is not in the right place.
The process of interviewing a home care agency is critical in determining the quality of care that a senior will receive. Sometimes, when the interviewing process begins, seniors and their families are not sure what questions are appropriate, or important, to ask. This uncertainty may result in unfortunate consequences down the road.
In this article, we will go over a list of pertinent questions any trustworthy home care agency should be able to answer.
Does the Agency Accept Medicare and Other Insurance Carriers?
Eligibility requirements for in-home senior care are somewhat complicated. The rules for in-home care provider eligibility are available in a booklet Medicare publishes, which further explains these requirements. In addition, the Medicare.gov website is another credible resource.
On this topic, an important thing to ask any in-home care agency, is whether they accept Medicare at all. Some agencies do, and others do not. So, if a Medicare or supplemental policy is part of your plan for payment, it is best to find out whether your policy is accepted right off the bat. The same goes for any other type of medical insurance. If the agency accepts the coverage, find out what services the plan covers and which ones it does not.
Will a Home Health Aide or a Personal Care Aide be Assigned for Senior Care?
Home Health Aides are the more intensive option of the two, because they can handle some medically related issues. HHA’s are certified nursing assistants, in addition to being certified home health aides. Home health aides are trained to monitor the physical and mental conditions of a patient. This includes specialized training to teach senior citizens how to use canes, walkers and other equipment for personal hygiene. HHA’s also maintain a patient journal, and will notify a nursing supervisor if there is cause for concern. Home health aides assist with dressing, bathing, grooming, and they provide general housekeeping services, such as laundry, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.
Personal Care Aides do not have the qualifications of a home health aide, but may be perfectly adequate for many situations where minimum care is required. Personal care aides perform similar duties to HHA’s, including assisting with everyday tasks and fundamental hygiene issues. One of their more critical roles is to provide companionship to seniors, and therefore they are sometimes referred to as home companions. PCA’s receive their training from the American Red Cross approved programs and completion establishes certification.
Home health aides and personal care aides also work in capacities outside of home care. They work at retirement communities, senior living centers, and other institutions that cater to seniors as well as disabled people.
What are the Qualifications of the Assigned Caregiver?
The most important home care agency questions are the ones that pertain to the caregivers themselves.
Preferably, the senior care agency will assign caregivers that are bonded and insured through the agency. Inquiries regarding their pre-employment screening process and what qualities they look for in a successful candidate for employment are the right place to start. Ask about their employee evaluation process and what specific services the caregiver will provide. Inquire whether the same caregiver is assigned to the same senior every time because if a good relationship develops, it is potentially traumatic for a new caregiver to take over the case arbitrarily.
Above all, ask for multiple references not only for the caregiver assigned but for the agency itself. Make a point to check the references thoroughly and speak with the individuals supplying the references at length, asking multiple questions to all of them. There is no such thing as being too curious about the character of the person who will be taking care of the senior, even to the point of running an independent background check to be sure.
Also, ask whether the agency will provide a different caregiver if the one assigned is not a good fit, shows up late, or does not have a personality that is acceptable to the senior. Investigate whether it is possible to review the resumes of several caregivers to find one with similar interests, or to choose the one with the most experience. Do not assume that the in-home care agency will automatically assign the most experienced candidate.
Requesting the option to interview several caregivers yourself is wise, and if the agency has a problem with that, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
How Much is The Caregiver Being Paid?
This question may seem intrusive or inappropriate, but there is a valid reason for knowing the answer. Both home health aides and personal care aides and notoriously underpaid. The most qualified caregivers naturally tend to work for the agencies that pay the highest, so if the agency is paying their caregivers $10 per hour, they will likely be less experienced than the ones working at an agency that pays $15 per hour.
Does the Agency Assign Caregivers that Have Experience with Specific Conditions?
The reason for this question has to do with ensuring that the caregiver has experience with any conditions that the senior may suffer from, such as diabetes. A caregiver whose expertise is limited to patients with respiratory issues should not care for a client that has Parkinson’s disease, for example. Agencies that assign caregivers with specific areas of expertise may charge more, and that is essential to know as well.
How Quickly Will the Agency Respond to an Unforeseen Scheduling Issue?
In the event of a personal emergency, how quickly can the agency get someone to the senior for coverage? In other words, if a family member intends to be with a senior on a day when a caregiver is not scheduled, but that family member has an emergency, will the agency be able to scramble a caregiver to the location so that the senior is not left alone?
In summary, the hiring process for retaining a senior care agency is one that requires the right home care agency questions. The questions above are by no means a comprehensive list, and it’s a good idea to write out a more extensive one before meeting with an agency.
Often, the best place to start the search is with a trusted primary care physician, who should be an integral part of the decision making regardless. With proper due diligence, the right agency and caregiver can improve the quality of life for the person that means the most.