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Choosing an Agency for In-Home Care

“There’s no place like home.”  This simple adage speaks volumes about the importance of comfort and security in our lives.  However, some people are unable to stay in their homes without some help for their daily needs.  There are two main types of in-home care agencies.

A.    Homemaker services for household duties and non-medical personal care are provided by home care agencies. This could include preparing meals, bathing, dressing or moving around the house. Depending on the state, these agencies may or may not be licensed.

B.     Health and Medical care provided by home health care agencies, includes nursing care, home health aides, and physical therapy. State and federal laws regulate these agencies. They are often Medicare and Medicaid certified. This means the agencies can get paid by these programs for providing home health services.

If you are considering hiring an agency to help you, your parent or other loved one remain at home, there are things you need to think about and questions you should ask in order to get the highest quality of care available. You want to select an agency that will provide the services you need.

Start by identifying what types of services you need. A doctor, care manager, or hospital discharge planner can help you with this list.

Once a list of agencies is made,

  • Call the agencies and ask them some initial questions about their services, costs and certification.
  • Make appointments to meet with those that sound promising.
  • When you meet in person, ask the rest of your questions and any others that come to mind.

The people providing services will have direct contact with your parent or loved one, so you will want to know as much about their qualifications and experience as possible. Some suggested questions to ask when looking for in-home care include:

General Questions

  • Is the agency licensed by the state?
  • What services does it provide?
  • Are services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Questions about Agency Staffing

  • What types of staff can the agency provide?
  • Are the staff employed or are they contractors?
  • What is the difference between being bonded and being insured?
  • Are staff members insured against theft or loss to a home through the agency?
  • What is the procedure if a staff person does not report to work when scheduled?
  • Can a different staff person be requested if I am unhappy with the worker the agency sent?

Questions about Costs

  • What is the cost of services? Is there a sliding fee scale?
  • Is your agency certified to be paid by Medicare and Medicaid?
  • How does the agency bill for costs? How often does the agency bill and does it bill Medicare or the insurance company directly?

Questions about Agency Quality

Measuring quality is sometimes hard but usually you know it when you see it. These questions help you gauge the quality of an agency and the care it provides.

  • Does the agency have references or satisfaction reports for itself and staff?
  • Is the agency inspected by an outside organization? If so, when was the last inspection and is an inspection report available to clients?
  • What kind of system, if any, is in place for receiving client problems or complaints and resolving them?

Is there a written plan of care for each client? Are clients and family members involved in putting it together or reviewing it?

 

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