If your elderly loved one requires personal and medical assistance due to injury, illness, disability, or declining health, you may want to consider a home health care agency. Home health care agencies employ caregivers and specialists such as occupational therapists, companions, home health aides, and registered nurses. They tend to the patient at his or her own home.
With many home health care agencies available, it can be difficult to find the right one for your elderly loved one’s needs. You’ll need to do a significant amount of research before making a decision. Here are some tips to facilitate that decision-making process.
Note that there’s a difference between a home health care agency and a non-medical home agency. A non-medical home agency provides people who do basic housekeeping and personal care tasks. On the other hand, a home health care agency features specialists and caregivers who focus on more health and medical-related tasks such as administering medication, aiding in physical therapy, and monitoring medical equipment.
Why a Home Health Care Agency?
For many elderly people, staying in an unfamiliar environment—even for a short time—can be frightening. Additionally, the idea of losing one’s independence and personal space can be disconcerting. Remaining at home, where he or she is surrounded by their personal items, family photos, and furniture maintains security and comfort. Therefore, it’s best for an elderly loved one to stay home for as long as possible but still receive the care they need. In addition, hiring help from a home health care agency is cheaper than a hospital or nursing home bill.
Another reason for using a home health care agency is that their specialists can supplement the current family caregiver. Many family caregivers are stretched thin, caring of their elderly loved ones while caring for their own families or working full-time jobs. Home health care agency caregivers can take over for a few hours a week (or even all day), allowing the family caregiver some rest and personal time, or maybe even giving up that role entirely.
Expect Some Resistance
Before you begin your search, discuss the situation with your elderly loved one. There’s a strong chance that he or she will object to a caregiver, which is understandable. Many people will feel uneasy, even afraid at the thought of letting a stranger in their homes. They may fear that they will be robbed, or worse. Explain to your loved one why hiring a caregiver is necessary, even if you are a family caregiver. If he or she is still resistant, offer a short trial of say, a week or two.
If they are capable, consider inviting your elderly loved one to participate in the research and selection process. It may alleviate their worries. Perhaps he or she can even accompany you when you speak to potential caregivers once you’ve narrowed down a particular home health agency.
Home Health Care Agency vs. Independent Caregivers
Some families choose to eliminate the middle man of home health care agencies and hire an independent caregiver. It’s a tempting option, primarily because independent caregivers generally cost about 30-40% less than agency caregivers. However if you go this route, this means that you are the employer and are thus responsible for various employment laws and taxes. You will need to do the background and credit checks for potential caregivers. You also have fewer options during emergencies. What happens if the independent caregiver is sick? A home health care agency on the other hand, will be able to provide a substitute caregiver. It’s not surprising then, that many families opt for using a home health care agency to find the right caregiver for their elderly loved one.
Talk to People
The first step in finding a good home health care agency is to talk to friends, co-workers, family members, and doctors to get advice. Ask them what they look for in a home health care agency and which places they recommend. Your elderly loved one’s physician may even suggest what kinds of specialists are required.
The second step is to think about your budget. Particularly, consider the duration of the required services—how long will your elderly loved one need specialist help? A few weeks or months? Indefinitely? And how many hours per day? How many specialists will you need to hire? These factors will affect the costs. Additionally, some places take Medical or Medicare, so check if the facilities you’re interested in are covered.
When you have a better idea of your loved one’s needs and your budget, start that list of home health care agencies. Look for the following information when you visit their websites or call them: licensing, accreditation/certification, and insurance. See if they provide information on their employees, including screening and hiring procedures, background checks, training (medical, non-medical, and emergency situations), and whether or not they’re bonded.
Reviews and References
Look online for reviews of your potential home health care agencies. Major review sites such as Yelp and Consumer Reports will have some ratings. The Medicare website has a section on home health care listings as well. Of course, don’t just rely on online reviews. Ask the potential agencies for references as well.
Find the Right Caregiver for Your Elderly Loved One
When it comes to matching the right caregiver with your loved one, you may have to look to factors in addition to their training and skills. This is a person who will spend lots of time with your family member, so it’s important that they get along. It helps if the caregiver has similarities or something in common with your loved one. Some people feel more comfortable with a caregiver who speaks the same language as them, or is the same gender or ethnicity. Others may like spending time with a caregiver of the same religion. Ask the home health care agency how caregivers are matched, and if they can accommodate special requests.
If you are looking for a home health care agency for your elderly loved one or have any questions, please fill out the form at the Community Home Health Care home page and one of our helpful staff will contact you as soon as possible.