Selecting a qualified, compatible homecare provider is one of the most important decisions you and your family will make should a loved one require long-term care services in one’s home, an assisted living facility, or nursing home.
Before selecting a homecare provider, it is important to evaluate and compare your options to determine if the agency that you are considering is a right fit for you and your loved ones. You will want to check agency reviews and references. Be sure that you receive thorough answers to all your questions. Below is a list of questions to ask the agency or others who may have experience with the agency.
- What kind of services can and do the caregivers provide? Examples: bathing, dressing, toileting, fall prevention, cooking, medication reminders, light housework, appointment assistance/reminders, transportation? This will look different for the services that you or your loved ones need.
- How does the agency select and train its employees? What types of screenings, background checks, and drug tests are done? Is the agency bonded?
- How well are employees compensated compared to going industry rates and compensation? Does the agency provide health insurance and other benefits, paid time off, and sick leave? Does the agency have malpractice insurance? Good compensation reduces staff turnover.
- What kind of sick leave policy does the agency have to ensure that caregivers do not feel compelled to come into work when they are ill?
- How can we be assured that the caregiver will show up when scheduled? How is the caregiver supervised?
- Does the agency have a continuing education program?
- What kind of experience and education will the caregivers have?
- Does the agency provide for any special needs or specific health care services needed, like physical therapy, occupational therapy, dementia care, language or cultural preferences? You may want to ask if the agency has ongoing training or certification for certain needs that your loved one has (fall-prevention, Alzheimer’s/dementia, etc.)
- Will you receive a list of the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved? This is usually referred to as a patient bill of rights.
- How long has the provider been in business serving the community? How is staff turnover? What is the average length of time that a caregiver has been with the agency?
- Does each patient have a personalized plan of care compiled by various specialists, documented with specific tasks detailing exactly who will carry them out? Does a medical professional or experienced supervisor evaluate the plan of care? Will required medical equipment be included in the plan? This is important because a plan of care should be a living, working document that changes as your loved one’s needs change. You will want an agency and caregiver who is flexible and will be constantly evaluating and looking to improve the care that is needed.
- Is the family included in developing the plan of care?
- Is the family updated as needs change and the plan of care is changed to fit those needs?
- Does the family receive a written copy of the plan of care every time it is changed?
- Is the family consulted and educated about the changes to the plan of care?
- How is care supervised? How often does a supervisor observe and monitor the care provided?
- How and with whom can the family direct questions, concerns, and complaints?
- What is the agency’s process for following up on complaints and resolving problems?
- How will the agency communicate and update you as to my loved one’s progress? This can be especially important if you are managing care from afar. How often will the agency or caregiver update you on how your loved one is doing?
- When will care be provided? Is care available around-the-clock, if necessary?
- Will my loved one have a consistent caregiver or caregiver team?
- Can the agency promise continuity of care? A revolving door of caretakers can be confusing and disconcerting for some clients.
- What procedures are in place to handle emergencies? What is the plan in case of power failure or natural disaster?
- Ask the agency to explain their funding sources. Ask for an annual report and other educational materials?
- What are the agency’s financial procedures? Ask for literature explaining all fees and expenditures associated with care. How often are statements produced, how soon must payment be made, what are payment options? How detailed is care documented? Does the provider have familiarity with Long-Term Care Insurance and will it be able to actively assist, or even completely take care of the claim process for the client/family? Get all details about costs and payments in writing.
- Are services provided over the weekend or holiday charged at a higher rate?
- Who does the agency send for an initial in-home assessment? You want this to be a skilled nurse. Is this a free service?
- As needs increase or decrease over time, what is your process to address changes in care needs over time?
- When can services begin?
- You can also ask for a list of references from the agency/care provider, including doctors, social workers, patients and family members, and community members. You can ask references that the agency provides, or those whom you can locate independently, if they would recommend the agency, if they regularly refer people to this agency, what feedback they have received.
If you are able to talk with the potential caregiver him or herself, consider these questions:
- What made you become a professional caregiver?
Learn what motivates him or her and get a sense of their sincerity. You want to find someone who will pay close attention and offer compassionate, thorough care to your loved one.