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Questions To Ask Providers

Once you acquire several provider options, you will want to learn more about their services and reputations. The following is a checklist of questions to ask providers and individuals who may know about the provider's track record. Their insight will help you determine which provider is best for you or your loved one.

Questions To Ask Providers

  • How long has this provider been serving the community?
  • Does this provider supply literature explaining its services, eligibility requirements, fees, and funding sources? Many providers furnish patients with a detailed "Patient Bill of Rights" that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the providers, patients, and caregivers alike. An annual report and other educational materials also can provide helpful information about the provider.
  • How does this provider select and train its employees? Does it protect its workers with written personnel policies, benefits packages, and malpractice insurance?
  • Are nurses or therapists required to evaluate the patient's home care needs? If so, what does this entail? Do they consult the patient's physicians and family members?
  • Does this provider include the patient and his or her family members in developing the plan of care? Are they involved in making care plan changes?
  • Is the patient's course of treatment documented, detailing the specific tasks to be carried out by each professional caregiver? Does the patient and his or her family receive a copy of this plan, and do the caregivers update it as changes occur? Does this provider take time to educate family members on the care being administered to the patient?
  • Does this provider assign supervisors to oversee the quality of care patients are receiving in their homes? If so, how often do these individuals make visits? Who can the patient and his or her family members call with questions or complaints? How does the agency follow up on and resolve problems?
  • What are the financial procedures of this provider? Does the provider furnish written statements explaining all of the costs and payment plan options associated with home care?
  • What procedures does this provider have in place to handle emergencies? Are its caregivers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
  • How does this provider ensure patient confidentiality?
  • In addition, ask the home care provider to supply you with a list of references, such as doctors, discharge planners, patients or their family members, and community leaders who are familiar with the provider's quality of service.

Questions for References

  • Do you frequently refer clients to this provider?
  • Do you have a contractual relationship with this provider? If so, do you require the provider to meet special standards for quality care?
  • What sort of feedback have you gotten from patients receiving care from this provider, either on an informal basis or through a formal satisfaction survey?

Know Your Needs

Before you start the task of looking for a caregiver, your first step is to determine the level of care needed. If, for example, he/she only needs help with activities of daily living like preparing meals, doing laundry, bathing, or dressing, a "homemaker" or "personal care aide" will do. But, if your loved one needs health care services, there are "home health aides" that may do all the things a homemaker does, plus they also have training in administering medications, changing wound dressings, and other medically related duties. Home health aides often work under a nurse's supervision.

Once you settle on a level of care, you then need to decide how many hours of assistance your loved one will need. For example, does he/she need someone to come in just a few mornings a week to help cook, clean, run errands, or perhaps bathe? Or does he/she need more continuous care that requires daily visits or a full-time aide? After you determine the needs, there are two ways in which you can go about hiring someone. Either through a home health agency, or you can hire someone directly on your own.

Home Health Agencies

Hiring a certified home health agency to supply and manage your loved one's care is the easiest but most expensive option of the two. Costs run anywhere from $12 up to $40 an hour depending on where you live and the qualification of the aide. This is also usually a better way to go if your loved one requires a lot of in-home health care. How it works is you pay the agency, and they handle everything including an assessment of the patient's needs, assigning appropriately trained and pre-screened staff to care for him/her, and finding a fill-in on days her aide cannot come. Some of the drawbacks, however, are that you may not have much input into the selection of the caregiver, and the caregivers may change or alternate, which can cause a disruption in care and confusion. Be sure to address these topics when your loved one is admitted to an agency. 

You also need to know that while Medicare does cover some in-home health care services if ordered by a doctor, they don't cover homemaker services, nor will they cover personal care services, such as bathing and dressing, provided by a home health aide if that is the only care required. But, if your loved one is low-income and qualifies for Medicaid, some services are covered.

To locate and compare Medicare-approved home health agencies, use the Home Health Compare tool, and call (800) 633-4227 and request a free copy of the "Medicare and Home Health Care" publication (#10969) that explains coverage and how to choose an agency.

Direct Hire

Hiring an independent caregiver on your own is the other option, and it's less expensive. Costs typically range between $10 and $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire so you can choose someone who you feel is right for your loved one.

But, be aware that if you do hire someone on your own, you become the employer so there's no agency support to fall back on if a problem occurs or if the aide doesn't show up. You are also responsible for paying payroll taxes and any worker-related injuries that may happen. If you choose this option make sure you check the aide's references thoroughly, and do a criminal background check.

To find someone, ask for referrals through friends, doctor's offices, or hospital discharge planners. Some states even offer registries to help you locate good caregivers. Or, for a fee, an Aging Life Care Expert can help find someone.

Source: SavvySenior.org

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