Discover how to evaluate home care companies with tips from Seniorly. Make an informed decision by asking the right questions and knowing what answers to expect.
Ask any older adult where they want to age, and it's likely you'll get some variation of "in my own home". Indeed, a 2021 AARP study confirms that despite the benefits associated with aging in a structured senior living community, most seniors want to age in place for as long as they can.
If you have an aging family member who wishes to stay in their own home but requires some assistance (either with medical or non-medical care), you're probably considering engaging the service of a home health agency. In-home care allows families to tailor the care provided to fit your loved one's exact needs, whether they require a few hours of assistance each week or full-time care - or something in between. From providing quality care to providing socialization, the best caregivers support so many vital functions.
But the process of evaluating home care providers is tricky, to say the least. In most cases, caregivers are alone with care recipients for hours on end - so trust, confidence and peace of mind are paramount. If you're exploring in home care solutions, you'll need to do a bit of research and interview several candidates before you find the right caregiver. But how to start? We've outlined a step-by-step process for deciding on the right care solution for your loved one.
While home care is often the preferred option for older adults, the decision to engage home care services or support will often come down to a financial one. Like many other services, the cost is dependent on two factors: how much care your loved one needs, and the level of complexity of the care. If, for example, skilled nursing services are needed around the clock, it may be more financially prudent to consider assisted living or a skilled nursing facility. On the other hand, if the only care needs are more limited - say, household support and socialization, the financial burden will be less taxing.
As you narrow down the type of care your loved one needs, you'll start with this basic question: Do you need a caregiver who will live in the home and be available 24/7? Or will home health care for your loved one be fine with someone who comes in daily or even just a few hours a week?
To make this choice, assess how much care your family members really need. Are they safe and comfortable during nighttime hours, or could they run into trouble in the middle of the night? The National Caregivers Library has a helpful worksheet that allows family members to gain clarity on the level, quality and complexity of care needed.
In home care vs senior living community
If you've filled out the National Caregivers Library worksheet and decided that in-home health care is your preference, you've already got the answers to some important questions. Does your loved one need medical care (e.g. IV change, insulin injections, wound care), or just help with the activities of daily living (e.g. dressing, feeding, meal preparation, getting around)? Do they need simple medication reminders or will they require medication management?
Once you've gained clarity on the type of care needed, you'll want to decide on the right care environment. Generally speaking, when care needs are more complex and time-intensive, families should consider a structured senior living solution, such as an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. While cost is the deciding factor for most families, the coordination of care should also be a consideration. In a one-on-one environment, routine occurrences like sick days or vacation time can put serious strain on family members to support the continuity of care. If you've filled out the worksheet above and concluded that the level of care may be too complex for in-home care, Seniorly has created a great assessment tool to help families determine the right type senior living community.
Home health agency vs independent caregiver
If you've decided that home care is your preferred solution, Next you'll want to consider what type of home care solution you want. You can engage the services of a health care agency, or you can hire an individual caregiver who meets your needs. While home care agencies are generally more expensive, they do provide some valuable services that many families do not want to manage. In particular, agencies tend to manage things for employees, like payroll services, background checks, coverage for sick or vacation time, and generally provide expertise, oversight and structure for more complex care needs.
Impact on family members
Whatever you decide, this is an important time to check in with any other family members who may be impacted by the decision. Each family member may be called upon to coordinate care from time to time, it's vital to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a chance to share input before you proceed.
Evaluating home health agencies
To make sure that your loved one stays safe and healthy at home, most families choose to work with an agency to support more complex care. While you should ask any and every question that comes to mind, we've compiled a list of six questions that we think are worth covering in any interview.
Evaluating home care caregivers
Before you engage or hire an in-home caregiver for your loved one, you'll want to meet them and get a sense of whether they'll be a good fit. Caregivers have an extremely intimate relationship with their clients, and they can become very close emotionally. During your interview, you're looking for more than just the professional qualifications and skills needed. You're also looking for someone who's trustworthy and who's a good match in personality for your loved one. Here are five questions to get you started when interviewing prospective caregivers.
Your interview with your caregiver provider will help you determine if you've found the right provider or correct match while also providing the caregiver with enough information to decide whether they will accept the position.
If you're still feeling stuck, it may be helpful to engage the services of a professional senior living advisor. These individuals are very familiar with care options in your area and usually provide consultative services free of charge (they are compensated on a referral basis by the agency or community with which you ultimately engage). If you'd like to speak to someone in your area, simply call us at 855-606-1009 and the Seniorly team will connect you with someone in your area.
Arthur Bretschneider is CEO and Co-Founder of Seniorly. As a third generation leader in the senior living industry, Arthur brings both deep compassion and a wealth of practical experience to his work at Seniorly. Arthur holds an MBA from Haas School of Business and has been featured in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as a thought leader in the senior living space. Arthur is a passionate and vocal advocate for improving the lives of older adults through community, and believes strongly that structured senior living environments can positively impact the aging experience.
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