After you decide that home care is the right option for your parent, selecting the right home health care provider requires a bit of research.
You can start by asking your parent’s hospital, discharge planner, doctor, or social worker for recommendations. If you have friends who have used home health care providers, also ask them if they recommend (or don’t recommend) any particular agency or individual provider.
Collect brochures and other informational materials from several agencies (or independent providers) to learn about the services offered and how much they cost. You need to determine which agencies/providers offer the specific health care services and personal care services that your parent needs.
This article focuses on selecting an agency. If you are hiring an individual provider, many of these considerations still apply, but you need to do your own background check on the individual and carefully check their references.
Learn About the Agency and Its Employees
The quality of an agency and its employees is of the utmost importance. Ask questions such as:
- How does the agency hire, screen, and train caregivers? Does the agency do a criminal record background check and communicable disease screen of its employees?
- Will the agency provide references for its caregivers?
- Is the agency accredited by a healthcare accrediting agency?
- Is the agency properly licensed by the state (if required in your state)? You might also want to know how long has the agency has been providing services.
Understand how the agency operates:
- How does the agency maintain patient confidentiality?
- How closely do supervisors monitor care and quality?
- Are staff members or a nursing supervisor available, if needed, at any time, seven days a week? How are complaints resolved, and who do you call if you have question or complaint?
- Does the agency have a “Patient Bill of Rights” that describes the rights and responsibilities of the agency, caregiver, and patient?
- Does the agency prepare a written plan of care for your parent (with input from your parent, your parent’s doctor, and you) and update the plan as needed?
Personal Considerations in Selecting an Agency
Determine if the agency meets the personal needs of both you and your parent:
- Does the agency meet any special needs, such as language or cultural preferences?
- Does the agency offer additional support services you need, such as helping arrange Meals on Wheels, for your parent?
- Does the agency staff educate you and other family members about your parent’s care and ways you can assist?
- Who does the agency call if the home health caregiver cannot come when scheduled?
If you plan to pay for care with Medicare or Medicaid, is the agency Medicare-certified and Medicaid-certified?
Does the agency offer a sliding scale fee based on your parent’s ability to pay, or is any other financial assistance available?
Can the agency explain what your parent’s insurance will cover and what the out-of-pocket expenses will be?
Also, ask the agency for references. Does the agency have letters from satisfied patients, family members, and doctors or medical professionals? You may also want to talk to references. Ask medical professionals questions such as how often they refer patients to this agency and if patients are generally satisfied with the services. Ask patients or family members about the strengths and weaknesses of the agency/caregiver and their overall level of satisfaction with the services provided.
If you are hiring an independent provider, checking references is even more important!
Assuming a home care agency is Medicare-certified, you can review its Medicare Survey Report. You can get this document by contacting the health department or health insurance counseling program in your state. Medicare also has an online tool that lets you compare Medicare-certified home health agencies.