Beginning the search for a home care provider can be overwhelming and stressful. There are a number of factors to consider such as reputation, cost, and the type of care you need. Additionally, every family looking for home care services has a unique situation and what is best for someone might not be the right option for someone else. Here are some steps you can take as you navigate the search process in order to find the right home care providers to fit your needs:
Understand Your Needs (Home Health Care vs. Non-Medical In-Home Care)
The first step to finding the right care provider is understanding your specific needs. Home care comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, two of the most common types being home health care and non-medical in-home care. There are important differences between these two categories that you should know before you begin your search.
Home health care refers broadly to a number of services that can be given in your home to address the needs of an illness or injury, with the ultimate goal of returning to self-sufficiency. According to AgingInPlace, home health care professionals include registered nurses, speech pathologists, physical therapists, and neurologists. The types of services they provide differ based on the needs of the patient, but it is important to note that home health care providers can only provide services that have been prescribed by a doctor such as occupational therapy, wound care, or mobility training.
Non-medical in-home care, on the other hand, is a home-based service that helps patients with daily life activities such as bathing and dressing; using the restroom; medication management; and cooking and cleaning. Providers are usually not medical professionals, but instead are trained for helping with daily essential tasks. They do not require a doctor’s prescription, so you will have to create a care plan and decide the type of services for which you would like assistance on your own.
After you have decided which category of care you will need, you should begin to look over costs, as in-home care can be expensive. Medicare will cover home health care prescribed by a doctor, but only if there is a presumed end in sight and the condition that requires care is not expected to be chronic. According to Huffington Post, Medicare also only covers up to 35 hours per week, so if you are in need of full-time care, exploring ways to cover the additional costs will be an important part of the search process for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical hourly wage for in-home nursing ranges from $23.02-$34.54 depending on the expertise of your provider.
The AARP notes that while non-medical in-home care is not covered by Medicare if it is the only type of care needed, some Medicare Advantage plans do provide coverage. You will need to check with your health insurance provider ahead of time in order to get the most accurate picture of your individual out-of-pocket cost for non-medical in-home personal care. The median hourly wage for these kinds of providers can range from $11.55-$13.72, depending on training and qualifications. However, these costs can be significantly higher depending on the market if you are in an urban area or are hiring through an agency or other organization.
If you will be paying out-of-pocket, make sure to ask about flexible payment plans, additional fees, if you will be responsible for social security and other payroll taxes, and how expenses will be billed to you in order to avoid unexpected charges.
Search and Hiring Process
The next step is deciding how to hire your care provider. One option is using an agency, which is an organization that finds, screens, and hires a caregiver that is right for your needs. While this option is typically more expensive, it also does a lot of the work for you, such as drug testing and background screening. Medicare’s Home Health Compare is a great online tool to find registries in your area.
Another option is using a registry, which connects you with independent caregivers, with whom you can define the nature of the employer/employee relationship such as time off, wages, and flexible scheduling. This option allows for a lot more flexibility on your end and is typically less expensive. However, background checks, screening, and arranging paperwork and training will be entirely up to you. According to the AARP, local governments have public registries of certified home care providers.
Ask the Right Questions
When you begin to reach out and speak to different prospective care providers, asking the right questions is an essential part of the process and the best way for you to gain the information necessary to weigh your options. It is important to ask about training and references; what services can be provided and if there is any supervision; and even if an in-person interview to assess compatibility is possible. It is also essential to inquire about certifications. Certifications vary by state, and asking about local certification status can help you ensure the legitimacy of the agency or provider before you hire them, as well as have peace of mind that they are monitored by the proper regulatory entities. Family Caregiver Alliance’s Services by State is a great resource to look for the right certifications in your state to ask about. In addition, Mayo Clinic provides a fantastic list of simple questions to ask before hiring your home health care provider at this link.
Discuss a Care Plan
Once you have found a provider that will work for your needs, the final step is discussing a plan for care. Prior to the first shift, the Family Caregiver Alliance suggests discussing with intake personnel how you will track progress and completion of care plans, as well as ensure that no part of the caregiving process is being overlooked.