Nov 16th 2021

Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home Care Provider

Choosing a home care provider is one of the hardest decisions family caregivers make. It's an emotionally charged process for you as the caregiver—there's guilt, fear, worry, doubt, grief, and sadness. It’s also emotional for your loved one—the loss of autonomy and independence weighs heavily, and the thought of bringing a stranger into the home may stir up feelings of fear and mistrust.

As you deal with these difficult emotions, how will you think clearly and practically to find the best fit?

Bobbi Jo Curty, a Pennsylvania-based licensed geriatric social worker, recommends these vetting questions:

1. Is the provider accredited, licensed, and insured?

Each state has different requirements and regulations around home care agencies, but for your peace of mind—ensuring your loved one's safety and quality of care are top priorities—you'll want to choose a provider whose services are fully certified. When you call the providers you're considering, ask them if they have the state-required license for their business, and if they carry the proper levels of insurance for both employees and clients.

Accreditation affirms the organization’s quality and excellence in care. While it's not required to operate a home care agency, accreditation demonstrates the provider is willing to be held to the highest standards in delivering quality care.

2. What's the caregiver hiring process?

A complete stranger is about to come into your home—or the home of your loved one. This person will be delivering highly personal care to someone you care about. So make sure the home care agency practices due diligence regarding their employees. Do they conduct background checks and reference checks? What certifications and licenses do the employees have?

Ask these questions before proceeding, no matter how good the provider looks on paper.

3. What kind of education and training are provided for caregivers?

Another component of quality home care is training for direct care workers. Does the provider require ongoing education and professional development? Do they provide dementia training or specialized training for other types of care needs, such as stroke recovery, hip/knee rehabilitation, or COPD?

Choose a provider that is able to best meet your loved one's unique care needs.

4. Do their services meet your needs?

Home care runs the gamut from companion care to highly skilled clinical care. Does your loved one need help with grooming, dressing, and housekeeping? Do they need wound care, IV therapy, or incontinence care? Medication management is another important consideration. Do you want the home care worker to administer meds, or will you continue to do that?

Once you've determined the level of care needed, consider only the agencies that are able to provide those services. Also, not all providers are equal in terms of services offered — beyond a skilled vs. non-skilled designation. For example, they may provide companion care that only includes light housework and meal preparation, and not assistance with personal care tasks or medical transportation. Finally, check whether the provider has enough available staff trained in your specific needs, e.g., dementia care for a loved one in the middle-to-late stages of dementia.

5. What is the cost?

Rates vary between the types of home health services required (e.g., medical vs. non-medical), and the length of the shifts. Some agencies require a set amount of hours per shift/day before agreeing to perform services.

Depending on how you plan to pay for home health services, you may want to find out if the provider will accept long-term care insurance or other types of financial assistance.

Utilizing these five questions when choosing home health services can help you feel empowered about making the best choices for your family. Having this type of confidence can make all the difference in ensuring your loved one's safety and quality of care are top priorities.