Finding the best home care agency for your needs and budget doesn’t have to be complicated. Use this step-by-step guide to evaluate providers and feel confident about who you hire to care for your aging loved ones.
The following sections outline basic standards home care companies should meet, reasonable expectations you should have as a consumer, and specific questions you can ask to determine if a potential provider is a good match. Be sure to interview multiple agencies and compare the results before making a final decision.
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How to Find the Right Home Care Agency
There’s no doubt that finding in-home care for elderly loved ones is a process. Begin your search by identifying your home care needs and determining the level of care that’s required. To do this, it is important to understand the two basic levels of in-home services: home health care and nonmedical home care.
Read: The Difference Between Home Health Care and Nonmedical Home Care Services
There are many similarities between home health agencies and homemaker/companion service providers (many organizations provide both types of care), but this guide focuses on the process of hiring nonmedical home care services that are paid for privately. Once you have a general idea of what services you and your loved one would benefit from, you can begin contacting providers in your area to conduct interviews, get a feel for the staff, and gather information from the categories below.
Request Cost Information
The first question most families ask when contacting a provider is, “How much do you charge?” There is a great deal of information that must be exchanged during an initial phone call or consultation. Since home care services are personalized for each client, an accurate quote is based on all these details. Companies should provide a range of hourly rates for reference and begin a conversation to learn more about the care recipient and their unique care needs.
Although budget is a driver in your search, a better reflection of your true costs will only be possible once you have worked with the company to devise an initial care plan.
Neither the company nor the consumer wants any surprises when it comes to determining rates. It’s best to leave your cost estimate for the very end of your fact-finding phone call, or wait to get a more accurate rate during a face-to-face consultation. Instead, ask about general policies regarding payment and billing.
Inquire as to hourly rates and how those rates vary depending on services needed and caregiver qualifications/training.
Find out how frequently the company bills.
Determine whether they accept credit cards or require a deposit for services.
If applicable, ask if the company accepts long-term care insurance and whether they will bill the insurance company directly or require you to pay up front and then seek reimbursement.
Ask About Time Minimums
Within the cost analysis, be aware that different levels of care require differing amounts of service, which is measured in hours.
Many companies set a minimum hourly requirement for home visits—usually between two to four hours. Even if a client only needs approximately one hour of care on a particular day, they will likely be subject to paying for the minimum hourly requirement to schedule services.
Be sure to address the following points to establish a realistic care schedule (and associated cost estimate):
Work with the provider to evaluate how many hours of care you need.
Inquire about hourly minimums per visit.
Determine the process for adjusting care hours to meet changing needs.
Find out if adjusting the number of hours will require a change in the caregiver(s) assigned to you.
Understand the Types of In-Home Care Companies
The size, composition, ownership and business models of home care agencies vary widely. Generally, these businesses operate under two models: franchise or independent ownership. Each has pros and cons.
Franchised agencies often have a more widely recognized reputation due to established marketing and advertising plans, and franchisees may rely on the franchisor for policy and procedure decisions, pricing recommendations, and staff training programs. Alternatively, independent operators establish their own policies and procedures, pricing structure, and training processes.
It takes direct interaction with staff, either in person or over the phone, to get a feel for the core values of the company and determine if they’re being represented on a daily basis at all levels of the organization.
Ask how long the agency has been providing care in your community. Your final decision relies heavily on the contact you have with a company’s employees and your overall impression of how the business operates.
Determine who owns the company and how long the current owner has been in place.
Look for consistency in answers to your procedural questions between people throughout the company.
Verify That the Home Care Agency Is Licensed, Bonded & Insured
Licensing laws vary by state. If you are seeking home care services in a state that requires licensing, any companies you are considering should be operating legally and have their paperwork in order. States that require licensing typically offer an online facility/provider database where you can look up license status, inspection and/or investigation results, and complaints. For example, consumers in Florida can use FloridaHealthFinder.gov to find information that the Agency for Health Care Administration has on file for home care providers.