Most seniors prefer to remain in the comfort of their own home while aging as opposed to moving into an independent or assisted living facility. At some point, it becomes unsafe for seniors to remain in their homes without outside assistance. This assistance usually comes in the form of a home health agency. Home health agencies provide certified nursing assistants and home health aides to provide one on one care. These caregivers offer assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, grooming, assisting with ambulation or transferring, toileting, feeding and providing medication reminders. In addition, home health aides help with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as shopping, meal preparation, making medical appointments, transportation, laundry and companionship.
1. Determine your loved ones’ needs
Correctly identifying your aging loved ones’ needs is crucial to beginning your search for the perfect home care agency. A good place to start is to ask yourself if your loved one needs help with any of the following:
Assistance transferring (ex. From a seated position to standing)
Keep a list of your loved ones’ needs handy and be sure to update it as his condition changes.
2. Choose the type of agency that most suits your need
Home Health Agencies- This is the highest level of licensure a non-medical home care agency can possess. These agencies have a Director of Nursing that oversees all care as well as an Administrator that is a physician, RN or has completed the required accreditation courses. Home health agencies are licensed to provide “hands on” or personal care to their clients. Home health agencies employ all of their own caregivers; this means that all of the caregivers are bonded and insured by the agency, taking the risk from the patient. They also abide by strict quality assurance standards and are overseen by the Agency of Healthcare Administration (ACHA). One way to tell if a company you are considering working with has this level of licensure is to ask them for their license number, if it begins with “HHA” they are a fully licensed agency. Private duty home care agencies are typically marginally more expensive than agencies of other licensures because of the insurance they carry on their employees and the oversight they provide. Hourly costs range from $19-$25.
Nurse Registries- This type of agency is not required to have a Director of Nursing to oversee patient care. Nurse registries must have oversight by a qualified Administrator and are regulated by ACHA. Like home health agencies, nurse registries are licensed to provide personal care to their clients. The major difference between a fully licensed home health agency and a nurse registry is that nurse registries do not employ their caregivers. The caregivers are sub-contractors, because of this the agency is not required to carry liability insurance on the caregivers. This means that if an accident were to happen in the home, the homeowner, not the agency, would be responsible. Nurse registries have a license number that begins with “NR”. Nurse registries are typically a bit less expensive when compared to a fully licensed agency. Hourly costs range from $15-$20.
Companion Agencies- These companies are able to provide homemaking, sitter services and transportation services only. They are not legally able to provide any “hands on” or personal care. These agencies are not required to have oversight by a Director of Nursing or any other qualified being. Additionally, their employees do not necessarily go through any sort of training to provide care in the home setting and they do not required to cover their employees with any type of liability insurance. Companion agencies are not licensed or regulated by ACHA. They are typically the least expensive of the three types of agencies but are only able to provide limited services. Hourly costs range from $12-$16.
3. Make the call
Once you have determined the care your loved one needs and the type of agency that best suits your needs it’s time to pick up the telephone. Determine 2-3 agencies you think will be a good fit for your loved one and ask them all of your pertinent questions. You can find some suggestions of questions to ask home health care agencies here. After making a couple of phone calls and getting a sense of what makes each agency unique, go with your gut. The price of home health care agencies with the same level of licensure may differ by a small margin. Choose the home care agency you feel most comfortable with and confident in regardless of a marginal cost difference. Your time is valuable and switching home health agencies can be time consuming and traumatic for your loved one.