Ask questions and consider options for home care

August 14, 2014

elder_aide2There are several options when trying to find in-home help to care for your older adult. The key is to find reliable help that you and your older adult feel comfortable with and meets the specific care needs.
“Home care” is defined by the type of care needed – homemaking, hands-on personal care (i.e. bathing, toileting), and supportive medical care. If basic visiting or homemaking for a couple hours is needed, there may be free church or community resources, perhaps with volunteers who have had criminal background checks that may help.
Or, you may hire a care worker independently or through a home care agency. If you are hiring someone who is not part of a home care agency, contact the Family Caregiver Support Network for resources along with the “Caregiver Hiring Manual and Tool Kit” with tips on how to hire a worker. It also outlines the pros and cons of hiring a care worker directly and not through an agency.

When considering a home care or home health agency, there are some questions to ask in advance that can assist you in getting help that is best suited for your older adult. Before hiring an agency, ask:
Is the agency certified for participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs or private insurance?
Does the agency accept payment from Long-term Care policies, Family Care or Community Care?

How long has the agency been serving the community?
Is the agency accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or other recognized accrediting body?
Does it state this in its agency literature and contracts?
Does the agency provide an initial assessment to determine if the patient would be appropriate for home care and what those services might be?
Is there a fee for an initial assessment?
Does the agency provide all services needed?
Can it provide flexibility to meet the patient’s changing health care needs?
How does the agency choose and train its employees?
Are criminal background checks made?
Are employees given drug screens?
Does it protect its employees with written personnel policies, benefits packages and malpractice insurance?
Are the employees bonded and insured?
Does the agency provide literature explaining its services, eligibility requirements, fees and funding?
Does the agency have arrangements in place for emergencies?
Are the agency’s caregivers available 24 hours per day, seven days per week or on what limited time basis?
How quickly can they start?
Are references from former clients available?
What types of programs does the company have in place to ensure quality care is provided?
Will the agency go to bat for you if your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid fails to cover a claim you and the agency thought should be covered?
For more information about personal care and home health agencies that serve older adults in Milwaukee County, contact the Family Caregiver Support Network at (414) 220-8600. For information about agency certification for Medicare and/or Medicaid, results of state inspections of agencies, complaints filed against agencies within the last two years, or to make a complaint against an agency, call the Wisconsin Home Health Hotline at 1-800-642-6552