Top 10 Questions to Ask a Home Care Agency
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All the aspects of home care for seniors can be confusing. When an event occurs, such as a fall, illness, or exacerbation of a previous problem, the time to find help is now! Understanding options for support in the home can relieve stress and help with recovery. Private duty home care is an excellent choice for these kinds of situations.

What is Private Duty Home Care?

The terms home care and home health care are often confused for each other. If certain criteria are met, home health care is a time-limited medical service covered under Medicare. Home health care includes physical, occupational, and speech therapy along with nursing.

Private duty home care is not covered under insurance (unless you have long-term care insurance). Private duty is private pay, and hourly rates for home caregivers depend upon where you live, the company you choose, and the number of hours your family member needs. Home care is very flexible and is tailored to meet the needs of the senior. The care staff of home care agencies are certified nursing assistants and/or personal home care aides.

Elderly Lady Smiling

How Can Private Duty Caregivers Support Seniors?

The best way to describe how private duty caregivers can support seniors is to give an example:

Jane is an 85-year-old woman who is independent but has a history of falls. One day she falls in her backyard on the concrete patio and sustains a compound fracture between her knee and hip. She is hospitalized and the break is surgically repaired.

The bad news is that she is unable to bear weight on the repaired leg for eight weeks. Although Jane qualifies for a rehab stay, her insurance stops paying after one month and she has to go home. Jane receives a referral to home health care from her doctor, which means she can receive physical therapy and aide service three times a week.

Although she gets this referral for home health, when she is home she still cannot cook, clean, or do laundry on her own. She also needs help getting dressed. Home health care staff are not allowed under Medicare to perform these tasks. Jane decides to reach out to a home care agency. She arranges for a home caregiver to come seven days a week for four hours a day to get help her up in the morning, do light housekeeping, prepare meals, and do laundry.

Private duty home care can be a life-saver. It can also delay, temporarily or permanently, placement in an assisted living or skilled nursing community. Other invaluable services and tasks that caregivers can provide include:

  • Transportation to medical appointments, errands, or activities like going to the park or movies
  • Picking up and sorting mail
  • Assistance with dressing and bathing
  • Meal preparation and grocery shopping
  • Light housekeeping
  • Medication reminders
  • In some states, home caregivers can take blood pressure or glucose readings
  • Companionship and stimulating activities
  • Helping with laundry
  • Feeding and walking pets or taking them to the vet
  • If you are a full-time caregiver for a family member and need a break, a home care agency can provide a temporary caregiver to provide respite care
Caregiver with Senior Outside

Top 10 Questions to Consider When Choosing Private Duty Home Care

When choosing a caregiver, there are many agencies to choose from. Some of you may be tempted to hire a caregiver outside of an agency. A neighbor or church member recommends an “excellent caregiver” which will cost you less per hour. As a Geriatric Care Manager, I don’t recommend hiring a caregiver outside of an agency because the liability and risks are just too great. Go with a reputable home care agency and have these questions in mind when you interview:

  1. Is the agency licensed, bonded, and insured?
  2. What is the hourly cost for care? Is there a minimum hourly requirement?
  3. What training does home care staff receive?
  4. Before a decision is made, can you interview a potential caregiver for your family member?
  5. Who do you contact if there is a problem or concern with care?
  6. How are caregiver absences and/or replacements handled?
  7. How much in-advance notice is required to change caregivers or adjust hours?
  8. Are references from the caregiver available from other clients?
  9. Does the agency have the staffing to provide 24-hour care or live-in care if necessary?
  10. Is there a mechanism by which you can review caregiver’s notes on a regular basis?

Understanding the benefits of private duty home care can provide you with the peace of mind you need when the time comes to get additional help. Being prepared to ask the right questions will help you choose the best agency for your loved one.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of Choose Your Place: Rethinking Home as You Age (November 2020) and of Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She has worked for over 20 years in the senior-related industry including mental health, marketing and guardianship. She has a passion for topics related to health, wellness and resilience as we age.

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