In an earlier blog post, we established that respite is essential for caregivers who want to remain strong and healthy. Depending on circumstances, this respite is likely to come in the form of in-home assistance through a professional home care agency. If you have determined that it is time to find in-home help for a loved one, let’s go over some basics about how to find a reputable agency. In doing so, I hope not only to help you find what you need, but also to save you time and worry.
The first consideration is what type of help your loved one actually needs. Clearly, you won’t want to call an agency that provides only registered nurses if the need is for someone to vacuum, run errands and make a sandwich. Some agencies staff for literally any in-home or personal task, while others specialize. It’s a good idea to also get the physician’s view of the situation to be sure that all needs are met.
Once you have a good idea of what services you want, you can do several things to find a reputable agency:
- Call CICOA’s Aging & Disability Resource Center at (317) 803-6131. The ADRC is unable to recommend one agency over others, but having the list is a great place to start.
- Ask friends, colleagues and neighbors if they have specific recommendations (or which agencies to avoid). Word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers are helpful.
- Look for agencies that have established a good reputation. The Indiana State Department of Health publishes “Consumer Reports” on specific agencies.
Once you’ve narrowed your search and begin the interview process, be sure to ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers.
- What formal and informal qualifications must an employee have to be hired for this position?
- Are federal and state background checks performed prior to employment?
- Does the agency perform random, periodic drug testing among employees?
- What kinds of supervision, testing and measurements are in place to ensure good work performance?
- What kinds of skills do you consider important for this job? Will this person be kind? A good communicator? Able to perform CPR? Have training in sensitivity and cultural diversity? Is continuing education required and how often? How frequently are skills tested and/or updated?
- Is the agency licensed/insured/bonded?
- Will there be consistent care for my loved one so that he/she always has the same person except in very rare instances? And in one of those very rare instances, what plan is in place for a substitute?
- Will I be able to request a different employee if the current provider’s work is substandard? To whom would I voice a complaint (or satisfaction)?
- How can I be certain of client confidentiality and adherence to the HIPAA Privacy Rule?
Finally, ask for formal references. These should include current and/or former clients who have given their permission to serve as a reference. Hospital discharge planners and other medical professionals may also provide invaluable input.
Ironically, finding respite can be a lot of work! But once it’s in place, you’ll reap the benefits of newfound rest and increased freedom, strength and endurance.