How To Select An At-Home Healthcare Provider

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If you’ve noticed your loved one struggling with basic day-to-day tasks, or recovering from recent surgery or treatment slower than expected, it may be time to consider at-home healthcare. According to a national study exploring long-term care providers in the United States published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million patients were discharged from home health agencies in 2015. From 2000 to 2019, 1.4 million individuals in the US were employed as in-home healthcare service providers. These figures reveal just how vital this type of assistance is. (1) (2) 

In simple terms, in-home care refers to assistance offered by skilled practitioners to patients within their own homes. The support given can range from companionship and the administration of medication, to more extensive operations such as physical and occupational therapy, depending on the patient’s capabilities and level of mobility. If your loved one no longer drives, or has impaired motor skills or memory difficulties, seeking out a quality healthcare provider may be beneficial. 

It’s important to note, however, that people often associate in-home care with the elderly, however, there’s a wide range of reasons as to why at-home care is needed—and not just by those who are aging. Those reasons include: 

  • Palliative care for those with complex life-limiting illnesses.
  • Illness (cancer) recovery for those after treatment. 
  • Disability care may be provided to those suffering from a long-term disability or a recent trauma. 
  • In-home assistance can allow other caregivers the respite they require for a while.

    If you’ve decided that home care is the right choice for your family, selecting a reputable provider, either through an agency or a registry, is the next step. This progression shouldn’t be rushed, as it’s important to receive high-quality assistance that suits your specific requirements. 

Read on to discover a few tips for choosing a provider: 

Ensure they’re qualified 

The safety of your loved one is a top priority. It’s, therefore, vital to ensure that whoever you hire has the correct and government-required credentials, qualifications and licenses. People who hire in-home care aids through registries rather than agencies can face the risk of dealing with the consequences of theft and other criminal activity.

Registries rarely perform background checks on their referred providers and by law aren’t allowed to supervise their actions. They aren’t held responsible if something were to happen either. Agencies, on the other hand, screen, train, supervise and perform extensive background checks on their employees. They also contact previous employers to ensure they’re offering top-tier workers to those in need. Their caregivers are also properly insured. 

A home care worker is also preferred and/or required to have completed certain training resulting in specific care certifications and licensure. Pre-requisites will, however, vary depending upon the state. Therefore, it’s key to understand what government/state-mandated regulations are in place as well as agency-determined policies—such as having life support certifications up-to-date—in order to ensure that your hired help is legally and professionally adequate. 

Desired certifications and training may include: 

  • First aid and emergency care
  • Specific conditions/illnesses
  • End-of-life care. 

Understand what services you require 

If your family member requires specific forms of assistance or specialized support, it’s important to confirm with the healthcare provider that they offer such services. Some providers may have limitations on what they include, while others provide a wide and diverse range of services. 

Generally speaking, in-home care assistance can be divided into three categories:

Personal care and companionship (non-medical)

  • Self-care (bathing, dressing, toilet-use)
  • Ambulation assistance
  • Meal preparation
  • Tidying and cleaning 
  • Errands (grocery shopping, appointments and visits)
  • Activities
  • Supervision. 

Private duty nursing care (skilled nursing)

  • Disease/illness care
    • Ventilator
    • Tracheostomy 
    • Ostomy/gastrostomy 
    • Feeding tube 
    • Catheter 
  • Monitoring and administering medications.

Home health care (Medicare certified)

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Speech language pathology
  • Medical social services. (3) 

Once you’ve ascertained the appropriate forms of aid necessary for your situation, the selection process may prove easier. 

Determine your price-range and consider financial assistance 

Establishing how much you can afford to spend on a support worker may help you to determine which providers are worth considering. As mentioned above, the pool of services offered is large and the price for each may vary. Costs are also usually dependent upon the hours worked, therefore, it’s wise to decide whether care is required for only a few hours a day, the whole day (24/7) or overnight. 

In the US, the median rate for senior in-home care varies slightly depending on the state, however, according to Genworth Financial’s “Cost of Care Survey,” the average cost per hour across the nation sits just over USD$20. Daily median costs average around the USD$150 mark and monthly it’s approximately USD$4,500. States such as Louisiana, however, can be as low as USD$17 per hour, so location can be used to your advantage if you’re fortunate enough to live in one of those areas. It’s also worth seeing if they’re open to negotiating on price. (4) 

If paying out of pocket isn’t ideal, you could consider your eligibility for financial assistance and other methods of payment such as:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Veteran’s programs
  • Reverse mortgage
  • Annuities 
  • Long-term care insurance 
  • Life insurance for cash
  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). (5) 

Do your research

Checking out the agency’s website, reading reviews, seeking out recommendations as well as meeting workers in person before hiring, can help you narrow down the possibilities. Those recommended by others are more likely to hold some value in comparison to those without any references. It’s important, however, to also trust your gut. If your loved one connects with a particular worker over another, then you may choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Remember the benefits 

If the process of finding a reputable worker is stressful, it’s wise to recall the short-term and long-term benefits of doing so. 

Advantages may include: 

  • Patient feels safe and comfortable in a familiar environment 
  • Family is present or close by 
  • Cost-effective
  • Eliminates the stress and confusion of being somewhere else
  • Reduced feelings of isolation
  • Prevents the risk of falls and other accidents 
  • May facilitate optimal health outcomes
  • Patient may maintain a sense of independence 
  • Choices and flexibility 
  • Individualized care.

Final thoughts 

Selecting the right at-home healthcare provider may be difficult if you’re unsure of what to look for. Once you’ve determined the services required, however, and how much you’re willing to spend, the process of finding a qualified worker should be made easier and the safety and care for you loved one, guaranteed. 

References

  1. “Long-term Care Providers and Services Users in the United States, 2015–2016”, Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_43-508.pdf
  2. “Persons employed in home health care services in the U.S. 2000-2019″, Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/185249/persons-employed-in-home-health-care-services-in-the-us-since-2000/
  3. “Types of Home Health Care Services”, Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/caregiving/types-of-home-health-care-services
  4. “Cost of Care Survey”, Source: https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html
  5. “Can You Afford a Home-Care Worker?”, Source: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/afford-a-homecare-worker.html