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Care at Home: Some Guidelines

We all prefer to heal and recover at home, and would certainly rather cope with a chronic illness from home. Advancing medical tools and technology support this approach and health insurance policies, including critical illness plans and long-term care insurance, are more and more committed to making home care feasible.  The research has shown that this is a humane, practical and money-saving approach and is far better – and safer –  for patients and their caregivers.

Home care services are more and more comprehensive every year, and range from household support – cleaning, cooking, shopping and running errands – to skilled care provided by therapists and nurses.  In fact, there are agencies popping up everywhere, so many that it’s hard to know who to hire.  So if you are considering working with such an agency or taking on a personal health aide, here are some guidelines to help ensure you (or a loved one) get the best help available:

Qualifications

As you consider an in-home care services agency, ask:

  • Is the agency licensed?  And by whom?  It is true that while most states require agencies to be licensed and reviewed regularly, not all states do this.  Your state health department is your best first stop; reviews and other information about the agency may be on file there.
  • Is the agency Medicare certified? Medicare certification indicates that an agency meets federal requirements for safety and health.
  • How are the employees screened and trained?  Remember, these are the people who will be in your home, or your loved one’s home.  Can the agency furnish references?  Will they provide you with a list of former clients?  You should also request a list of doctors and other professionals who have worked with that agency.  And ask family members and friends, as well as doctors and health care professionals, for their agency recommendations.
  • Is the agency accredited by a governing agency?  The Joint Commission is one such group.  It is an independent body that reviews, evaluates and accredits health care organizations and programs that ask to be reviewed.  Are there any results for you to peruse?
As you consider a home health aide, ask:
  • What training has the aide had?  What are his or her credentials?  How much experience have they had?  This is someone who will be in and out of your home, or a loved one’s home, on a regular or even a daily basis.  Be sure you are comfortable with the aide’s skills, training, and experience.  And you have to be okay with the way he or she goes about working.  The ‘fit’ needs to there.
  • Has the aide references that he or she will provide?  You have to do more than just look over the letters or forms, too.  Make those calls – check out the references carefully.  And again, ask your doctors, friends and family for recommendations.
Quality of Care
If you are thinking about a home care services agency:
  • Are the employees licensed and insured?
  • What are the agency’s hiring and training practices?  Do they provide employees with ongoing continuing education?
  • How rigorously does the agency supervise and evaluate the quality of their services?
  • Is the agency committed to a quality improvement program?
  • Are the agency’s employees friendly, helpful and kind?  Is their appearance and manner professional but still warm and positive?  Are you at ease with them?  
As you think about taking on a home health aide, ask yourself:
  • Am I comfortable with this aide?  Or, is my mom okay with this person?  A brusque manner, an indifferent attitude – these are not minor issues under the circumstances.  Find a caregiver you are all comfortable with.  It matters.
  • Is the home health aide positive? Cheerful?  Happy in their work?
Next time we will consider costs and services.  It’s all about finding the best available in-home care providers for you and your loved ones.  The services are out there.  We need to be sure you have some help tracking down just exactly what you need. 
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