Finding the right home care provider for your aging loved one can be a challenging if not frustrating process. The issue is not due to a lack of options - there are many to choose from. The issue is that some providers are, frankly, better than others - and, similarly, some solutions are a better fit for your loved one’s needs than others.
Here’s a list of things to look for to help you find not only the right provider but the best provider.
- Honest Needs Assessment
What, specifically, does your loved one need assistance with? While many agencies tout their caregiving services as ‘do-it-all’, the best agencies are willing to take the initial step of ensuring that they are a match for your needs. You should never feel rushed or pressured to make a decision - especially for something as important as home care.
- Flexible Caregiver Matching
Although it’s important to vet the home care agency itself, the caregiver is ultimately the person who you need to have the utmost trust and confidence in. To this end, the best agencies will work with you to find the right skill and personality fit. They will have policies in place that make it easy to find new caregivers - whether due to needs changing or simply because you think it will be best for the care recipient.
- Caregiver Skills/Training
What qualifies the caregiver to help your loved one? The best agencies address this question up front and provide you with detail on their caregiver screening/vetting process. Depending on your needs, you may want to hire a certified home health aide (HHA), a certified nursing assistant (CNA), a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), or simply a person with experience caring for someone with similar needs as your loved one.
- Price Transparency
This is a big one. Agencies are notoriously bad at obscuring pricing information, in the hopes that they can “sell you” prior to issuing you a quote. That said, the best agencies recognize that you have a budget and will make it easy for you to understand their hourly and daily rates - as well as their rate drivers (e.g. certain services will increase their base rate). Be wary of home care agencies that aren’t upfront about pricing.
- Low/No Hourly Minimums
Most agencies enforce daily and/or weekly hourly minimums. The best agencies, however, have no minimums. They are in tune with the fact that the demands of home care are fluid - constantly changing and, at times, may not align with an arbitrary “minimum”. The best agencies take the long view of your relationship with them and don’t want to charge you for unused hours.
- Flexible, Easy Scheduling
This one is self explanatory. Rigid contracts may be good for the business but fail for the family when needs change - and needs often change rapidly. The best agencies take the stress out of not knowing what your loved one's needs will be three months from now.
- Available Backup Care
What happens if your caregiver is sick? Or goes on vacation? Or quits? The best agencies have a vast network of caregivers and streamline the process of helping you find backup care on short notice, without charging you additional fees in the process.
- Caregiver Insurance
The best agencies not only provide professional liability, theft, and abuse insurance for their caregivers, they also communicate these coverages to prospective customers in a forthcoming, easy-to-understand manner. While no one wants to think about something bad happening, families deserve peace of mind that there is proper financial coverage in the event of an accident, oversight, or malicious act.
- Proper Licensing
Home care agencies have historically been largely unregulated. That said, states are beginning to get involved. The best agencies are always adequately licensed, giving you peace of mind that the business is compliant and stable.
- Outstanding Customer Support
How can you predict what customer support will be like prior to becoming a customer? There are a few ways. First, your experience during the sales/onboarding process should make it clear. How fast do they get back to you? How helpful are the people you deal with? Second, look for online reviews or inquire locally for customer feedback. The best agencies have a Yelp page with multiple reviews and/or a website with authentic customer testimonials. The best of the best will put you in touch with customers at your request so you can speak to them during the vetting process.
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