Home care services: Questions to ask

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Home care services: Questions to ask

If you're recovering from surgery or need long term care for a chronic illness — or you have a loved one facing a similar situation — you may be interested in home care services. Home care services range from skilled care provided by nurses or therapists to household support, such as cleaning, cooking and running errands.

Whether you're planning to enlist the help of a home care services agency or hire a personal home health aide, knowing what questions to ask can help ensure that you receive quality assistance.

Qualifications

If you're considering a home care services agency:

  • Is the agency licensed by the state? Most states — but not all — require agencies to be licensed and reviewed regularly. Reviews may be available on request through your state health department.
  • Is the agency certified by Medicare to meet federal requirements for health and safety? If not, ask why.
  • What type of employee screening is done? Can the agency provide references? Ask for a list of doctors, hospital discharge planners or other professionals who have experience with the agency, as well as a list of former clients. Ask doctors, family and friends for agency recommendations.
  • Is the agency accredited by a governing agency such as The Joint Commission, an independent group that evaluates and accredits health care organizations and programs that voluntarily request review? If so, ask to see the results of the most recent survey.

If you're considering a home health aide:

  • What are the aide's credentials? Make sure you're comfortable with the aide's training and experience.
  • Can the aide provide references? Take time to check the aide's references thoroughly. Ask doctors, family and friends for home health aide recommendations.

Quality of care

If you're considering a home care services agency:

  • How does the agency hire and train caregivers? Does the agency provide continuing education?
  • Are the caregivers licensed and insured?
  • How closely does the agency's supervisor evaluate the quality of home care?
  • Does the agency have a quality improvement program?
  • Do the agency's employees seem friendly and helpful? Make sure you feel comfortable with the agency's representatives.

If you're considering a home health aide:

  • Does the home health aide have a positive attitude?
  • Are you and your loved one comfortable with the home health aide?

Costs

If you're considering a home care services agency:

  • How does the agency handle expenses and billing? Ask for literature explaining all services and fees, as well as detailed explanations of all the costs associated with home care.
  • Will agency fees be covered by health insurance or Medicare? Find out what arrangements are in place for specific health insurance plans.
  • What resources does the agency provide for financial assistance, if needed? For instance, is a payment plan available?

If you're considering a home health aide:

  • How much does the aide charge for home health services? Make sure you're comfortable with the fees and the included services.
  • Does the aide require payment for sick days, vacation days or holidays? If so, clarify how many sick and vacation days are allowed, as well as which days are considered holidays.

Understanding services

Whether you're considering a home care services agency or a home health aide, you might ask these questions about services:

  • Will you receive a written care plan before service begins? The care plan should include details about medical equipment and specific care needs, contain input from your or your loved one's doctor, and be updated frequently.
  • Will you receive a list of the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved? This is sometimes known as a patient's bill of rights.
  • Will you or your loved one be referred to dietitians, counselors, therapists or other specialists, if needed?
  • Will the agency work directly with you or your loved one, family members and health care providers?
  • Must you identify a primary family caregiver? If so, what's required of that person?
  • Are there any limits on the types of tasks performed? If so, what are the limits?
  • When will service be provided? Is care available round-the-clock, if necessary?
  • What procedures are in place for emergencies? Ask how the agency or home health aide will deliver services in the event of a power failure or natural disaster.
  • How are problems addressed and resolved? Whom can you or another family member contact with requests, questions or complaints?
  • When can services begin?

Monitor your home care services

After you've found a home care services provider, monitor the situation. If you're concerned about the care or services provided, discuss it promptly with the agency or home health aide. If necessary, involve your doctor or your loved one's doctor as well.

Last Updated: 2011-05-25
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