10 Things to Look for in a Senior Care Agency
Whether you are planning for the future or need to find a senior care agency for your loved one as soon as possible, the process of finding someone to come into your parent’s home can be stressful and intimidating. Yes, you know your parent needs additional help now, but how do you find someone you trust enough to become provide daily care for your family member? How can you ensure that your aging family member will be treated with love and respect while receiving the help that he or she needs? Do you try to hire a person on your own, or do you work through an agency?
The first thing you need to do is to reach out to senior care agencies in your area. Ask if they are taking new clients. If they are not accepting new clients, ask approximately how long the waitlist is. Once you have a list of agencies that are accepting new clients, set up a time to interview representatives of each company.
Here are ten things to look for in a senior care agency:
You also need to determine the cost of hiring an at-home senior caregiver to determine whether or not you can meet the financial obligation. Make sure the agency will accept the source of funding the senior citizen has. Determine if the agency accepts Medicaid or Medicare. If they don’t, ask why. Ask how billing works. Hiring a senior care agency is not like ordering a pizza for the football team. You don’t always go with the cheapest product. If one agency is considerably less expensive than another, there may be a reason for that. Ask why.
2. Level of Care
Ask about the level of care the senior care agency workers provide. Talk with the agency worker about whether or not you will need to hire a home service worker, CNA, an RN, or a combination of the three.
Perhaps your loved one needs 24-hour supervision because he or she has dementia. Maybe the senior can move easily, but he or she can’t be trusted not to wander off and get lost. Perhaps you can’t be with your loved one at all times and need someone to be a companion for your loved one while you are at work.
Maybe your loved one is recovering from a surgery or illness. Perhaps you are unable to transport the aging senior to the multiple appointments with the physical and occupational therapist and the wound care specialist. Maybe you need someone to transport your loved one to appointments.
Perhaps you need someone to help your father dress in the morning and remind him to take his medications.
Maybe you need someone to help your mother bathe three days a week.
Or maybe your loved one has a medical condition that requires skilled nursing, and you wish to hire a registered nurse to attend to your parent.
Ask the agency if they have the specific personnel to fit your aging family member’s needs. Determine your ideal schedule and ask if the staff can be arranged within the hours you need. Make sure you are specific with what those needs are. The agency needs to be able to schedule the right worker for the job.
If there are physical requirements for working with your loved one, you need to let the agency representative know.
Talk with people in the community. Ask people in religious groups, senior citizen centers, and your healthcare providers about which senior care agency has the best reputation for providing excellent care. Check online reviews, but give more stock to the opinions of people you know who have had first-hand experience with the agency.
Ask for references from the agency and interview them. If you are new to this process, you might ask the contact what surprises they had about having senior care agency workers come into their homes. Ask the contact for any additional advice he or she may offer for having home service workers in your loved one’s homes.
Ask the agency how they hire their staff. Will the same home service worker attend to your loved one each week or will it be a different person each time? Ask what happens if you prefer one caregiver over another. You may even see if it is possible for you to meet the caregiver before he or she arrives to work. Sometimes personalities between the caregiver and the senior citizen may not mesh. It is better to know this earlier rather than later.
5. Background Checks
Ask the agency representative what kind of background checks are performed when new staff is hired. Ask if they have ever had to fire personnel and the reasons behind the termination. Ask how they check their employees’ credentials.
6. Interview a Caregiver
Talk with staff members who may be providing the care for your loved one. Ask about their backgrounds and what they like and dislike about their job. Ask them their opinions on the agency. Ask if there is much turnover and if there is, why? Happy workers are good workers. You don’t want to hire an agency when the staff seems unhappy with their jobs.
While speaking with the agency representative, ask how the agency managements evaluate their staff. Do supervisors drop in occasionally to monitor their employee’s work? Is the family given an evaluation? Is the senior citizen asked to provide feedback? Ask how often caregivers are evaluated. If you would rather your parent or loved one not be asked to assess the employees, this is the time to make that known.
Determine what happens if there is a conflict between the staff member and the hiring family. Learn the process for reporting any concerns or issues you may have with agency employees. Ask what the agency is willing to do in the event of a personality conflict. Ask what steps you need to take if the employee just doesn’t show up for work.
9. Emergency Protocol
Ask the agency representative about the emergency plans. Who is informed first in the event of an emergency? Ask what happens if the home health workers have an accident or are injured in your home.
10. Additional services
Ask what other services the agency provides. Are they affiliated or do they recommend a meal delivery service? Do they run errands for your loved one? Do they offer in-home Physical Therapists or Exercise Therapists? Are the caregivers able to drive your loved one to appointments or social engagements? If you hire a caregiver as a companion to your loved one suffering from dementia, will he or she also do the laundry and dishes?
When hiring a senior care agency to provide services for your loved one, you have to go with your gut feeling. Talk with as many agency representatives as possible and determine if they are trying to be evasive with answering questions.
Remember, when your parents or other loved ones are not able to take care of themselves, you are the responsible caregivers. Responsible caregivers do everything in their power to make sure their loved one’s needs are met safely.