How to Find the Right Full-Service Home Health Agency

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When your elderly parent starts struggling to care for themselves, you’ll be faced with the decision of what to do next. This can be a difficult path to navigate, especially if you weren’t prepared to make this decision so quickly. Many people panic and start calling the first home care agency that pops up on Google.

However, the first step to finding the right kind of home care agency is determining what level of care your loved one needs. Some agencies only provide home health while others provide only home care. There are also agencies that provide both types of care. These are called full-service home health agencies.

Here are four steps that will help you compare agencies.

Step 1: Research

Start by making a list of agencies that interest you. In some cases, you will want to involve your loved one in deciding which agencies “make the list.” In other cases, it might be easier to narrow down the options to one or two before introducing them.

Review the company’s website, and take a look for online reviews. See if the agency has a presence on social media (like Facebook).

Step 2: Call

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of agencies, it’s time to call each one. When you call, ask for a general overview of their services, process, and cost. Agencies that understand the importance of uncovering what is most important to you will likely have several questions that allow them to determine what information might be most helpful to share over the phone.

Compare the level of customer service you receive from each agency when calling:

  • Was the person who answered the phone attentive?
  • Did you receive assistance the first time you called, or were you asked to leave a message?
  • Did the person you spoke with give you their full, undivided attention?

Take notes on each call and compare them after sorting through your list.

Step 3: Interview

Once you’ve narrowed your list down further, it’s a good idea to interview and evaluate the agencies to compare them. Use the following questions to help you choose the right home care agency for your loved one:

  • How long has this agency been providing home health and/or home care services?
  • Is the agency Medicare certified?
  • Is the agency licensed by the state?
  • Can the agency explain what Medicare or insurance will cover and what the client must pay?
  • What range of home health and/or home care services does the agency provide?
  • Do they offer the specific services you need (e.g., physical therapy, occupational therapy, memory care, etc.)?
  • Can they meet any special needs you may have (e.g., language or cultural preferences)?
  • How does this provider select and train its employees?
  • What is the process for screening caregivers? Does the agency complete a background check (criminal, driving, work permit status, and past references)?
  • Does it have a minimum for years of caregiving experience for applicants?
  • What is the training procedure for newly hired caregivers? What types of topics are covered?
  • Does it offer continuing education training for caregivers?
  • Does it have written personnel policies, benefits packages, and malpractice insurance?
  • Are nurses or therapists required to evaluate your loved one’s home care needs? If so, would they consult with their physicians and family members?
  • Does this provider include you in developing the plan of care?
  • Are they involved in making care plan changes?
  • How does the agency match caregivers to clients? Does it guarantee a personality match and offer caregiver interviews? What happens if a senior wants a different caregiver?
  • Is the course of treatment documented, detailing the specific tasks to be carried out by each professional caregiver?
  • Does the provider assign supervisors to oversee the quality of care that your loved one would receive in their homes? If so, how often do these individuals make visits?
  • Who can you call with questions or complaints?
  • How does the agency follow up on and resolve problems?
  • What are the financial procedures of the agency?
  • Do they furnish written statements explaining all of the costs and payment plan options associated with the home health and/or home care services it provides?
  • What procedures does the provider have in place to handle emergencies?
  • Are its caregivers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Step 4: Check References

Finally, ask the agency to supply you with a list of references, such as doctors, discharge planners, clients or their family members, and community leaders who are familiar with the provider’s quality of service.

Contact these references and ask:

  • Do you frequently refer clients to this agency?
  • Do you have a contractual relationship with this agency? If so, do you require the agency to meet special standards for quality care?
  • What sort of feedback have you gotten from clients receiving care from this agency, either on an informal basis or through a formal satisfaction survey?

Comparing home health and home care agencies is time-consuming but knowing as much as possible before an emergency arises is best.

For a chart to help you compare agencies side by side — as well as an in-depth look at the differences between home health and home care services, how home health and home care professionals are trained and licensed, and how to pay for home health and home care services, download our Guide to Home Health & Home Care Services.

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