Key Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Healthcare Agency

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kurt-kazanowskiBy Kurt Kazanowski

We all know that judging a book by its cover is not a wise move, and nowhere is this truer than when it comes to finding a home healthcare agency.  What may seem like a great find on the outside could be a disaster waiting to happen if you don’t do your homework.

Consider what happened to Joan and Murray, an elderly couple whose family hired a home healthcare worker to take care of them when they were no longer able to take care of themselves. Over the course of two years, this worker stole $1.5 million from them.

This sad story could have been caught very early on, or maybe even prevented from happening at all if the family had been more proactive and thorough when doing their research into the healthcare provider that they chose to look after their parents. The person they hired sounded great, and the family just assumed that the agency they went to had done everything they could on their end to vet out the worker.  If they had known what to look for, they would have soon discovered that home healthcare agencies are not one-size-fits-all and that there really isn’t a system in place that monitors home care workers.

In fact, it can be bewildering at first when you’re trying to weed out the bad apples. Luckily, there are some basic questions you can ask that can give you a better sense of who is the right choice and who to stay away from.

Here are nine questions to ask a home healthcare agency before you hire them.

  1. How long has the agency been providing private duty home care?

In this industry, experience counts! Make sure that you’re not dealing with a fly-by-night operation. Insist on meeting the home care worker who will be providing the care, and get at least three references from patients that this person has previously cared for. A reputable agency will have no problem providing these.

  1. Do they customize their care plans to fit the needs of their clients?

An agency should be able to tailor-fit their care to meet their client’s special conditions. The care plan for a patient with Alzheimer’s is going to be very different from the care plan for someone with mobility issues.

  1. How are emergencies handled after normal business hours?

Health emergencies don’t always happen at convenient times. Can the agency respond 24 hours a day? Is the client taken care of whenever they need to be, no matter the time?

  1. What kind of supervision is there for the quality of care?

The agency should have more involvement than just merely being a timeclock that the worker uses to punch in and out. They should maintain a daily journal in the client’s home, and perform non-scheduled supervisory visits to ensure the client is well taken care of. They should employ a nurse and sometimes a social worker or other qualified professional to make visits.

  1. Does the agency provide a written document that states the rights of the patient and the responsibilities of the client, and also explains the company’s privacy policy and code of ethics?

Having this information in writing is a must as it will give you more peace of mind in the event of disputes or litigation.

  1. Does the agency triple-screen its caregivers carefully?

This should include the use of reference checks, ongoing driving records and criminal background investigations.

  1. Does the agency mandate ongoing training of its employees to continually update their skills? 

The healthcare industry is rapidly changing, so make sure the agency provides ongoing training for its homecare workers.

  

  1. Does the agency also use independent contractors?

If they do, it may be more difficult to ascertain how well the home care workers have been screened. Find out who has the liability in the case of malpractice or other wrong-doing. An agency may try to use independent contractors as a way of limiting their own liability.

  1. Does the agency manage all payroll and employee-related matters and adhere to state and federal guidelines in its employment practices, such as withholding appropriate taxes and not providing workers’ compensation and other benefits?

This may seem like a matter that doesn’t concern the client, but an agency that doesn’t manage their own payroll or offer benefits may not attract the most qualified workers.

When a family is in the position that they need to hire a home healthcare worker, remember that the patient being cared for may be vulnerable.  Make sure you have only the best and most trustworthy people looking after them. 

Kurt Kazanowski is a hospice, homecare and senior care expert, who is author of A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad.  He has more than three decades of experience in healthcare starting as a nurse, then as a hospital executive and finally as a senior leader of several home care and hospice organizations.  To learn more, visit http://asonsjourney.com/ and http://thehomecareexpert.com/

2 COMMENTS

  1. You bring up a good point that a home health care agency should be able to provide care that is tailor-fit to their client. Since everyone is so different in needs and personality, I think it’s important that a health care provider can recognize and help with that. That way, your loved one will be more comfortable and happy with the care provided.

  2. It’s great that this article talks about the changing healthcare industry, so you need an agency that will provide ongoing training for its workers. This could ensure that you’ll get the best care that is available. In order to get your questions answered, you’d probably want to meet with the workers of the home healthcare agency you’re looking into so that you can ask them these questions and talk to them about what kind of training they get and the type of equipment they have so that you can make sure they’ll be able to provide you with the help you need.

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