How to Find the Right Home Health Care Agency
Marilyn is a 72-year-old widow who recently underwent heart angioplasty surgery. She is preparing to leave the hospital soon. But recovering from open-heart surgery is a long process, and her family knows she will need continued medical assistance once she gets home. The family must find a reputable home health care agency that can provide licensed nurses as well as aides to tend to Marilyn on a daily basis.
Finding the right agency can be a daunting task, but not impossible, says Tilly Gambill, Manager of Marketing and Communications for the American Association for Homecare.
"People often receive home health services following a hospitalization or care in other care settings. Often the hospital discharge planner or social worker provides information on home health agencies," Gambill says. "Ask the hospital for a list of home health care agencies in your community. In some communities, there may fewer available agencies. Physicians, friends, and family can recommend home health agencies, as well."
The family got 2 references from the hospital and one from a family friend whose father with hypertension and diabetes receives home care services weekly.
To help them select the right provider, the National Association for Home Care suggests asking the following questions:
Questions to Ask a Home Care Provider
What are the qualifications and experience?
How long has the agency been in business?
Is the agency evaluated and accredited by a governing agency such as The Joint Commission's Home Care Accreditation Program?
Is the agency licensed by the state?
Can the agency provide references? Ask for a list of doctors, hospital discharge planners and former clients who have experience with the agency.
How does the agency protect client confidentiality?
Is the agency inspected by any outside organization? May I see the results of the last inspection?
Does the agency perform a customer satisfaction survey? May I see the results of the last survey?
Questions About Caregivers
What are the credentials of the caregivers who work for the agency?
How does the agency select and train caregivers?
Do caregivers work directly for the agency? How are they supervised?
Are caregivers subject to criminal background checks?
Will the same caregiver be sent to my home for each visit?
Are nurses or therapists required to evaluate the patient's home care needs?
If so, what does this entail?
Do they consult the patient's physicians and family members?
Is the patient's course of treatment documented, detailing the specific tasks to be carried out by each caregiver?
Will the agency schedule care at any time of the day or night that my physician says is necessary?
Can the agency provide me with written information about the rights and responsibilities of the providers, patients and caregivers?
Whom should I call with questions or complaints? How will the agency respond?
Questions About Services Provided
Can the agency provide me with written information about the services available?
Is there a written plan of care for each patient?
Does the agency involve the patient and caregivers in designing this plan and educate them about the care provided?
How does the agency respond to emergencies? How long does it take to respond to calls?
Will the agency help me find other community services such as Meals on Wheels or homemakers services, or help find medical equipment I may need?
Is the agency certified by Medicare?
Is the agency approved or accepted by my insurance plan or supplemental insurance?
How does the agency handle expenses and billing?
Does the agency provide detailed explanations of all the costs associated with home care?
What resources does the agency provide to help me get financial assistance, if needed?