Critter Corner: Questions to Ask When Hiring a Home Health Agency

Dear Angel,

Our mom had a pretty bad stroke recently, but fortunately it was not a massive stroke, and we will be able to bring her home soon. We’re looking for a home health agency to assist her when she comes home from the hospital. The hospital gave us the name of just one agency, but I feel like we should interview at least a few different agencies, and many other people have told me to search around and ask lots of questions, but I don’t know where to search or what to ask. Can you help me compile questions to ask when hiring a home health agency?

Thanks,

Hiram Ornott

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Dear Hiram,

Interviews are one of the best ways to get to know who you’re hiring. You’ll want a home health agency that is transparent, and hires aides who are well-trained, skilled, and caring. These questions related to compliance, safety, care and finances, along with questions about your own concerns, should give you the information you need to make an educated hire:

Certifications

1. Is your agency Medicare certified? This is very important if your mom will need any type of skilled care or therapy (such as speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or respiratory therapy) after coming home from hospital.

2. Is your agency Medicaid certified? Your mom may not be on Medicaid now, but if you read our newsletters, you know that one of our specialties is protecting assets and getting people on Medicaid. If your mom is medically needy, meaning that her medical situation is such that she would qualify medically to be in a nursing home, then it’s important to use a home care agency that accepts Medicaid as payment.

Compliance

Compliance with state, federal and accreditation guidelines, rules, and regulations is imperative. Here are a few questions on compliance to consider:

1. Are your caregivers bonded and insured through your agency?
2. What is your privacy policy?
3. May I have a copy of the privacy policy?

Staffing and Safety

To help ensure that your loved one is well taken care of and doesn’t get injured due to negligence or neglect, you’ll want to know that the agency you select has a good hiring process and that they correct issues with poor caregivers swiftly. The following questions can help you assess the hiring process of an agency and procedures for dismissal:

1. What process do you use to hire and assess your caregivers?
2. Are your caregivers employees of your company or are you a referral agency?
3. Do your caregivers work exclusively for your agency, or are they free to work with other agencies as well?
4. How many caregivers does your company employ?
5. If my mom doesn’t like the caregiver you send out, can she simply request a different caregiver?
6. Will my mom have the same caregiver every time?
7. My mom prefers to have someone with similar interests as her — can I make special requests?
8. What does your pre-employment screening look like?
9. Do you have additional screenings each year?
10. How do you evaluate your caregivers?
11. How often do you evaluate your caregivers?
12. What training do you provide to your caregivers?
13. What is the process for reporting non-compliance?
14. Give me an example of a time when you fired a caregiver?
15. How do you respond to emergencies, such as when a caregiver gets sick or is unable to show up because of transportation problems?
16. Do you have an extra caregiver on call at all times to cover these types of emergency situations?

Care and Logistics

You’ll want to ensure you leave your loved one in the hands of someone who is not only competent, but who is also compatible with your love one. Ask these questions to determine if you’ll be comfortable with the level of care provided:

1. What specific services do you provide?
2. Do your caregivers have their own vehicles and, if so, are they allowed to drive my mom to the store and to doctors’ appointments?
3. If your caregivers do not all have their own vehicles, do they all have drivers licenses and are they allowed to drive my mom’s vehicle to take her to the store and to doctors’ appointments?

References

No matter how good the reputation of the agency, what really matters is the care provided by the individual are individuals who come to your home to provide the care. Once you have selected an agency, and the agency has a proposed individual that they want to send to your home, ask the agency for references for that individual, so you can ideally speak to other families that have used the services of this particular individual.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a good place to start. You’ll want to make sure you have all of your questions answered and feel comfortable with the agency and caregiver’s experience, competence, and level of care.

Hope this is helpful,

Angel

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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