Home Health Care: 5 Urgent Questions to Ask

How to be proactive and have peace of mind when caring for an aging parent

Countless families during the holiday season may realize, as they gather from far and wide, that aging parents need more help than in the past. While a crisis is the worst time to make important decisions, some decisions can’t be put off and need to be made with the best information at hand.

“We’re seeing a tsunami of aging — 10,000 people every day turn 65,” said Kurt Kazanowski, a Detroit-based hospice, home care and senior care expert, as well as the author of “A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad.” “This number will continue to increase and drive the need for both in-home care services and an array of other senior health care services.”

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Whether you need a home health care worker to assist a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s, help Mom or Dad recover from a serious injury, or just be there for assistance as parents or other relatives grow older, it is important to plan ahead and be proactive instead of reactive.

There are important questions to ask, Kazanowski told LifeZette, to ensure the agency you might hire is honest, experienced and able to provide the right care.

1.) How long has the agency been providing private duty home care?
Insist on meeting the home care worker who will be reporting to your home, and get at least three references from patients this person has worked for previously.

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It’s imperative to interview not only the agency (intake/scheduler person and/or owner) you’re looking at hiring, but to screen the caregiver who will provide the direct care as well, Kazanowski said. “Really rely on gut-level instincts, and how they respond to interview questions. Quality agencies vet their workers with a thorough background check.”

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Agencies should do reference checks and look at driving records — and criminal background investigations should also be done. Even with states that have private duty licensure requirements, it’s important to have direct verification about the record of a home health care worker. There are horror stories every day of agencies who hire caregivers with prior records of theft, abuse, and/or neglect.

2.) Is a written, customized care plan developed with the client and family, and updated as changes occur?
Typical plans entail a written routine that the loved one follows throughout the day, and medication taken on a set schedule. If there are household chores involved, a list is made to articulate any nuances related to those tasks. This plan also serves as a framework for the documentation in the client binder for the family to look over on a day-to-day basis.

3.) Is there a written document that states the rights of the patient and the responsibilities of the client?
This is important so people simply understand what their rights are and what to expect from the agency; it also eliminates any discrepancies. This should also explain the company’s privacy policy and code of ethics.

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4.) Does the agency closely supervise the quality of care, including maintenance of a daily journal?
The family should expect the agency to routinely make “pop-in” assurance visits during caregiver shifts to ensure everything is going well between caregiver and client. The family member in charge should have regular communication with the care manager for any changes/concerns.

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5.) Does the agency mandate ongoing training of its employees to continually update their skills?
Care managers should provide on site, real-time training for caregivers based on the unique and specific needs of the client for whom they’re caring. That is one of the primary roles of care managers who oversee caregiver/client pairing and communication with the family.

“These important questions will provide a better and more critical view of what to expect from a personal home care company,” Kazanowski said.  “A thorough review of the answers will give you an idea of the caliber of care they will provide to your loved ones. Interview several companies and compare answers because not all home care companies are created equal.”

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