Annually, more than eight million U.S senior citizens receive paid long-term care and it is estimated that by 2050, over 27 million elders will require such services. Yet another report revealed that nearly 70 percent of senior Americans aged 65 years and above will require long-term care at some point in life.
The senior home care sector is a dynamic service industry that is expected to grow owing to the increase in demand, convenience, and affordability. Moreover, home care helps in avoiding the high costs involved in hospitalization for seniors with chronic health issues and those recovering from accidents or illnesses.
The home care industry is highly fragmented with numerous players offering a wide range of senior care services in the form of medical and caregiver assistance. The increasing demand and number of service providers entering this market make it highly lucrative, and hence competitive. With more than 13 thousand home care agencies all over the country, it can be tough to decide which one will offer you the best service for your senior’s enhanced health and longevity.
The decision to choose a home care agency for your senior will affect everyone involved, emotionally and financially. Therefore, when you consider placing the responsibility of your beloved senior in paid caregivers’ hands, it is crucial to screen home care agencies before you go ahead.
Here are seven tips to bear in mind when selecting the right home care agency for your elder.
1. List down Your Senior Care Priorities
Sit with your elder and other family members and note down your senior’s care requirements. Your elder’s health condition and age will determine whether he/she requires help with activities of daily living (ADL), transportation, medical assistance, mobility training, speech therapy, special meal preparation, counseling, and/or rehabilitation.
For instance, if your senior lives in Albuquerque and needs to visit his/her doctor regularly, look for a home care agency that specializes in offering elderly care in Albuquerque with special facilities such as an escort service and a mode of transportation for your senior, especially when you aren’t around.
Determine whether you need a licensed medical caregiver or a skilled non-medical personnel who can attend to his/her basic health needs such as taking blood pressure, testing blood sugar, providing wound care, or managing a feeding tube. If that is the case check with the home care agency whether they offer home healthcare services too.
Numerous home care agencies offer both, non-medical home care and home healthcare services based on the requirements of their clients. Owing to the increasing prevalence of memory disorder in seniors, numerous agencies offer long-term skilled nurses who specialize in memory care, catering to seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Home healthcare is generally prescribed by a medical practitioner when he/she deems it necessary for your senior to receive medical assistance at home. Non-medical services are not prescribed by a medical practitioner; however, you can avail them when you need support. A licensed agency is equipped with a team of professional in-home caregivers who can provide care based on your senior’s requirements.
Listing down your elder’s requirements will help you choose a home care agency that offers the most relevant services for him/her.
2. Keep Your Senior’s Budget in Mind
After you have penned down the services required by your senior, determine who will pay for them. If your senior is going to fund his/her home care service, you must ensure that his/her budget can provide for it.
In case your senior is financially incapable or hasn’t planned for his/her senior care, consider buying a medical insurance policy that covers the costs. The healthcare/medical services offered to your senior can be covered by medical insurance policies like Medicare or other private medical insurance firms. However, non-medical services aren’t covered by medical policies.
Insurance firms generally cover up to 35 hours per week of elder care. Talk to your insurance advisor before buying a policy and choose the one that helps you cover most of the senior care costs. We will discuss more about your insurance options in the latter half of this post.
In case your senior needs non-medical home care and is unable to provide for it, assess your family’s financial situation and list down the possible sources of funding his/her care. Corporations generally cover care for aging parents when recruiting an employee as part of their employee health insurance scheme. Check with your/your siblings’ firms for the insurance benefits offered to their employees.
You can also seek financial assistance from senior associations, healthcare foundations, and mission and veteran organizations.
3. Research on the Type of Senior Care Offered
Your elder deserves the best-quality care from trained, responsible, and experienced professionals. Before you make a choice, research the quality of care offered by the caregivers hired by home care agencies.
Make a list of senior home care agencies in your area and inquire about their services, fee structure, and skill sets. For instance, if you are a citizen of Albuquerque, look for an agency that offers senior care in Albuquerque and check if their services cater to your requirements.
The home care agency must have adequate experience and expertise in the senior care domain. Caregivers should be able to customize their care options based on your senior’s medical condition. For instance, if your elder has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the caregiver must be qualified and experienced enough to take care of him/her and offer the relevant care to manage the basic symptoms of this movement disorder.
Visit the home care agency and meet the management and the team of caregivers. When talking about your requirements, study their behavior and personality. Take your senior along and spend time understanding their work ethos and principles.
Empathy plays a key role in the senior care domain. If the management is trying to push you into making a decision without listening to your requirements, they are merely interested in making money, not in understanding your concerns.
Pay attention to the size of the caregiver’s team too. A larger agency will be able to send a replacement staff, in case the assigned caregiver doesn’t turn up. That way you always have a backup plan ready in cases of an emergency.
4. Enquire about the Reputation of the Agency
The number of years for which the senior care agency has been around is a fair indicator of their sustained track record and satisfied clientele. Check when the agency was started and meet the team personally to understand their approach towards senior care.
Reputed senior care agencies are extremely choosy about the caregivers they hire/recruit. Their recruitment process involves screening caregivers and nurses for certifications, educational qualifications, background checks, and experience in this field. They also conduct regular training sessions to upgrade their caregivers’ caregiving skills. Ask the management to share details and supporting documents on whether their team is adequately trained and qualified for the job.
You can assess the reputation of a senior care agency by verifying with references from clinical professionals, friends, and co-workers.
A reputed home care agency will not shy away from sharing the list of their clientele. Contact a few of their clients and check whether they are satisfied with the services offered. You can also check for online reviews and ratings on the agency’s website or on review websites. For instance, you can do an online search on ‘home health care Albuquerque’, and look for agencies that have earned maximum star ratings and positive customer reviews, for their exceptional senior care services.
5. Check Whether the Agency Is Licensed
The agency you choose will assign a caregiver to your senior who will be directly responsible for his/her well-being and quality of life. Therefore, the caregiver must be an expert in his/her field, compassionate, and trustworthy.
Licensed home care agencies have to comply with the state or federal standards to ensure the safety of elders and deliver quality care to them. They are accredited by a national body and are subject to periodic inspections by law enforcement authorities. They take personal responsibility for their caregivers and review their performance regularly to meet their clients’ requirements. It is, therefore, wise to check if the home care agency possesses a valid license.
Check if the agency is hiring an independent home care provider. If yes, consider your liabilities with respect to his/her taxes, insurance, medical expenses, and other obligations. An agency that hires independent caregivers based on a contract pays them without officially documenting the income. In that case, if the caregiver defaults on his/her tax obligations, it could lead to a legal issue affecting all those involved, including you.
Another factor to consider is the injury caused to the caregiver when attending to your senior. Caregivers are at a huge risk of falls, injuries, and/or disabilities when bathing, lifting, or transferring your senior. In such cases, licensed agencies cover the medical and disability expenses of their caregivers.
Licensed home care agencies recruit their caregivers as direct employees, offering them all the above-mentioned benefits. They are responsible for conducting background checks and testing them for drug/alcohol addiction and diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis. They also offer adequate worker’s compensation, backup coverage, and appropriate training to their team.
6. Explore Your Insurance Options
Long-term senior care costs can put a huge pressure on your family’s financial security. Therefore, consider your insurance options that can pay for the services offered by the home care agencies. Buying a medical and long-term care insurance policy will help you cover most of your senior’s healthcare and in-home care expenses.
Medicare, Medicaid, and private medical insurance policies cover skilled nursing services and therapies. These include administering medications (oral or injectable), ventilator or catheter management, tube feeding, wound care, speech and occupational therapy, and physiotherapy.
Medicare also covers other aspects of your senior’s healthcare, such as medical social services, medications, and medical supplies and devices. For instance, if your senior has been diagnosed with a psychological disorder such as schizophrenia, Medicare pays for the psychiatrist’s consultation and counseling sessions.
If your senior is injured due to a fall or an accident, Medicare will pay for his/her wound dressing and other medical supplies. For senior medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and toilet aids, Medicare pays 80 percent of the approved amount.
A few non-medical home care services such as assistance with bathing and using the toilet are also paid in full by medical insurance policies. However, if you choose only personal home care services (non-medical) for your senior, you do not qualify for medical insurance benefits. Home healthcare is usually prescribed by a physician who deems it necessary for your senior’s well-being, comfort, and fast recovery.
Long-term care insurance policies offered by private insurance firms typically cover services that aren’t paid by Medicare. However, the premium for such policies increases with age, so it is wise to buy them as early as possible.
Before making a decision, gain information on the fee structure of the home care agency and talk to your insurance advisor to select the most suitable insurance plan for your senior.
7. Ask about the Elderly Companion Care Services
Social isolation can impact your senior’s well-being and outlook towards life. In fact, numerous studies have proven that the lack of social support coupled with loneliness can hamper a person’s mental and physical health and his/her quality of life.
With advancing age, your senior may possibly lose connection with his/her social circle, owing to the loss of spouse or close family members and the lack of outdoor activity. However, if your senior can receive a little primary emotional support and companionship from a caregiver, it can bring him/her immense comfort and psychological support.
You do not want your elder to end up spending his/her time reading or watching television all alone. Therefore, choose a home care agency that can assign a caregiver who not only provides hands-on care but also offers respite to the family caregiver and encouragement to your senior. This way, he/she will not feel isolated and have a positive outlook towards life.
Your senior may want to socialize, visit parks or supermarkets, or even go for a movie. Talk to the agency about his/her emotional and social requirements, and check if it offers companion care services to help your elder stay connected. Most home care agencies offer a different pricing package for such services, so it is wise to research before making a decision.
When selecting a home care agency, keep your senior’s interests, comfort, and safety in mind, in order to retain his/her quality of life and dignity. No one can care for your senior the way you do, which is why he/she deserves the best, especially when he/she is aging. Choosing an ideal home care service provider for your elder can be a challenging task. The aforementioned tips will help you select the perfect home care agency for your senior, helping him/her retain his/her independence.