Finding the correct caregiver for your loved one may be a life changing decision. A compassionate, professional, caregiver will keep your loved one safe, physically active and mentally engaged, creating an environment, which is safe and constructive for greater quality of life. Unfortunately, a qualified caregiver, or home care agency, is hard to find. Ask these questions before hiring a home care agency to ensure that your loved one is in good hands:

1. Do you have a caregiver training program?

Too many agencies do not provide proper caregiver support. A quality home care agency will provide training and orientation for their caregivers before they are hired. There are many subjects a quality orientation program will cover to keep your loved one safe, but will always include emergency response procedures, basic first aid training, and rules for behavior inside the home. Home care agencies going the extra mile, provide training specifically tailored to your loved one’s health condition.

2. Do you create a custom “Care Plan”?

No two homes are alike. Your loved one’s personality and medical condition should be reviewed in detail. A customized care plan will account for health conditions, medication compliance, individual personality, cultural background, hobbies, and long-term goals.

3. How often does management follow up?

Although you may have a great caregiver, an agency nurse or supervisor should visit the home at least once a month. During the follow up, the “care plan” should be reviewed and adjusted, as necessary. You should also receive detailed notes on your loved one’s condition and create new goals for the following month.

4. What happens if my caregiver cannot make it to work?

A home care agency is responsible for providing care according to the schedule set up during the intake process. A professional agency will always have many qualified caregivers in your area, to fill in during an emergency. Knowing your loved one will never be alone is of paramount importance and should be discussed in detail before hiring an agency.

5. Do you do background checks?

Not all background checks are the same. Ask your agency if the performed background checks include local, state, and federal registries. An agency should check criminal history and the sex offender registry.

6. Are follow up background checks performed?

Once a caregiver is hired they will hopefully stay with your family for an extended period. Follow-up background checks should be conducted to make sure your caregiver is being a good citizen and continues to have a valid drivers license. We once had an employee whose license was suspended, but she continued driving the patient. Luckily, our follow-up background screen identified the delinquency.

7. Is the caregiver licensed?

There are a few licenses a caregiver, who completed a state or private caregiving program can obtain. Certified Nursing Assistant, or Home Health Aide, are two common ones. An agency should always do a license check to make sure your caregiver has never been accused of abuse and continues to have a license in good standing.

8. Are drug screens performed?

Unfortunately, drug abuse can be a problem for some caregivers. A drug screen must be performed for illegal substances and commonly abused prescription medications.

9. Is the agency licensed, bonded, insured?

A home care agency should always have a state license. Upon receiving the license number, you can check the state registry to make sure there have not been any complaints about the agency. Liability insurance should always be carried in compliance with state laws. Most agencies will carry a $1,000,000 per incident policy. The agency bond should cover all potential theft in the home.

10. Are the caregivers employees of the agency or independent contractors?

A home care agency that is not a “registry” should always employ their caregivers. If the agency does not employ the caregivers directly, you will not be covered under any of the insurance policies. You are also responsible for withholding taxes, providing medical insurance, and complying with all other state and federal laws, including overtime and days off. Always ask if your caregiver is directly employed by the agency.

11. Do you follow minimum wage laws?

Many agencies will allow a caregiver to live in the home without being in compliance with overtime laws. A caregiver living in your home should be getting adequate sleep and time off. Their hours worked, divided by weekly pay amount should be in compliance with your state hourly minimum wage.

12. Is there a contract?

Make sure you are able to leave the agency anytime you are unhappy with their service. Read all contracts provided by your agency carefully and remove any wording requiring advanced notice of service removal. Seven days is the maximum amount of notice time an agency should require.

Hopefully these questions will help you make the correct decision when hiring a home care agency to take care of your loved ones.

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