It is important to become an informed consumer when you know someone who needs assistance in order to be able to stay in their own home. There are many types of assistance available, such as Personal Care (funding sources vary such as Medicaid, long term care insurance, and private pay to name a few), Skilled Care (often funded by Medicare and Medicare supplements), or just housekeeping duties (funded by private pay and some long term care insurance policies), to name a few.
Consumers have the right to change agencies at any time they feel dissatisfied with the services. However, depending on the type of care being received and the funding source, the consumer may be limited to choosing among agencies that have particular licenses. Check with the funding source (such as the patient’s long term care insurance company, Medicare, or the VA) for any restrictions they may have.
Personal Care is, I believe, what you are looking for. Personal Care involves hands-on the person duties, such as assistance with bathing and grooming activities, and the government regulatory agencies require that certified aides be used. Additionally, Personal Care and Skilled Care agencies are held to much higher standards than those agencies providing only housekeeping duty assistance.
Here are some questions you should ask when selecting a provider:
Is the provider a non-profit organization or commercial business? In other words, what’s the motivation for their business? How long have they been in business? Are they members of the Better Business Bureau and the local Chamber of Commerce?
Is the provider licensed to provide Personal Care? By whom? What government agencies provide oversight, regulation, and quality assurance? What services are they licensed to provide? Is the business bonded and insured?
Are the in-home aides licensed/certified? What kind of licenses or certifications do they hold? Reputable agencies use PCA's (Personal Care Assistants) or CNA's (Certified Nurse Aides). Are they required to have annual continuing education? Who provides it? Who checks to make sure it has been completed?
Are the in-home aides employees of the agency or contract labor? Does the employing agency provide Worker’s Compensation and Liability Insurance for their employees?
Are the in-home aides screened with reference and criminal background checks?
Is the Plan of Care developed by a Registered Nurse? Do the Registered Nurses make housecalls on a regularly scheduled basis to monitor the quality and appropriateness of the care being received?
Is there a Registered Nurse on call after regular business hours?
Are in-home care providers assigned on a permanent basis? Who do you call if there is a problem? If your aide is sick, will they send a substitute?
Is there a contracted period of time?
Are there set up or exit fees?
These are just a few ideas to help you select the right agency to provide yourself or your loved one with in-home care. If you need more assistance, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. To reach an Area Agency on Aging throughout the United States, call 1-800-677-1116 or look in your local white pages under Area Agency on Aging.
Missy Masterson, RN, RVT, PLNC
Director of Health Services
Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas
a Not-for-Profit 501(c)(3) organization)