You think your mother might benefit from home health care, and her physician agrees. After all, she regularly forgets to take her medications and recently has fallen while doing chores around the house.
You’re concerned about the amount of time Mom is home alone and you’re unable to be with her as frequently as you’d like. But you’re leery about a stranger coming into her house. And you’re not sure she can afford home health care services.
Although your concerns are understandable, in reality home healthcare is growing as more seniors desire to age in place. In fact, an estimated 15 million U.S. adults receive home health care services from more than 35,000 agencies nationwide.
So how do you find a home health care agency you can trust and afford? Here are some steps you can take to help make this important decision easier.
RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS
Determine your loved one’s needs. Talk to your family member’s primary care physician and others involved in their medical care. What are their biggest concerns? Medication management? Mobility?
Consider any daily living tasks they may no longer be able to effectively complete – cleaning, laundry or food preparation, for example. Do they need someone to escort them to appointments or on errands? Could they use a companion to participate in hobbies or activities they enjoy?
Identify providers. There are many resources for finding providers. Ask medical professionals, clergy, your local Area Agency on Aging, friends and family members. You can find a list of Pennsylvania agencies by county here: https://bit.ly/3RmgF27.
Check credentials. Once you’ve identified potential providers, check their credentials. All home health care agencies in Pennsylvania are licensed by the Department of Health. In addition, some agencies may be certified by the Federal Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which means they must adhere to federal home health regulations if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid.
Find out what others say. After your list of potential providers has been narrowed, ask each agency that you’re considering for references, including past and current clients. Prepare a list of questions that will help you decide if a provider is a good match for your loved one’s situation.
GET TO KNOW THE PROVIDER
Often a phone call is an acceptable first step in the discovery process. But meeting at the agency office or having them visit your loved one’s home are perfectly acceptable requests as well.
Whether it’s a phone call or in-person meeting, be sure to compile a list of questions to learn about the agency’s experience and credentials and the experience and credentials of the staff they employ. For example, are most staff members employed as personal care aides (CNAs) whose patient interaction is limited to assisting with daily activities, or does the agency also employ Registered Nurses (RNs) and Practical Nurses (LPNs), who can help with medical needs?
Other questions to ask:
What services are offered? The kinds of services offered by home health care agencies varies, so be sure to inquire about the needs specific to your loved one, such as assistance with self-care, nursing care, medication management, respite care and companionship.
What do services cost? Find out how you will be billed and what forms of payment are accepted. Make sure you’re clear on all fees. If the agency requires a contract, carefully review what is covered, as well as any fees you will be responsible for if you need to end the contract.
Researching your options is key to finding the best home health care for your loved one. The National Institute on Aging offers great resources. If you live in Lebanon County or the surrounding areas, a well-established, locally owned and operated agency such as Just Like Family Home Health Care also can help answer your questions.