Aware Senior Care Blog
It can be a challenge coming up with questions to ask a home care agency if you’ve never needed their services before. Especially if you’re starting from, “What is Home Care?”
I remember when I was looking for home care for my mother, Emily, in the Adirondacks area near Glens Falls, NY. Literally hundreds of home care agencies came up when I typed “Home Care Warren County NY” into Google search.
I thought, “My gosh, where do I start? How can I tell the good agencies from the bad ones? Is there some site where I can read reviews, rank them and create a short call list?”
From this experience, and after three years of talking to families about home care, we’ve developed a process to help families make a decision regarding home or elderly care. This, of course, assumes that you or your loved one not only need help (see our self-assessment tool) but also that you or your love one will accept help. These two issues are typically big hurdles to clear before many people select a home care agency.
•Consistency – Families want a reliable caregiver that performs their duties well and is there for the loved one when needed.
•Passion/Love/Great Care – The caregiver loves what they do and it shows. They share that love with your loved one.
•Reliable and Dependable – Families would like to work with an agency that can be relied upon for consistently great care, in good and bad times. Nobody is perfect, but great agencies create caregiver teams with suitable replacements and they never miss shifts. When there is a problem, they proactively fix it and are forthcoming about it. We stand behind our caregivers and our goal of exceptional care. If our clients are not satisfied, we will make it right or refer the family to somebody who will.
‘Price’ is absent from the above, if you didn’t notice.
Remember the saying “You get what you pay for?” This is especially true in the home care industry. Our services are priced slightly above the industry average and our caregiving team is compensated in the upper 90th percentile based on industry research from Home Care Pulse.
What separates the good home care companies from the below average ones? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a portal like TripAdvisor.com or Yelp.com where you could type in your zip code and ask for all the home care agencies to be displayed based on reviews?
To help you in this important decision, we have created a short list below of home care evaluation points to consider. These points will help you with this extremely important decision:
1. What are their ratings and how are they reviewed?
If a home care agency is not reviewed online, we’d recommend putting them aside to revisit later. You should look for agencies that have been reviewed by families. The more reviews, the better. Of course, the highest rated tend to be better.
Here are some of the industry-leading review sites in elder care:
2. What awards or recognitions have they earned and what national memberships or associations in senior care do they take part?
Recognition from their local Chamber of Commerce
Awards from the major senior care industry review and rating sites mentioned above such as:
- BestofHomeCare.com from Home Care Pulse.
- Best of Home Care from SeniorAdvisor.com.
- Caring Stars for Home Care from Caring.com.
- Check out the agency’s website to see if they list any awards or recognition.
National Senior Care Memberships or Associations:
- The Senior’s Choice (TSC) is the world’s largest membership network of senior care providers. Home care agencies associated with The Senior’s Choice are among the top performers in their respective markets when it comes to overall client satisfaction. TSC is a wonderful organization and taught us the fundamentals of being a great home care agency. What we enjoy most is our membership where we talk to other members and meet in conferences to share experiences and great ideas to keep raising the bar for exceptional home care. In 2016 we were fortunate to be selected to become part of the TSC Champions which is a subset of highly rated and performing home care agencies through the United States and Canada in the 150+ TSC membership network.
3. Is the home care business personal for them?
You are trusting a complete stranger to care for you or your loved one. You should know the people providing care. Why did they want to work in home care?
What are their values? We share a lot about our personal lives and why we started Aware on our web site and our Blog.
Why? Establishing trust with families is absolutely vital to us. We want you to get to know us and know that we truly care. We frequently receive calls from clients of other agencies frustrated that they rarely hear from them, much less know them. They called some agencies “faceless.” From Gina, myself, and the staff to the caregivers, we want you to know, like, and trust us.
4. What additional services do they provide?
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Recovery from a stroke
- Client has limited vision or is blind
5. Are they a “team player?”
It takes a village to provide care for a client and their family. We feel as much joy referring clients to members of our partners in the circle of support as we do when we provide the care ourselves.
We want to give you solutions, not sell you on services and/or products we don’t trust.
Since 2014, we’ve met and worked side by side with great people and organizations that provide services, products, or consulting focused on living well in the home. The list is extensive and includes home health, hospice, meal delivery, pharmacy delivery, home renovation and security, estate planning, veteran’s assistance, counseling, resources for seniors, etc.
6. How often do they communicate with you?
We’ve had a number of clients come to us for services from other agencies because they virtually never heard back from the office after their care plan was put in place. Frequent check-in visits are an important part of our services. Our staff makes frequent unannounced visits to clients just to see how the caregiver is performing. A plan of care will likely change over time and it’s important to establish communication in case adjustments need to be made. Ask your potential agency how often they visit their clients once service begins.
Additionally, we always personally introduce a new caregiver. We don’t feel it’s appropriate to assign a new caregiver without an in-person introduction. It’s an uncomfortable situation not only for the client, but also for our caregiver. This includes new caregivers taking over the services of a previous caregiver. We are frequently told by clients how much they appreciate this small, but important detail.
7. How do they screen and hire professional caregivers?
As part of our initial call with families we always ask: “What’s most important to you?”
8. How do you retain and take care of good caregivers?
9. How much do your services cost?
Home care can be costly and when you’re considering it, I imagine you’re trying to see just how cost effective it can be compared to the various senior living options. Look for a crisp answer.
Typically, home care agencies offer companion care and personal care. Ask them what the hourly price starts at for both categories. Do they have different pricing for weekdays and weekends? (We do not, by the way).
Ask them about other complex cases such as care for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, MS etc.? Is there a higher charge to take care of a couple? Do they have any other services such as nurse care (we do). Get the complete picture.
10. What are their caregivers saying?
You can tell a lot about an organization by what their employees are saying about them. How do we provide exceptional care? The answer is simple. Our exceptional caregivers and office staff. Taking care of caregivers and office staff is priority one. Check out what employees are saying by checking the agency web site or popular employment portals and elder care review sites such as Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com and Caring.com.
11. How do they answer the phone?
This is a wonderful first test of the company you may trust for the care of your loved one. They say first impressions are important and it’s true. We get so many compliments from our circle of support referral partners and potential clients, which includes the sons and the daughters, on not only how we answer the phone but how we connect and establish rapport.
Is the person you’re talking to listening and giving feedback on your situation or just selling services? Frequently after listening to the situation, we guide callers to other resources that can be more appropriate and helpful. The caller is a bit stunned we did that and asked nothing in return. We want to give you the best possible solution and another organization may be better suited.
Consider the following when you call:
- Are they good listeners?
- Did they understand your needs?
- Did you feel comfortable with them?
12. Do they have professional references?
13. Do they have case studies?
It’s always reassuring when you can find some case studies that validate the service description provided in brochures.
If the agency says they are experienced in cases with clients with MS, it’s nice to see a documented case study that discusses the case and what the outcome was. It also helps you identify with the agency if there is a case study that matches your loved one’s situation.
14. How involved is the agency in the community and in giving back?
15. Do they provide veteran’s assistance?
We hope this list is helpful for those trying to navigate the waters of caring for a loved one. If you’ve been through the process, what has your experience been like? What other questions would you add to this list?
And as always, feel free to give us a call at (919) 436-1871 if you have any further questions. It’d be great to hear from you!