Home care is a growing field in the health care industry offering services for all ages and cases with the options of remaining in an environment which provides more comfort and allows for greater freedom. It is a viable and liberating alternative to a nursing home or rehabilitation facility.  Choosing the right home care agency can be an arduous task with many factors to consider when finding the best home care agency for your loved ones. 

When doing your research, qualifications of the business, services provided and experience is vital to choosing the right home care agency. The first question you should ask is if it is a licensed home care agency or a non-medical or companion agency.  A licensed home care agency is licensed by New York State.  In order to be licensed by the State the home care agency must strictly follow a number of rules and regulations including training and certification of home health aides, criminal background checks, continued medical education and insurance coverage.  A variety of services can be provided by a licensed agency with licensed personnel including all aspects of assisting a patient with activities of daily living. These services would be reimbursed by the patient’s long term care insurance and in some cases by their health insurance.  On the other hand, a non-licensed home care agency can only provide companionship and simple tasks for the patient.  These workers are not certified and do not have the level of experience or qualifications that are possessed by licensed personnel.

One should consider the experience and expertise of the agency.  A simple question, such as, “how long have you been in business,” can reveal the reliability of the services and their workers.  Newly started businesses are harder to trust because there is little record of the turnover rates and quality of services.  Choosing a long-standing business with credibility and extensive records may be a better choice. 

The quality and treatment of staff is very important to your search in finding the right fit for you.  It is essential that you choose an agency that sets high standards for their workers through their hiring policies.  Inquiring about the extent of criminal background checks the agency runs, will provide you with the information about where the care taker is coming from and if they will be reliable to your loved ones.  To ensure the credibility of their employees, the agency should check into the last job of the employee and personal references.  It is also beneficial to inquire about whether there is a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) on staff.  They provide the caregivers with the proper care plan and ensure proper practices and protocols are being followed. 

But the patients are not the only ones who need care and protection.  It is more common than people like to think, that the caregiver will get hurt on the job, car accidents, sprained ankles and back injuries are possible injuries within this field.  Learning the insurance policies of the company can be helpful in choosing your agency.  Insurance should include, Professional and General Liability, Non-Owned Auto insurance and Workers compensation.  Unfortunately it also happens that things, such as valuables, can go missing or disappear while the caregiver is in your service, so a fidelity bond will insure the caregiver in case of a theft.  In the event that you do hire a caregiver from a particular agency and they do not work out for whatever reason you also want to know that the company has a replacement caregiver available for continuity of care for your loved one.    

Finally one should view the operations of the company.  What are the office hours of operation?  Is there a 24 hour on-call service? This provides you with the assurance that they are available to take your calls even after office hours.  What are required minimum hours to provide services and how soon can they start?   A reputable agency will go above and beyond to keep you informed including having brochures available by mail that clearly outline the services and fees of the agency.    It is essential that you inquire about how the exctent of the services that can be provided and any additional fees for additional services. For example, does it include assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, washing, feeding, etc.?  You want to make sure the services they provide serve your needs and give you comfort in your decision.  Finding the right home care agency that covers all your needs is a lengthy process and through extensive research you can find the right one for your loved one.  The tools listed above give a foundation to knowing what you should look for and the type of questions you should ask when considering the agencies.