Are you ready to choose a caregiver to help your aging parents stay safe and healthy in their own home? Before you start interviewing prospects, consider your priorities. Write them down. Being sure of what you want and what Mom and Dad need will complete half the equation in securing reliable in-home help. The other part of the calculation involves deciding on whether to hire staff from professional senior care agencies or franchise, or from an independent contractor via the want ads or a personal referral.
In assessing your and your parents’ priorities, make three columns. In the first, list the details of your budget. In the next two, estimate the current level of service that you think Mom and Dad need, and the possible needs that might arise in the future. You’ll use this information to determine what you can afford and what level of care your parents will accept. These details will also help you locate a pool of paid caregivers to interview.
Entrusting your resources and your parents’ health to a professional agency rather than an unaffiliated individual can save you the hassle with:
- Hiring and firing
- Skill assessment
- Background checks
- Employment taxes
- Liability insurance
- Substitute care
Whatever your budget and parents’ needs are, start with the ideal care relationship in mind. You can always fall back on second and third choices. For most families, selecting one or more caregivers from a professional agency provides the most economic and personal security in a relationship that does carry some risk. Your parents will be inviting someone new into their homes. They–or you–will enter into an employment agreement with financial and legal strings attached. Dealing with an agency will let you and Mom and Dad focus on the benefits and minimize the risks of in-home care.
What’s the easiest way to find qualified caregivers? Many families rely on referrals from friends and relatives, but these personal recommendations are just that–personal. They reflect someone else’s experience, preference, needs, and standards. Particularly in regard to individual care aides, referrals are highly subjective and may not apply to your parents’ circumstances.
Likewise, requesting or responding to independent caregivers through print or online ads is highly limiting. The folks you encounter may or may not be skilled, personable, reliable, or honest. The money that you might save by avoiding an agency’s overhead fees disappears when you must put it toward background screening, insurance, and legal costs. Additionally, individuals cannot be bonded against theft; agency employees can.
Professional senior care businesses have a large pool of applicants and a set standard of care. But the most compelling reason to consult them is the skill level of their staffs. Currently, home care regulation in America is fragmented. Federal training criteria apply just to home health aides who work for businesses that meet Medicaid and Medicare requirements. Only a few states insist on training for professional caregivers–but most senior care agencies do. In a competitive market, it’s in their best interest to place well-qualified employees in clients’ homes.
Here’s how it works. Senior care agencies hire aides after interviewing and screening them and evaluating their skills. Many companies have well-established training programs in place, plus support services that keep caregivers at the top of their game. These businesses also have managerial staff who deal with scheduling, meeting the changing needs of clients, and providing consultation for care aides. If a question or difficulty comes up during a home visit, aides can call the office for advice. They can share their knowledge and experiences with other caregivers in the firm.
South Carolina requires continuing education of home health care aides, but most agencies routinely encourage or provide ongoing training for their staffs. Caregivers and managers are educated in basic health and safety, the aging process, forming effective relationships, and emergency procedures. Those who deliver personal care learn safe and respectful methods of bathing, grooming, and other forms of assistance. Some agencies retain specialized staff to provide medical care round-the-clock, and transportation services.
It may be easy to arrange for non-medical daytime care, but what happens when Mom needs special help recovering from surgery or Dad shows signs of Alzheimer’s disease impairment? While independent caregivers may have limited skill sets, well-staffed agencies can provide a wide range of in-home help to address seniors’ evolving needs over time. Tiered services also accustom seniors who are used to taking care of themselves to accept help. They can start with housekeeping assistance and work up to more intensive care when and if they need it.
Consider your parents’ lifestyle, home environment, and abilities to decide which types of help to request. Most full-service agencies employ qualified aides who can offer:
- Meal planning and preparation
- Errand running
- Personal care
- Overnight supervision
Some Medicare and Senior Care businesses also provide personal and group transportation services. A few locally owned and franchise agencies have professional nursing staffs to supervise dementia patients, administer procedures like injections and wound care, and distribute prescribed fluids and medication. If your parents have to surrender their car keys or develop conditions requiring medical management, these agencies can supply trained staff to step in right away. An independent contractor may or may not have the insurance, accessible vehicle, or professional skill to do so.
How home care services are performed is another big consideration. Independent caregivers who work for themselves may have learned one way to get things done. A diverse and well-trained agency staff, though, can offer flexibility in the care they provide. Accepting in-home help from someone who is not a family member is probably a new experience for your parents. They might not know exactly how to go about it, what to expect, or what their options are. Agency-employed caregivers and their managers have mutual experience to draw on and many resources and methods for satisfying seniors’ needs.
Senior care agencies have reputations to uphold and take strong measures to earn good marks. Self-employed individuals who do not make the grade simply move on to the next case. Which sounds more convenient and secure: receiving different levels of skilled service from a business that is accountable to the public, or relying on a single caregiver who does not have to seek training or hold liability insurance? You’ll enjoy greater peace of mind when working through an agency with demonstrated ability to hire and retain great caregivers.
Another benefit that home care agencies have over individual aides is ease and flexibility of scheduling. Hiring independent contractors makes you responsible for their income and subject to their availability. They may prefer more or fewer hours than you require or only be able to work during certain times. Agencies with ample staff can provide qualified caregivers when you need them–and your parents’ needs will likely change as they age.
In-home care agencies offer a range of scheduling options, such as:
- Full-time ongoing day care, ending with dinner preparation
- Part-time daily care, a.m. or p.m.
- Round-the-clock care, shared by two caregivers
- One-time visits
- Respite or recovery care, on your schedule for a limited duration
- Substitute care, when your regular provider is sick or on vacation
Emergencies happen in the lives of working caregivers. Agencies give you a back-up plan if your in-home aide needs a leave of absence, is out sick, or has medical appointments or car maintenance to attend to. They can also provide supervision on a one-time basis if you usually take care of your parents but need to be absent for a day.
Respite care is another perk that agencies happily provide but individuals who need a steady income may balk at. If you need a break from watching over your parents in their home, a senior care agency can send in a caregiver for a few days, a week, or a month. If your parents are still quite capable but could use temporary help every now and then, a respite schedule is ideal for home visits. The same temporary shift might be all your parents need when recovering from surgery or illness.
Flexible scheduling saves you money. If you jotted down your priorities in preparing to hire in-home care, you’ll have an idea of how much, how skilled, and how frequent assistance might be right for Mom and Dad. An experienced agency manager will take it from there, matching care and scheduling options to your budget and needs. Choosing to hire from a reputable, established agency will make in-home visits run like clockwork–so you can focus on your parents’ health and happiness.
Already HomeCare is a full service non-medical home care agency servicing Charleston and Columbia South Carolina. Contact us today to learn more. (843) 371-1419.