How to Hire the Right Home Health Aide

Hiring a home health aide can be an overwhelming process. After all, older adults are not only dearly important to the people who love them, but are also more vulnerable than the rest of the population. There are some steps you can take, however, to make the most informed and beneficial decision. The following tips will help you smoothly navigate the process in order find the right home health aide for your particular needs.

Determining the Type of Care You Need

Before you can hone in on a home care agency and an individual home health aide, you must first identify the type of home care services needed. There are two primary types: Home Health Agencies provide skilled care, which covers medical needs and Home Care Agencies provide custodial care, which covers “environmental assistances,” such as help with personal care and hygiene as well as routine domestic tasks, including meal preparation, shopping, and housekeeping.

Most experts recommend finding a home health aide through an agency. Why? Because not only are the candidates vetted by the agency, but the agency is also accountable for their performance if you have any issues, and will provide a replacement if your choice isn't working out.

Not all agencies are created equally, though: while some offer both skilled and custodial care, others provide only one or the other.

Finding Home Health and Home Care Agencies

There are many resources available to help you locate home health or home care agencies. In addition to your doctor, nurse, hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center, your state's department of health, aging and social services or local Area Agency on Aging may also maintain a list of accredited home care agencies.

Additionally, the National Association for Home Care maintains a database of more than 30,000 home care agencies and hospices country-wide. Friends, family members, and neighbors are also great sources for finding reputable home care agencies in your area.

Once you've amassed a list of potential home health agencies, whittle it down by visiting their websites for information on services offered and fees.

ALSO READ: How Telemedicine is Affecting Home Health Care

Checklists and Beyond

After you've narrowed down your choices to a handful of agencies, it's time to conduct interviews. Medicare has compiled a handy checklist of questions to ask when interviewing home health aide agencies. While this is useful as a guideline, it's also fairly cursory in terms of conveying all of the information you need. Going into the interview with a specific list of questions can help ensure that all of your concerns are addressed.

Finding the Right Home Health Aide

Identifying a suitable agency is only part of the process, though. Finding the right individual care provider is equally if not more important.

Home health aides with training — either through a training school or their agency — offer an invaluable set of skills, such as experience in bathing, helping with prescription meds, and moving patients in and out of their bed. However, these tasks are not the only ones that matter.

Finding a person who will be a good fit personality-wise should also take precedence. Why? Because while home health aides are professionals, the roles they fulfill are of a personal nature. As with all caregivers, a good relationship with the patient can make or break the situation.

Be sure to arrange a meeting between the candidate and your aging loved one before making a final decision. Observing their interactions and dynamics can help you determine whether the arrangement will be a positive one. This also allows older adults to play a direct role in choosing their caregivers, so be sure to ask for input following the meeting.

Another way to get a feel for whether a home health aide is the right fit? Many home health agencies will let you arrange a trial period.

The Role of References

Even if you walk away from a meeting with a potential home health aide feeling like you've found the perfect person, reference checks are a must. While home care agencies offer some degree of reassurance, getting first-hand feedback from families who have worked with the candidate before offers additional insight into your decision-making process. And of course, background and criminal checks are a must.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for home health aides are growing at a staggering rate of 48 percent — significantly outpacing the national average for job growth. And while finding and choosing between the many home health aides can be intensive, the effort is a small price to pay for safeguarding the health, wellbeing and happiness of aging loved ones. For more valuable information on senior home care and other caregiving matters, check out our other resources regarding caregiving.

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