Hiring an In-Home Care Provider? Questions You Must Ask

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Finding in-home help can be an overwhelming process. You’re inviting someone into your home and paying them to help take care of you or a loved one, which means you’re placing a lot of trust in that individual. And whether you’re hiring someone privately or using a home care agency, you’ll likely have a lot of questions.

The background check and screening process is a big part of what you’ll want to inquire about if you’re using an agency, explains Christina Irving, LCSW, Family Consultant at the Family Caregiver Alliance. She adds, “If you’re hiring privately, you’ll need to figure out what you’re comfortable with when it comes to doing background checks and following up with references.”

You’ll also want to know that the care provider coming into your home has the right expertise and training to provide the care you need. For example, if they will be caring for someone with dementia, have they cared for others with dementia previously, and can they cope with situations that might come up? And you’ll want to be sure the personality of the individual is the right fit, too, Irving adds.

Here’s a checklist of questions to consider:

Is the agency licensed by the state?

Is the agency Medicare-certified and/or Medicaid-certified?

Home health agencies must be certified in order for their services to be covered by Medicare or Medicaid. (In some states private home care providers may need to be Medicaid-certified, too, for you to be able to use Medicaid to pay for them.) You can find care quality ratings for Medicare-certified home health agency using Medicare.gov’s Home Health Compare tool.

What portion of the costs will insurance cover?

If you’re going through an agency, make sure they’ve explained this to you. If you’re hiring privately, check with your health insurance or long-term care insurance provider to confirm what your plan covers.

Are there additional or extra costs for weekends, holidays, or other times?

What is the background check and screening process for workers?

If hiring through an agency, you’ll want to know their procedures. If you are hiring privately, you’re the one responsible for screening and checking your care provider’s background.  Ask for multiple references from former employers, personal references, and multiple forms of identification. Consider paying to run a background check, too. You can read more about background checks from the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Do they offer the specific skilled services that I need?

It’s important to know if the agency or private care provider has the training to provide care for specific needs, such as specific nursing duties or physical therapy.

What about other special needs?

You might need a care provider who can speak a particular language, for example.

Will the aide assist with everything I need?

It’s important to spell out up-front what the expectations are and what you are hiring that person to do. If food preparation is a need, is the care provider able to shop and cook for that individual? Will they help with bathroom use and showering?

Will the care provider be available for the hours I need?

If you are going through an agency and only need in-home care for a few hours per day, does the agency have workers who provide that type of care? If you need around-the-clock coverage (meaning someone to be actively providing care through the night), does the agency have shift workers so that someone can provide care during the night and someone can provide care during the day?

Note: If you hire a live-in home care provider, the typical expectation is that that person will be able to sleep through the majority of the night, Irving explains. If you need care through the night, you’ll have to arrange for workers to rotate shifts, so that no one ends up without the opportunity to rest.

What happens if the care provider is sick or needs to take time off?

Having backup coverage is one of the benefits of going through an agency. Double check the rules and policy of the agency you’re looking at to know how that process works and if emergency staff is available, particularly for night and weekend coverage.

If you hire privately, you are responsible for finding coverage if the caregiver is sick or needs time off, so you’ll definitely want to talk with the individual you’re looking to hire about how that would work. How much advance notice should the caregiver provide? How much time do they expect to want to take off?

What happens if there is a problem?

What’s the process for resolving conflicts that come up, such as disagreements about duties or personal conflicts?

Has someone I know used this agency or individual?

Getting a personal recommendation—whether you’re hiring through an agency or privately—can help you feel more comfortable with the process, Irving says. That personal recommendation serves as an extra check that that individual or agency can be trusted.

Can they provide me with other references?

In addition to the personal recommendation you might have gotten to find that agency or individual, can the agency or individual direct you to other previous employers or clients who were satisfied and can attest to their skill and care?

When it’s time to meet the individual care worker who will be providing care, some important questions to ask (in addition to those to determine if the person’s personality is a good fit) include:

What are your credentials?

Where have you previously worked?

Are you legally eligible to work in this country?

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