How to Choose a Home Care Provider


Finding a home care provider can be an overwhelming task. In most cases, you are already dealing with the stress of a recent illness or the decline in health of a loved one, making it difficult to focus on the task at hand. As the American population ages, more families will be faced with the decision about how to provide care for their older family members. As of 2015, more than 5 million Americans over the age of 65 have some sort of dementia, meaning that many families like yours will be making tough decisions about how to care for their loved ones.

When you do select a home care provider, they can help improve the environment for your whole family. The stress of providing hands-on care to a loved one will be reduced and you will be able to attend to other matters, knowing your family member is being properly taken care of.

Once you determine that finding a home care provider is the right step for your family, choosing a home care agency can still be a daunting task.

As of 2015, more than 5 million Americans over the age of 65 have some sort of dementia.

Families in the Central Pennsylvania regions of Harrisburg, Mechanicsburg, Hershey and Camp Hill can feel confident that All Hands Home Care will answer their home care agency questions and provide top-notch care for their loved ones.

What Is Home Care?

Home care is a catch-all phrase that can describe many different situations. Generally, it refers to any non-medical assistance that is provided in a home setting. But since there are more than 12 million Americans receiving some form of home care, it can be hard to define what that care means in different situations. Home care helps many adults perform their daily activities in the comfort of their own home or the home of a loved one. This type of assistance provides peace of mind for family members and helps avoid the skyrocketing costs and dramatic life change of moving to an assisted-living facility or nursing home.

Home care is different, however, from home healthcare. Someone who needs medical attention at home, such as physical therapy, intravenous medicines, wound care and oxygen support, should seek assistance from a home healthcare provider. These providers are usually registered nurses or trained therapists and have advanced medical qualifications for working with patients who need assistance in their homes.

There are more than 12 million Americans receiving some form of home care.

What Should I Expect From In Home Care?

Home care services, which are performed by certified nursing assistants and certified home health aides, provide:

Personal Care. This includes preparing meals, getting dressed, bathing and grooming.

Companionship. Some adults, especially those with early Alzheimer’s or dementia, may simply need someone to stay with them during the day. The companion’s responsibilities may include taking your loved one on shopping trips, watching television with them and socializing with them. Your family member may still be able to perform daily responsibilities, but they just might need a reminder about how and when to do their tasks.

Household Assistance. Laundry, light cleaning and transportation to appointments also fall under the responsibilities of many home care services. These chores are often done with the at-home family member rather than for them.

Choosing an In Home Care Provider

Once you determine that a home care provider is the best way to address your family’s needs, you’ll need to start researching local options. Talk to your loved one’s doctors, hospital social workers and discharge planners to find out whom they recommend. Friends and neighbors who have older family members living at home might also be able to make suggestions.

One of the first decisions to make is whether you want to use an individual provider or an agency. They each have their advantages. If you know an individual provider whom you trust and would be a good fit with your family, they might be a good option. An agency, on the other hand, can provide more staffing options and can seamlessly transition your family to another home care aide if your regular one is unavailable or leaves the company.

With an individual provider, it’s your responsibility to check the person’s background and verify their training and experience. Agencies, like All Hands Home Care in Central Pennsylvania, evaluate their caregivers and check their history prior to hiring, making background checks and references two fewer things you have to worry about.

Once you make the decision between an individual and an agency, collect brochures and visit the websites of home care providers in your area. You can also contact your state’s Department of Aging or the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging to find resources and recommendations in your area.

Questions to Ask a Home Care Provider

Once you find a few home care providers you are interested in, you should develop a list of questions to ask them about what to expect from the in home care they provide. The list below will help you get a better understanding of the provider’s background, clarify the role the provider will have within your family and provide the agency with a clear definition of their responsibilities. This list is intended to help you determine how to choose an in home care provider from an agency, but you can customize the questions for an individual care provider if that’s the route you’ve decided to take.

Whom does the agency provide care for?

1. Whom does the agency provide care for?

Some home care agencies specialize in providing for the elderly while others handle mostly pediatric situations. Finding an agency like All Hands Home Care is the best of both worlds, since they are able to provide home care for anyone in your family. Since your situation may change over time, it’s a good idea to look for an agency that can handle any situation for all age groups.

2. Does the agency require background checks and Childline Verification of employees?

The simple answer to this question should be a resounding “Yes.” Even if you are looking for an agency that works with an older population, it’s likely that your caregiver will come in contact with other members of your family, such as visiting grandchildren. You want to find a caregiver whom you feel most comfortable with, and secure and confident in inviting them into your home.

Keep in mind that home care agencies are not required to perform criminal background checks, so you’ll need to decide how important this is to your own peace of mind. Most of the highly recommended agencies, like All Hands Home Care, do run these checks before hiring care providers, so always go with this type of agency if a background check is important to your family.

3. Does the agency have a local business office?

Some agencies have a national assignment service that sends out caregivers based on daily needs. This might be appropriate for short-term care or for a specific one-time situation, like a few days of post-hospitalization follow up, but if you need a home care provider for an on-going need, you’ll want to find one with a local office.

Having an office in your own community shows that the care agency is committed to providing long-term services. And, a company like All Hands Home Care that is established within your area, demonstrates that the agency cares about the community and is dedicated to long-term work. A national assignment agency might only hire temporary workers and can have frequent turnover among employees, which isn’t a good way to establish a daily routine for your loved one. The bond that is created between your family member and their care provider is an important one, so you’ll want to find an agency that is also dedicated to this relationship.

4. What services does the agency provide?

Not all agencies are comfortable or qualified for the same services. While this question depends largely on what your needs are, it’s a good idea to understand what services the agency usually provides. Are they comfortable taking your loved one to doctor appointments, or do they prefer to spend most of their time in your home? Do you have services you want them to provide, like meal preparation, that they are willing to do? If not, look elsewhere. Likewise, let the agency tell you what their care providers usually do. They might be qualified to do services that you haven’t considered.

5. Can I meet the caregiver prior to starting services?

Meeting the person who will be in home for several hours a day is an important factor for most families. You’ll want to hire someone whose personality fits not only yours, but also that of your loved ones. The ability to meet and approve the person should be a free consultation from the agency. You should also be comfortable enough with the agency to turn down a caregiver and request someone different if it’s not the right fit.

6. Will there be a single caregiver or multiple/rotating caregivers?

 Having only one caregiver can often be beneficial, as they do not have to relearn your loved one’s routine and are already comfortable with the family. A home care service provider like All Hands Home Care provides a dedicated caregiver for your loved one’s benefit.

7. Does the agency have a 24/7 phone contact number, and am I able to reach staff at any time?

Situations may arise when you will need to cancel a visit or schedule additional care. Someone from your home care provider should be available at any time to make these schedule requests.

Does the agency provide a way for families to keep track of the care schedule?

8. Does the agency provide a way for families to keep track of the care schedule?

Situations and schedules can change on a regular basis, so you’ll want to be able to reach a scheduler when you need to request more or fewer hours than are initially expected. Unexpected circumstances, like doctor visits or hospitalizations, will need to be handled as they occur. Your care agency should expect this and be willing to change schedules as needed.

9. Can the specific care provider communicate notes from daily visits?

Since the care provider might be spending eight hours or more with your loved one, you’ll want to know what happened during that time. Did your family member eat full meals? What did they buy at the store? Finding a way to communicate their activities, along with any noticeable changes in their behavior, is important. Some agencies have a computerized system that reports the day’s activities while others will simply allow the care provider to leave behind hand-written notes.

10. Does the agency schedule in home supervisory visits to check on the client and caregiver?

The agency should have a means for checking in on the caregiver’s progress with your loved one. This is a good way for you to understand how their time is being spent and whether additional services are needed. In some cases, you might find out that your family member doesn’t need as much one-on-one care as you expected.

11. Does the agency have backup staff in the event that the primary caregiver needs to cancel a shift?

Inevitably, your regular care provider might have an unexpected event, like an illness or family obligations, that will prevent them from taking care of your family member. Does the agency have adequate staffing to send a backup caregiver? If not, are they able to communicate last-minute changes to you so you can adjust your own schedule to accommodate?

12. Is the agency flexible about scheduling?

Some agencies require a specific number of hours or days for their services. If you only need a caregiver for a few hours, or if some situations require a longer visit (or an overnight stay), are they able to meet your needs?

13. Can the agency customize the plan of services to my care needs?

A home care provider might expect to plan social outings with your loved one, but are they also comfortable taking them to a doctor appointment? Family situations and needs are never “one-size-fits-all,” so you’ll want to find an agency and a specific caregiver who can meet your individual needs.

14. Does the agency carry liability coverage?

If the caregiver gets hurt while working in your home, who is responsible? Most licensed agencies should have their own insurance that covers their employees in the case of an accident.

Above all else, the right agency for you and your loved one will be the one that can provide a worry-free experience and is willing to customize their services to your particular needs. Your home care agency should make you feel confident in your choice.

All Hands Home Care understands how important it is to choose the right home care provider, which is why we offer all of the above benefits and are happy to work with you to meet the unique needs of your loved one.

Although the process of selecting a home care provider can be difficult, you should be happy and satisfied with the results. Contact All Hands Home Care if you’re interested in learning more and for a free in home care assessment in the Central Pennsylvania area.