Monday, October 5, 2009

Guess Who I'm Letting in My Home

One of the most difficult decisions many older adults make is to allow caregivers into their home. But as hard as this decision is, I am beginning to think that choosing the right caregiver agency is even harder.

There are so many things to consider when choosing an agency. Cost is obviously a huge factor. Any way you look at it, paying for care is expensive. In the Fort Worth area, you can count on paying anywhere from $16-$24 an hour, and that is often with a four hour minimum. Some agencies will consider shorter minimums, but they might charge a higher hourly rate.

If round the clock care is needed, live-in care could be an option. Many agencies define live-in care based on whether the caregiver can sleep or not. If the caregiver can sleep, even getting up 3-4 times a night to provide assistance, this might qualify as live-in care. Of course, you then have to have a place for the caregiver to sleep, which in some situations might not be available. Live-in care is less expensive, usually in the $10-$12 dollar per hour range. Many times these caregivers are in the home for several days at a time, which can result in fewer caregivers.

If the caregiver is not able to get adequate sleep, the agency is probably going to insist on 24-hour care, which will usually be billed at the regular rate. You can expect however that the night time caregiver is awake all night long, and ready to provide assistance. Many agencies will try to have teams of 4-5 people on the care team in this situation, to minimize the number of people providing care.

In addition to having good, well-trained caregivers, it is also important to have a good relationship with the agency owner/administrator and other office staff. You are paying a lot of money for care, and it is reasonable to expect that when you call the office with a problem, you will get a quick response.

When choosing an agency, here are some questions you may want to consider asking:
  • Are the caregivers certified?
  • What kind of orientation and ongoing training do the caregivers receive?
  • How are problems resolved?
  • What kind of background checks are done?
  • How many clients do you have?
  • How many caregivers do you have?
Another source of information about caregiver agencies is the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). They have a Long Term Care Quality Reporting System. At this website you can view information on recent complaints, not only for home care agencies but also for nursing homes and assisted living communities.

And finally, don't ignore your gut reaction. If you have a bad feeling after meeting with an agency owner or representative, pay attention. It might not be scientific, but these are people you will be dealing with on a regular basis, and if you don't like them, the relationship will probably not be a good one. There are enough other agencies out there that you should be able to find a good fit.

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