Senior Center

Questions for Home Health Agencies

By Megan C @ LivingSenior - July 18, 2012

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The choice to age in place is the best option for many seniors and their families. The benefits of home health care options are numerous. The benefits of using a home health agency versus and independent caregiver are even more numerous. The first step in choosing the right home health agency is to know which questions to ask the agency manager. These questions can make or break an agency in the eyes of the senior and their family. The answers can shed light on how the agency views care giving and each of their clients.

Is the Agency Certified and with Which Organizations?

This is probably the most important question to ask. The question shows that a family or representative for the family understands that agencies should be, at the very least, state certified. The extension of the question regarding the certified organizations shows there is knowledge of who the agency should be certified with either locally or nationwide. The answer to this question can be easily verified and can lead a family to understand the agencies background and reputation.

What Background Checks are Performed on Caregivers?

The background of a caregiver has broken many home health agencies. When an agency does not perform full background and reference checks on their potential caregivers, damaging past experiences can be overlooked. Felony records, abuse records, drug use and other issues can be easily hidden until a criminal background, employment reference check and drug test is given. The best answer a home health agency can give to this question is a list of the background checks, drug tests and other reference checks they perform. The worst answer is answering in a vague manner such as "we check our caregivers thoroughly." If the agency is illusive about what checks they perform then the doubt is placed in the minds of the family that the check is being done at all.

What Certifications are Required of the Caregivers, Nurses or Aides?

Certifications are required, by most states, for the agency to operate. Those certifications do not blanket cover the staff members of the agency. Each staff member should be certified unless they are companion caregivers. A nursing assistant should be certified by the state nursing board as a CNA. Home health aides should be certified with an HHA certification. Nurses should be certified with the title of LPN, RN or BSN. All of these certifications can be verified through the state nursing board websites. There are other certifications that can be obtained by the caregivers or made mandatory by the agencies. An example would be a CPR certification or other additional training certification.

How Does the Agency Create a Care Plan?

Care plans should be created as a collaboration between the family, physician requests or requirements and the agency. If they agency states that the care plan is something left up to the family or that they will accommodate any care plan the family has, then continue to look for an agency. A certified, reputable and upstanding agency will help create a care plan with the family and provide the caregivers necessary to meet that care plan.

How Does the Agency Handle Care Plan Transitions?

A care plan should be provided at the start of any contract between the home health agency and the family. It should be based on the personalized needs of the senior or family member who will be using the care giving services. These care plans should always be flexible to bend to the needs of new health developments and progress, if necessary, to hospice or end of life care. The best answer a home health agency can give is they will work with the family when a new need arises and will alter the care plan, number of care givers or hours a care giver stays with the family based on the new needs.

Important Information to Consider

Never be afraid to ask these questions of a home health agency. The truth is that if they can not handle the answers, provide vague or loose answers or have no answer at all, then they are not the agency that needs to be hired. As a family in need of care and possibly certified care, these questions are vital and must be asked. The family should stand their ground until they find a home health agency that answers the questions to the satisfactory level of the family.