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By: Jason Lom
It’s really a very easy decision, when you decide to keep an in home care agency over a nursing home or family-based care when an elderly loved one needs medical attention on a regular bases. Home care is the best middle ground in between leaving them and struggling to keep up with all of their needs by yourself. But how do you really decide on which home care agency is the best one for your loved one?

Types of Home Care Agencies

There are a number of kinds of operations that belong to the category of "Home Care"

Respite Care, workers who will give a family that normally works to care for an elderly member themselves a break for a few hours or a few days so that they can attend to important life events. Daily Care, workers who visit at scheduled times each day and do prearranged tasks around the house, as well as making sure that your loved one's medical needs are met. Live-In Care, workers who provide around-the-clock assistance to your loved one, both medical and domestic.

Look At the Services Offered

In home care isn't a service; it's an umbrella under which many services are offered. You need to make sure that the agency you engage is one that offers the specific services that your loved one needs. Some offer "services" of a barely-medical nature, like companionship and help with meals and laundry. Others offer full-scale nurses who can provide complex medical services like administering drugs, maintaining oxygen tanks, and so on in addition to helping out around the house.

Whatever your loved one's level of need, you can find a home care agency to meet it; but the more complex the needs, the more you can expect the agency to charge. Depending on your loved one's insurance, some or all of the cost may be covered, which might again affect which agencies you're able to choose between.

Deciding Factors

Unfortunately, you can't necessarily trust a home care agency's claims; the American Geriatrics Society did a study that discovered that only 55% of agencies actually perform background checks on every worker, and that only one in three actually tested their caregivers' competency before hiring them -- though every single one claimed to. So you have to rely on factors other than the agency's advertising to make your choice.

Perhaps the best such factor is the agency's age. In general, the market rewards quality by keeping an agency in business. You should also, naturally, make certain that the agency is licensed, and that the specific worker(s) you're going to be working with are insured, bonded, and certified by at least one national organization.

Trial Run

While it's not 100% necessary, it's also a good idea to make certain that the agency you work with either allows month-to-month payments or, if they do ask for a longer term, they allow you a 'trial run'. Sometimes, even when everything else seems proper, a care worker just fails to get along with a particular client for no obvious reason, and they need to be reassigned. Don't get trapped in a long contract with a care worker that your loved one isn't happy with, or you'll make everyone involved miserable.

You shouldn't ever take lightly the responsibility of choosing which in-home care agency will support your family and care for your elderly loved one -- the decision will shape a large part of the quality of their lives. Hopefully, armed with this information, you'll be able to make that decision more effectively.


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