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Home Care Agencies & Private Hire Caregiver

January 18, 2015

Today, there are many personal home care services that are available to seniors.  They help provide for their comfort and independence, while insuring their medical well-being and security.

This type of care may include either state-licensed agencies or private individuals who provide services in the home such as assistance with tasks like bathing, dressing, giving medication reminders, taking vital signs, changing bandages, preparing meals, and providing light housekeeping and transportation.

In-home caregivers allow the seniors to remain in their own home with flexible care options.  If you decide to hire a home care agency or private duty caregiver, careful attention should be given to the hiring process.

There are distinct advantages to hiring a caregiver through a home care agency.  Most agencies carry liability insurance, perform all reference and background checks on workers, handle payment to caregivers and guarantee backup care.  You should be aware, however, that agencies may require you to use a minimum number of hours.  The standard is usually a minimum of 3-4 hours per day. 

If you hire a caregiver privately, the burden of finding, interviewing, and background-checking caregivers is your responsibility.  So is payment (which may involve calculating taxes and social security) and locating backup care. On the plus side, performing interviews yourself can be a good way to find the right person.

Consider a Home Care Agency or Private Hire When:

  • The senior needs assistance with his daily activities such as showering, dressing, or remembering to take medications.

  • When elderly persons can no longer drive, we should be alert to the possibility of a need for change.  This is especially true if they are unstable on their feet, have difficulty rising from a bed or chair, or have fallen.

  • Memory issues are further signs.  If people become disoriented or lost while walking or driving, or just around the house, they need care.

  • When seniors cannot function independently and should not be left alone.


Questions to Ask When Considering Home Care:

  • Is the agency or individual licensed, bonded, or insured?

  • What services do they provide?  Personal care?  Housekeeping?  Meal preparation?  Transportation?

  • Do they offer in-home assessments?  If so, is there a fee?  How much?

  • Explain your loved ones; situation and ask for an opinion.  What do they recommend?  This is also the time to get opinions from trained healthcare professionals-social workers, geriatric care managers, and physicians.

  • What is the staff’s medical training and background?

  • Does a client always get the same caregiver?  It is preferable to have continuity and develop a relationship with the caregiver.  Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, in particular, need consistency to avoid additional confusion.

  • What are the costs?  Is there a minimum number of hours?  Are their discounts for longer hours?

  • What types of insurance do they accept?


Ask for references from the agency or individual.  In the case of a private duty caregiver, be extremely thorough.  Ask for the names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of employment for previous employers.  Be sure to contact them.  Check with your local State Department of Human Resources for any complaints/incidents/reports that may have been registered against the agency or individual.


Where to Find a Home Care Agency

Contact a Geriatric Case Manager, will direct you to a list in your area.

Hospitals may offer lists of discharge planners or social workers.

National Association of Area Agency on Aging, 1-202-872-0888.

Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116.

Retirement Communities-ask the marketing director, director of nursing, or executive director.

Some churches or synagogues provide lists of agencies or private duty caregivers.

Word of mouth-Ask people who may have used a home care agency in the past or know someone who has or is currently using one.

Some local caregiver agencies are shown to the right of this article.


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