New LifeStyles - New York

Summer/Fall 2015

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Ten Things to Ask Before Hiring a Home Care Agency By Shirley Cohen Today's seniors have more options available to them than ever before. One option more and more seniors are turning to when their physical capabilities diminish or while they recover from a short-term disability is to be treated in the comfort of their own homes by a personal nurse's aide or companion. Home care is considered by many to be one of the most desirable options because it allows seniors to maintain their independence while remaining in the one place where they feel most comfortable. However, as in choosing any type of long-term care, there are many pitfalls to watch out for when hiring a homecare worker to care for yourself or a loved one. In any given city, a quick look through the Yellow Pages may reveal dozens of competing companies offering what appear on the surface to be the same services. It's up to you to investigate the differences and find the one company that best suits your home health care needs. 1) How long has your company been in business? There are a lot of new companies entering the marketplace, many of which have little experience or expertise in the special challenges of running a successful home care company. The office staff cannot be relied upon like well- established companies because they experience a high turnover rate. This puts newly formed companies at a distinct disadvantage because they do not have extensive records of caregivers' past performances, and they often attract caregivers who can't get a job at a reputable agency. 2) Are your workers bonded and insured? Few people like to think about accidents or possible problems at the outset of retaining help, but the fact is many people get into accidents every day, such as car accidents, sprained backs, twisted ankles, etc. Also, from time to time, important things in a client's home can be damaged or disappear through a caregiver's negligence or dishonesty. The company you want to work with must have extensive insurance, including Professional and General Liability, Non-Owned Auto, a Dishonesty Bond, and Worker's Compensation policies. Believe it or not there are some companies that have minimal insurance coverage and others who have none at all. 3) How extensive are your criminal and background checks? As you know, there are many of unscrupulous people looking for work. You don't want them in your home or in the home of someone you love or care about. Therefore, you must do business only with companies that provide a criminal background check on each person they employ. Because unsavory characters drift around from place to place, it's important that they not only run a check on the last place their caregiver worked but also on all the places they've lived for at least the last five years. Also ask them if they can provide you with written reference check reports. 4) Does your company have a Licensed Vocational Nurse or RN on staff? Most reputable agencies have a licensed nurse on staff to assure that proper protocol is being followed in the care of a client. A trained nurse can help a caregiver identify safety hazards, recognize symptoms, observe special diets, familiarize them with infection control procedures and universal precautions, establish hygiene standards, and more. In most cases, home health care aide agencies that have a licensed nurse on staff are going the extra mile to provide quality assurance to the services their caregivers provide. 5) How do you select your employees? Many agencies hire home care aides that have little experience and even less credentials—not a caregiver you want caring for you or your loved one. Reputable agencies, however, have minimum requirements for years of experience and levels of certification. The best agencies will even take into consideration such factors as demeanor and professionalism, weeding out the unacceptable workers so you don't have to. Make sure you choose an agency that sets high standards in its hiring policies. 52

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