4 Criteria to Consider When Seeking the Right Home Care Agency for Your Parent

Lisa Fields
Added: 06.24.2022
5 minutes read
At some point, your parent may need help with activities of daily living, such as showering, dressing, eating and using the bathroom. You may not be able to help with these tasks, either because you have a job, you live out of town or your parent doesn’t want you to see them in a vulnerable state. Instead, you may seek a home care aide.

You may be unsure what qualities to look for in someone who will provide non-medical home care to your parent while spending time alone with them. Your first decision may be: Should I go through a home care agency or hire someone privately? For most people, an agency is the safest option, although you may pay slightly more.

“When you hire somebody on your own, you’re an employer, [and] if that employee gets hurt while in the patient’s home... you’d better be insured,” says certified senior advisor Michele Buenger, RN, BSN, a senior patient advocate MatureWell Lifestyle Center at St. Joseph Health in College Station, Texas. “These agencies offer [insurance] so people aren’t in that position. It’s a protection, and that’s why they pay more per hour.”

The best way to get a feel for a home care agency is to meet with a representative who can answer questions for you and other family members who want to weigh in on the decision. (Many agencies offer free consultations.) Here are some questions to ask:

Is your agency licensed with the state?

In most locations, states license home care agencies. When you hire a licensed, bonded and insured company, it should give you confidence that they have met the state’s requirements. The state agency which oversees home care agencies should be able to tell you if complaints have been filed against the home care agency that you’re considering, although this may vary by state.

“Typically when you do a home care agency, there is regulation behind it,” Buenger says. “[Often], you can compare home care agencies based on those regulatory factors.”

Is everyone on your staff background-checked?
Many home care agencies do background checks on all employees. Ask early on to find out if the agency you’re considering does this. If they don’t and you don’t feel comfortable having a non-vetted caregiver spending time alone with your parent, consider a different agency. A few key questions should help gauge your comfort level.

Do they provide background checks before they hire, and do drug testing?” Buenger says. “Are they trained, and do they have continued training ongoing? [And] do you have experienced certified nursing assistants? Some home care agencies do, and some don’t.”

Is it possible to limit the number of caregivers?
Home care agencies may not always send the same caregiver. If your parent isn’t comfortable around unfamiliar people, you may want to rely on a core group of caregivers, rather than a never-ending parade. Ask the home care agency if you can help decide which caregivers are best-suited for your parent and if you can limit the number of people who provide care.

“I see this come up a lot for home care,” Buenger says. “‘My loved one has dementia. I can’t have a different person come every time. We need to come up with two or three... I can’t have eight different people.’”

Are staff available for off-hour emergencies?
What if your parent needs middle-of-the-night help on occasion? Before you sign on with an agency, find out if they’re available 24/7 to handle emergencies.

“You’re no longer calling the primary [caregiver],” Buenger says. “The home care agency is going to have a person on call that will triage the situation.”