Hiring a home care agency can be a difficult task. Not many of us research the right questions to ask, the anticipated costs, or the requirements to be a caregiver in our state. Those things are difficult enough, but there are other tough factors at play. Contacting a home care agency can be like signing up for an annoying email newsletter. You can’t stop the phone calls once you’ve opened the floodgate. Smooth talking sales directors aren’t usually the ones providing hands on care. And inviting someone into your home to provide incredibly intimate services is challenging in itself.
Most people are in the middle of a crisis when they first call a home care agency. They are primarily concerned with 3 factors– 1) How much does it cost? 2) How quickly can you get there? 3) What’s the minimum of hours? But those three questions won’t always help you differentiate good agencies from bad ones. Here are five questions to ask when interviewing agencies:
1. Can I see your most recent survey results?
Home care agencies are surveyed yearly (usually). The survey results are posted online by their regulating agency, and are also provided to the agency themselves. Requesting a copy of the most recent results (or all of them!) will give you an idea of what professional investigators found they were doing wrong. Surveys can be difficult to read, but they generally have a summary of found “deficiencies.” To be fair, nearly every agency makes a mistake or two. But pay attention to the amount of deficiencies, as well as the planned response and resolution. (Here is a website where you can search provider credentials, as well).
2. What happens if (when) no one shows up?
There will likely come a time when the scheduled caregiver doesn’t show up for a shift. It’s an unfortunate part of life. How will the agency respond? How quickly will they respond? Do they guarantee another caregiver or a member of the administrative staff to show up? These are likely things you’ll be faced with, and it helps to know what will happen in a difficult moment.
3. Can I meet the aide who will be providing care?
This is a very important question. You’re inviting a stranger into your home, and it is imperative that you’re comfortable with that person. They will have access to your belongings, your home, and your life; and that’s all acceptable if you find them trustworthy. At our agency, I prefer to introduce our caregiver who is on a first time shift with a client to make sure it is a good fit. We ask a number of survey questions to try to pair our staff with each client, but things that line up on paper don’t always line up in real life. If a client doesn’t feel comfortable, we try again.
4. Do you have any families who have hired you in the past that I can speak with?
Most families that have enjoyed services provided are happy to inform others of their experience. It’s an awkward introduction, but we are usually happy to be of help to another person in need. A simple email detailing experience with the sales professional, different caregivers, customer service, and payment processing can be enough to give you an idea of the overall customer satisfaction. If you want to really push the agency, you can ask for any negative feedback they’ve had from clients. Keep in mind that agency’s are required to keep confidential information confidential.
5. Why are you providing home care?
The final question is a big one. Every business has a story that changes over time. Most home care agencies offer a similar smattering of services. The “what” they offer may not be different. But often what makes agencies really different is the “why.” The story behind what they do shapes the people, and the people make the agency. It’s possible to do a really good job providing light housekeeping services, and be a lousy care aide. The tasks of giving care in the home are often easier to accomplish, the actual caring is the hard part. When we hire caregivers, I am constantly asking the question in the back of my mind, “Would I trust this person to care for my family? For my mother? My wife? For me?” If the answer is no, then why would I allow them to care for another mother/father/sister/brother?
Asking these five questions won’t guarantee you find the right agency or caregiver, but it’s a good start. Can you think of other helpful questions to ask when searching for in home care?