home health care agencyWhether you need short-term rehabilitation after surgery or assistance bathing, cooking and taking your medications as you age, there’s a chance that you may need the services of a home health care agency one day. “Life changes in a nanosecond,” says Debbie Johnson, owner of Care Advantage, Inc. in Richmond, VA. That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead and know how to find the care that’s right for you:

It’s all in the name. A “home care”, or companion care agency will generally only provide household and personal care services, such as bathing and feeding, and isn’t licensed, while a “home health care” agency, which is regulated by state and federal laws and often Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, offers skilled care,like handling feeding tubes and respirators and administering medication. Next week’s post will discuss companion care.

Pointing you in the right direction. “[If you’re in the hospital], there are discharge planners and they are very knowledgeable about who is out there and who is good,” explains Johnson. You can also ask your physician or state ombudsman’s office for referrals.

Ask a lot of questions. There are many important things you need to know before engaging a home health care agency and bringing these strangers into your or your loved one’s home. Are caregivers available 24/7? Are employees bonded? Will you have the same caregiver each time? (Consistency is important, according to Johnson.) Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions that come to mind to screen prospective home health care agencies.

Don’t pick the first agency out of the gate. These are the most important people you’ll ever hire! Leave no stone unturned. Interview at least two agencies and be sure to ask for and carefully check references. Also check in with your local Department of Aging Services or Better Business Bureau for any complaints lodged against the agency.

Let us know about your experiences with home health care agencies.