Bringing a health professional into your home to care for a loved one is a difficult but often necessary decision. Aside from the impact on the person who needs care, a home service can affect your daily schedule and your family’s relationships. Here’s everything you need to know about hiring home health services for your elderly parents.
Types of Health Services
You should know all the different types of health services to make sure your loved one gets the proper care. There are the standard types, each with unique skills and specialties:
- Doctor care: a doctor stops by for periodic checkups, diagnoses and basic treatments.
- Nursing care: a personal nurse monitors the patient’s health, administers medication and provides other necessary care.
- Therapy: a professional provides physical, occupational, emotional or speech therapy based on the patient’s needs. This treatment is often required after a severe illness or injury.
- Homemaking/Basic assistance: a social worker helps the patient with basic activities, does household chores and provides counseling. Sometimes they simply act as a companion for the patient.
- Nutritional support: a dietitian stops by to check on the patient’s health and eating habits, then changes the patient’s diet accordingly. Sometimes they deliver meals.
- Testing: a lab technician administers essential tests inside the patient’s home, saving them an unnecessary trip to the hospital.
- Pharmaceutical care: a nurse or volunteer delivers particular medicines and instructs the patient on how to take them.
- Transportation: a social worker or volunteer provides transportation for patients who are incapable of driving themselves.
Patients who need frequent treatment/rehabilitation usually choose nursing care, while others with more specific needs bring in a specialist. Determine your loved one’s needs and hire the right professional for the job. You don’t want to pay for a doctor or nurse if you only need a social worker.
Independent vs. Agency
The source of the professional service can also vary. You can either hire an independent caregiver or enlist the help of a home health agency. Each option has pros and cons that could affect your decision.
You can hire an independent caregiver to start working tomorrow and pay them directly. However, the responsibility falls on you to perform a thorough background check and look into references. If the caregiver doesn’t work out, you move back to square one.
Finding a trustworthy agency might require more time and effort, but the payment and background check process is more straightforward. The agency handles all the tax and insurance paperwork. Plus, you know that an agency’s employees have the minimum qualifications to care for your loved one. Even so, you should ask for qualifications and other resources to make sure you find the right fit.
Questions to Ask
As you search for a trustworthy caregiver, you should ask many questions about their qualifications, the quality of care and the various costs you should expect to pay. You should also ask them to provide specific information about their services to ensure you get the right fit. Here are some thoughtful questions you should ask:
- Does the aide/agency have necessary licensing from the state?
- What employee screening procedures does the agency have?
- Can the aide/agency provide references?
- How does the agency handle billing?
- Are any fees covered by Medicare or health insurance?
- Does the agency have financial assistance resources?
- Can the agency provide a written care plan?
- When/how will the aide provide services?
- What are the emergency procedures?
- Will you receive the patient’s bill of rights?
These questions cover the basics. They identify the agency and aide’s qualifications, address the financial situation and discuss general procedures. The final question ensures that the patient’s rights have protection and the agency will be held liable for medical malpractice. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you must be prepared for anything.
The Professional/Patient Relationship
The most important factor of a home health service is the professional/patient relationship. Sometimes the relationship isn’t as pleasant as everyone hoped it would be. It can even turn nasty, especially with elderly patients. You should understand and appreciate this risk before bringing a health service into your home. Both parties can prepare for the new arrangement by doing several things:
- Give the caregiver tips and insights about your loved one’s personality. It can be their favorite activities, job history or any other information that might help the caregiver adjust their treatment style and make the relationship more productive.
- Accept that bad days will happen. Your loved one might resist the care they need or lash out at the caregiver. They might even lash out at you. This reaction is a natural response to their loss of independence, not a reflection of the quality of care.
- Remind your loved one that you hired a health service in their best interest. Before the caregiver starts, have plenty of talks with them about why they need the assistance and how it will help them in the long run. Don’t keep them in the dark. They deserve to know as much as you do about the care they will receive.
Entrust Your Loved One to a Professional
It will take a while for your family to grow accustomed to the change, but getting a home health service for your at-risk loved one might be the only solution. Know the different types of home health aid and do the necessary research to find a qualified agency/caregiver. Most importantly, understand that some days will be difficult. Entrusting a loved one to a stranger is never easy, but putting their health in the hands of a qualified professional is more reassuring.