10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Caregiver or Home Care Agency

Make no mistake, not all home care agencies are created equal. Using an agency to provide paid caregivers may give older adults and their families a false sense of security regarding their background and skill set, according to a recent study. Just because they are an agency employee doesn't necessarily mean they are trained to care for an elderly person.

Home health care is the answer many families seek and enjoy to great satisfaction. It offers extended freedom and independence for their aging loved ones, but it also presents a challenge. This type of care entails inviting and trusting a stranger into a private home. Therefore, it is extremely important for families to consider and research all possibilities as they search for agencies or private individuals to provide this care.

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The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, surveyed 180 agencies around the country about their hiring methods, screening measures, training practices, skill competencies assessments and supervision. Researchers posed as consumers seeking an in-home health aide for an older adult. They found:

  • Only 55 percent of the agencies ordered a federal background check.
  • Only one-third of agencies said they conducted drug testing.
  • Only one-third tested for skill competency.
  • Supervision ranged from none to weekly and included home visits, telephone calls and visits to the office.

Based on these results, people looking for home caregivers are taking shots in the dark as to whether they will get a trained professional who provides quality care or one with little to no experience and training.

By being an educated consumer, you can find a qualified, reputable agency that employs home health aides who will provide care with compassion and skill. Here are 10 questions to ask before you hire someone for this position:

  1. Number one on the list is to go through a well-known agency. This does not necessarily mean a large franchise. Get references and be sure to compose a list of questions for them when you call.
  2. What recruiting methods do they use? How are they finding job candidates? Newspaper ads? Staff agencies? Craig's List?
  3. What are their hiring requirements for prospective employees? Do they ask about prior experience? Are employees required to be available for certain shift lengths? How many families does the agency serve?
  4. What screenings are performed before hiring? Criminal background checks, federal or state? Drug screening?
  5. How does the agency assess each caregiver's capabilities? What is their proficiency level in basic care, their strengths, weaknesses? Their individual interests also play a role in finding a good fit for clients.
  6. Does the agency provide training? What does that training entail? Are they knowledgeable about elderly health conditions and certified in CPR? What other certifications do they have?
  7. Are employees insured and bonded through the agency? What is the procedure if there is ever a suspicion or accusation of theft or abuse?
  8. Is the agency diligent about sending the same person to the home, rather than a revolving door of strangers? (Keep in mind there are benefits to having two primary in-home aides to establish a relationship, so that if one moves on, there is another familiar with the family and their routine.)
  9. If you are not satisfied with a particular person, will the agency provide someone else?
  10. Does the agency evaluate the quality of the care provided on a regular basis? How frequently? Who conducts the evaluation?

Like so many things, hiring in-home caregivers requires due diligence to make sure competent, safe and compassionate care is provided at all times. Invest the time in the beginning to interview possible candidates for home health care agencies and the individual that will be providing services in the home. Answering these important questions can provide the peace of mind a family needs regarding the care of their senior loved one.

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