As with anything, there are pros and cons to both methods of finding care. What is right for one person’s situation, may not be right for another person’s. That being said, we might be a little bit biased towards agencies – ok, we definitely are – BUT, we truly believe there are some valuable reasons to choose a home care agency over directly hiring. Below, we have outlined our top 4 reasons to choose an agency when looking for home care.
While it is true that you will have to pay more per hour to have an agency provide a caregiver than if you hire directly, the oversight that comes from having a company coordinate care is invaluable and difficult to replace. Particularly oversight that involves on-staff nurses, therapists and doctors. Caregivers who work for an agency are required by law to have a background check, infection prevention training, and up-to-date credentials and certificates (basic certificates like CPR and First Aid). And depending upon the level of care, verification of more complex skill requirements. Many tasks, like administration of medication or fluid/nutrition through a feeding tube, require a registered nurse’s oversight unless performed by a family member.
At most homecare agencies, a plan of care is put in place at the start of care in conjunction with the client and their family. The plan of care covers specific activities of daily living that the client will need help with, any medications they may be taking, physician’s orders and any other protocols that need to be followed. At CHCS, we send out an on-staff nurse to perform a comprehensive assessment which includes a home safety assessment and fall reduction plan. The nurse is responsible for putting together the plan of care and then reassesses and revises the plan every 6 months, or more frequently if there is a change in the client’s condition or care needs. In addition to updating the plan of care every 6 months, we make supervisory visits every 90 days to make sure that clients are satisfied with the care. CHCS also provide an on-call consulting nurse for emergencies that occur after hours. These are definite pluses to having a whole team behind your care!
- HIRING, SCHEDULING, BILLING & PAY
It is important to note that there are “hidden costs” and stressors associated with being your own employer. For instance, the hours taken to find, hire and train a caregiver, as well as filing and paying employer taxes can be costly. Some new online caregiver matching platforms have made this process easier, however it can still be daunting to consider all the potential legal obligations. Furthermore, if your caregiver goes out of town, is ill, or makes a change, you may be left without care. An agency will work diligently to ensure that you have someone to provide back-up care if your usual caregiver is out. Another unique benefit of using an agency is that they can help you navigate tricky insurance policies. And, they can also provide the on-going documentation that some insurance companies (particularly long-term care) require in order to pay for services. An agency can also deal with other issues that arise, such as work place injuries (back injuries being the number one injury with caregivers) or “personality matching” issues and find a replacement. From finding, hiring, and even “firing” a caregiver to conducting background checks and providing last minute coverage and more, an agency will give you one less thing to worry about as you navigate the waters of homecare.
- CARE MANAGEMENT AND ADVOCACY
Last month we wrote an article on the difference that care management can make in people’s lives. This is one of the greatest benefits of receiving care through an agency. With an agency that has RN Care Managers, you have access to a wealth of resources, knowledge, and skilled healthcare that you otherwise may not know about. A care manager’s job is to take you from being “a passive observer of your health and well-being to an active participant in your healthcare” (WASHAA). If they are doing their job well, an RN Care Manager should help drive down overall healthcare costs for you and your family, as well as improve your quality of life.
- CAREGIVER TRAINING
A quality home care agency will continually ensure that caregivers are up-to-date with all of their credentials and certificates and are continuing to improve and learn new skills. At CHCS, we joke that we have the “longest” caregiver orientation in the industry. However, it truly does make a difference when it comes to caregiver competence and client safety. We have registered nurses on staff who provide RN delegation, we do no not need to contract with other agencies to provide our caregivers with nurse delegation. RN delegation is required by law when a caregiver needs to perform a task that is considered a skilled nursing task. Tasks such as tube feedings, blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, and non-sterile dressing changes must be delegated to caregivers. Unfortunately, there are home care companies out there that will allow caregivers to perform skills that should have had delegated by a nurse. This is risky and can actually be quite dangerous. As such, always be sure to ask an agency what will happen if care for you or your loved one ever becomes more complex.
So, there you have it, four reasons that you should hire an agency instead of a private caregiver. The caveat to these, and this is a big caveat, is that not all home care agencies operate on the same playing field. Not all agencies have the same level of quality control, expertise, or due-diligence. Furthermore, many larger franchises are simply home care companies and do not have a home health department. While they are great for basic companion care and bathing/dressing activities, if care ever becomes more medically complicated, an agency who does both home care and home health may be needed in order to maintain the same safety and quality standards. One of the reasons we are able to serve our clients well is the fact that we are locally owned and have experts who are on staff. We can move quickly to serve our clients and you can connect with the same person from our office on a day to day basis. Although the hourly rate may be higher, we believe that the on-going support from a qualified care team is worth the cost!