What questions should I ask an in-home care agency?
Once you have narrowed down the list of agencies to a handful, it is time to ask specific questions about your particular needs. One tell-tale sign about the agency is to see who is assigned to speak with you. Is this person a dedicated salesperson or a person involved in the decisions made at the agency? You are likely to get better and more informed answers from a person who actively manages the organization or its caregivers.
Try to meet in person. If you cannot meet in person, then be sure to book time on the phone. You want to be sure to get the answers to your questions without interruptions.
Here are some of the questions to ask:
- Does the agency provide the types of care that are needed? There is a difference in the skills required to prepare a favorite meal and the skills required to drive a person to and from appointments. Make sure that the agency covers your particular needs.
- Can you interview the potential caregiver and provide input on the selection? Personality and fit are important considerations when the person is spending time in the home. The more you are involved in the decision, the happier you will be in the long run.
- How long does the typical caregiver stay with a client? It will be important to build a trusting relationship with the caregiver. In addition, a caregiver learns about the way you want things done, whether it is how to cook a favorite meal or how to fold the laundry. You do not want to worry about frequently “breaking in” a new caregiver.
- How do caregiver wages compare to other agencies in the area? You want to be sure that the caregiver can earn enough to live a good life and feel appreciated. In that way, the agency will minimize turnover. This is a way in which selecting a non-profit agency is important. Usually, a higher percentage of their fee goes to the caregiver than for-profit agencies.
- What kind of background checks do you perform on caregivers? At a minimum, you want the agency to conduct a criminal background check. In Massachusetts, the gold standard for criminal background checks is the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system, a centralized source of criminal record information in the state. Other checks may be conducted confirm whether the Social Security number provided by the caregiver matches the name, confirmation of the most recent home addresses, a multi-state criminal history check, a credit check and a driving record check, especially if the person is going to drive the client. You may even want to monitor the public social media posts from the caregiver for potential red flags.
- Are your workers independent contractors or employees? Agencies that use independent contracts act more like job placement agencies and may not directly supervise the caregiver. It is always better to work with an agency that hires caregivers as employees and treats them well.
- How often is the agency in contact with the caregiver and what type of supervision do they provide? Ask if the agency guides the caregiver about the best way to perform care. See if the agency checks in with the caregiver daily, weekly or monthly to find out how things are going.
- How often does the agency contact you? Will they ask you how well things are going? How will they resolve a conflict between you and the caregiver?
- Will the agency cover sick days, vacation days and holidays with another qualified worker? It is important to determine how these days are handled and what you may need to do when coverage is needed.
- Ask detailed questions about costs and potential extra charges. Is it customary to give the caregiver a gratuity? How much will insurance cover and will the agency bill insurance directly?
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