By Janice Elizabeth Berte, Contributing Writer
REGION – When an individual or family decides to seek out caregiving services, they must ask themselves many questions. Is it affordable, and if not, will Medicare/Medicaid pay for it? What services do the agencies provide, and are the costs transparent? Are the employees certified or have licenses? Can the agencies provide current or previous client testimonies?
Navigating through the maze of caregiver agencies is time consuming and tough for the patient and his or her family. Start things off right by being organized. You may want to have a binder or accordion folder to store paperwork in, with tabs or folders labeled with the various types of information for easy retrieval. You can also scan those papers to keep the documents on your smart phone. But keeping a hard copy is a good idea in case of power loss or device failure.
You may want to also use a laptop computer to create a spreadsheet that will allow you to have a row for each agency, and columns such as the name, address, phone number, email address, prices, services offered, etc. Make a list of your wants and needs and track how many of them each agency fulfills.
A tool like a spreadsheet will allow you to have a concise, factual summary, rather than relying on your memory, a jumble of handwritten notes, or the agency websites or brochures, which are designed to present them in the best possible light rather than providing an objective analysis.
Review the pros and cons of each agency once you’ve gathered all the facts.
Not all agencies are the same
“We are extremely selective when choosing a home health care provider, and usually only hire two per cent of our applicants,” said Arona Bauer, partner and president of Boston-based Tribute Home Care Massachusetts. “We put them through a rigorous process of phone, application and two in-person interviews to make sure these applicants have the demeanor, personality and are heart-driven for their clients.”
There is a plethora of caregiver companies, and they have many different procedures in terms of orientation for their caregivers. Some have a multiple day- to week-long process. “We put our applicants through a two-day orientation coupled with hands-on services, especially dealing with dementia and end of life issues,” Bauer explained. “It’s important that we focus on on-time protocols and making sure their connections with the patients are strong at all times.”
Tribute Home Care states that its mission is to consistently provide positive encouragement and support so that their employees feel good about what they do. Providing this kind of service can be tough on the employee and knowing that their employer has their backs when issues arise is important for everyone involved. Some applicants are Certified Nursing Assistants and can provide twelve-hour and sleepover visits. Dealing with dementia and end of life services offers the family members relief knowing that the employee has the knowledge and expertise.
“Our agency has been in business for over 10 years, and provides light housekeeping, trash, laundry, errands, transportation, and light meal prep,” said Always Best Care Senior Services president Michael Wilsker of his Framingham-based agency. “My staff is dedicated and committed 24/7, which includes our nurse and social worker. Morning, noon, nights and weekends are always covered, and live-in.”
Making a decision
Some agencies will offer unique things beyond the basic services, like a therapy dog who visits their clients. But another agency might offer something that better suits your loved one in a totally different way. In the end, make an informed decision based on the facts you have gathered. And try to choose an agency well in advance of when you need services to start, so you don’t make a hasty decision based on stress or other emotions. Most importantly, read all the fine print before signing a contract or any other document with a caregiver agency.