Finding Home Health Care You Can Count On

If your loved one prefers to continue living at home, but is beginning to deal with significant health problems, finding the best possible health care service is probably at the top of your mind. With so many home health providers to choose from, we're here to guide you through the process of choosing the best home health care that fits your needs, so you can narrow down your options and feel confident in your decision.

Comparing Your Options

Because your loved one’s health and well-being is on the line, you’ll want to look at all the available options before signing a contract. Start off by asking friends, local senior living communities, doctors, the hospital discharge planner or social worker for a home health care recommendation.

A great place to begin online is with Medicare's Home Healthcare Compare tool, which allows you to search for agencies in your area approved by Medicare. The site lets you know the services the agency provides and rates them on factors such as their track record for managing pain, performing daily activities (including how often patients got better at walking) and preventing harm (e.g., how often the agency checked patients for risk of falling and risk of depression).

Another resource is the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s Home Care and Hospice Agency Locator, which contains a comprehensive database of more than 28,000 home care and hospice agencies and includes whether or not agencies are Medicare-certified, state licensed and/or accredited.

What to Look for in a Reputable Agency

Although a trustworthy agency might cost you a bit more than a fly-by-night operation, the payoff in terms of peace of mind can be worth it. Look for a few of these indicators to determine if an agency is reputable:

  • The company does background checks on its employees.
  • The agency has an ethics policy and company rules that workers must abide by.
  • Employees are bonded and insured.
  • It offers a wide range of services (e.g., skilled nursing, physical therapy, speech therapy).
  • The company provides coverage for staff members who are sick or need to leave the job for any reason.

You should also make sure that the agency is licensed if state law requires it. Another sign of a reputable agency is accreditation with a professional organization that has established standards to define quality in home care services. Such organizations include the Accreditation Commission for Home Care, Inc., the Community Health Accreditation Program and The Joint Commission.

Of course, it’s crucial to find out if the home health provider offers the particular type of care your loved one needs. You should also ask out how it selects and trains its employees and whether they have received specialized training in relevant area(s) of care, such as dementia care.

More Questions to Ask:

To guide you in your decision-making, it would be helpful for you to enquire about the following topics:

  • Will a supervisor oversee the care; if so, how often will they drop by?
  • Have employees been screened for communicable diseases?
  • Will the agency consult the patient and family as well as the family doctor when developing a plan of care?
  • How often will the plan of care be reviewed and updated?
  • Will the agency educate family members on the care of the patients?
  • Does the agency provide care around the clock?
  • Have employees been trained in CPR and first aid?
  • Who would you contact to resolve any potential problems?
  • Does the provider have a plan in place to handle emergencies?
  • Does the agency meet your loved one’s special needs (language and cultural)?
  • How long has this agency been around?
  • Does the provider have testimonials or a list of references you can contact?

When it comes to payment, also find out if the agency is certified to take Medicare or Medicaid payment for the type of care your loved one needs. Patients may be entitled to Medicare’s Home Health Benefit if they meet Medicare’s definition of homebound, the services are ordered by a physician, and the need for skilled services is short-term or intermittent. Your state’s Medicaid program or your private insurance also may pay for home health care services that Medicare doesn’t cover.