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How To Maximize Use Of A Home Care Agency And Personnel


To maximize use of a home health care agency, consider the following:

  • Always get from the agency its written Description of Services and Plan of Care. Read and understand the description. Ask questions about anything you do not understand.
  • Find out who the person in charge is and how to make contact when you want to. Let the person know who else he or she can talk with about your care.
    • When you have a question to ask, information to share, or to make a complaint, you want to contact the correct person at the agency.
    • Find out the name of the person at the agency, and the best time and number to make contact. In addition to their direct line or extension number, get the person's mobile number and e-mail address.
    • Don't be surprised if the home care nurse is the main contact, responsible for coordinating the team of agency personnel in your home and for setting up a plan of care.
    • Let the contact person known who else in your household he or she can speak with about you and your needs. Let the person know if you want her to report to anyone else in addition to you.
  • Ask if the agency has volunteers to provide respite care (a break for family caregivers).
    • Although most insurance providers (including Medicare/Medicaid) won’t pay for home health related respite care, some agencies have volunteers who can provide such services.
    • If the agency doesn’t have volunteers, religious organizations are a good source for obtaining volunteer services. Services may include brief periods of respite care (generally a few hours), companionship, transportation, meal delivery, and home making chores. You do not generally need to be a member of the organization to ask for help.
  • Provide the agency with a copy of your Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will and other Advance Directives.
  • Give the agency a list of your allergies, medications, health problems, preferred hospital, family contacts, medical contacts and emergency contact.
    • To assist, we provide a List Of Medications you can complete (and print out  to carry with you.)
    • In the contact list,  Include telephone land lines, mobile phones and e-mail addresses.
  • If you can't oversee the agency personnel, ask a family member or friend to do it for you. If no one is available, you can hire a geriatric care manager to do the job.
    • Geriatric care managers specialize in taking care of aging people. Services include the following:
      • Visit clients in their home
      • Conduct a detailed needs assessment 
      • Suggest local caregivers
      • Recommend specialists 
      • Take an ongoing role such as monitor care.
    • Fees for an initial consultation can range from $300 to $800, and ongoing fees of $60 to $150 an hour.
    • There is no standardized licensing requirement for this group of professionals.
    • Private insurance and federal programs do not generally cover the costs of a geriatric care manager. A long term care insurance policy may pay some of the costs.
    • Before hiring a geriatric care manager, look for someone with at least 3 years experience with the same type of services that you need. Ask for at least 2 references - and check  them.
    • You can locate a geriatric care manager through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at offsite link. Members are required to adhere to a code of ethics and standards of practice. 
  • Do what you can to protect your personal property and avoid billing fraud. (Particularly take care of jewelry, checks and credit cards.) To learn how, see: How To Protect Your Personal Property When Receiving Home CareHow To Avoid Billing Fraud.
  • Make good use of the person assigned by the agency to provide your medical/social services (usually a social worker or nurse).
    • In addition to providing emotional support, the person should be very familiar with available community resources and help you tap into them. For example, the social worker or nurse can:
      • Help arrange for financial assistance.
      • Find volunteers to provide respite care for your caregivers.
      • Obtain homemaker services.
      • Arrange for free delivery of meals from an organization such as Meals On Wheels.
  • Learn how to maximize use of home health aides. To see tips for maximizing use of home health aides click here.  To return to this article, click the back button on your browser (usually a arrow pointing to the left).
  • Make written notes when service isn't what you expect. Complain if you don't get what you want.
    • Store the notes in a secure place that the home care personnel aren't aware of or can't get to.
    • Speak up about the problems. Ask at first in a pleasant but firm way. You don't have to be mean or condescending, but you're paying for a service and should get it.
    • It doesn't matter that payment may actually come from an insurance company or an insurer such as Medicare or Medicaid. You either paid premiums or taxes for the benefit you're receiving now. To learn more, see: Complaints About Home Care.
    • If you make several attempts to be very clear about what you want and what you need and you still don't get it, then you have to have a person replaced.
    • Note: If you'd prefer to remain the "good guy" with the agency, ask a caregiver to speak with the agency on your behalf. Let the agency know it's okay to speak with the person about your care.
  • If complaining doesn't work, change agencies.
    • Medicare and Medicaid allow for changes. So do private Health Insurance plans.
    • If you are a member of a managed care plan, ask your insurer about other agencies with whom the insurer contracts. If the insurer is only contracted with one home care agency, and that agency is not supplying you with adequate care, consider filing an appeal to go outside of the network. To learn more, see Filing An Appeal.

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