Hiring an in-home caregiver through a home care agency is expensive, but the services they provide could be worth the extra cost. Evan Kaden, a writer who helps with Medicaid’s CDPAP program, explains how agencies work, why they charge so much, and how they’re regulated. He also shares 4 essential things to ask each agency about before making a decision.
It is fairly easy to hire a home care agency. You call and give them all they need to know about Mom and, before you know it, there’s an in-home caregiver knocking on Mom’s door. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 70% more home care aides by the year 2020.
What a home care agency does
- Constantly recruit and screen caregivers so that when you call, they can come up with just the right caregiver for Mom – taking experience, skills, and temperament into account.
- Have someone ready to fill in when Mom’s primary caregiver is sick and to work on weekends if Mom needs care 7 days a week
- Supervise their caregivers on a regular basis and provide you with a knowledgeable person to call day and night.
- Take care of their caregivers’ taxes, wages and incentives.
How home care agencies charge for their services
For the above services, home care agencies charge hefty fees. For example, an agency will charge $20 to $22/hour when they pay their caregivers $10 to $13/hour.
These are by no means gouging practices. Their markups pay for their administration, the continuous recruiting and training they do, and for the marketing effort that got you to their doorstep in the first place.
How home care agencies are regulated
Agencies are strictly regulated by their state licensing authorities. State authorities have wide ranging regulations from ensuring Mom’s privacy to screening process and a whole lot more.
Home care agencies are usually inspected on an annual basis, frequently without notice. If errors are discovered, an agency is usually given an opportunity to make corrections that are scrutinized again in the next inspection.
If negligence or abuse is discovered, the penalties can go as far as removing their licenses, or worse.
4 things to ask about when choosing a home care agency
1. Bonding Don’t let an agency throw up smokescreens about the criminal background and other checks they conduct when screening new caregivers. Also make sure Mom’s caregiver is bonded. For the most part, these are mandated by the authorities and apply equally to all.
FYI, you may want to ask about the dishonesty bond because it’s not a state requirement. That protects Mom against thieving, embezzlement and other dishonest activities, including negligence.
2. Caregiver screening
The agency’s Care Manager or Coordinator should do each caregiver screening, not an administrative assistant.
Nothing against administrative assistants, but the Coordinator will have to be on the front line facing caregiver misbehavior. Plus, they just do a better job when calling for past job-related references.
3. Backup caregivers
Filling in for caregivers who call in sick and staffing for weekend shifts are often where home care agencies can fall short. What you need to know is whether the agency can guarantee a backup caregiver no matter what.
4. Interviews with Mom’s caregivers
It is important that you interview any caregiver, whether the primary one or backups, before you accept them in Mom’s home.
Agencies don’t like that very much, especially when it comes to interviewing a last-minute backup caregiver, but they will usually agree if you insist.
5. The hourly rate
The hourly rate is always important. Agencies are usually flexible with their rates, within reason.
If you are quoted $22/hour, but they know that another finalist on your list has quoted $20 or $21/hour, they might match the lower rate.
Alternatives to traditional homecare
Finally, you may have gathered how expensive home care agencies can be. At $22/hour, if Mom needs 8 hours of care, 5 days a week, the bill comes to nearly $4,000/month.
For seniors who qualify for Medicaid, there are also Medicaid home care assistance programs in every state in the nation.
Another option is to hire a caregiver privately, saving about 40 to 50% of what a traditional agency might charge. It’s not a bad way to go if you have the time and practical means to manage Mom’s care.
Guest contributor: Evan is a rare-breed of freelance writers who, believe it or not, doesn’t drink coffee! Currently serving as a content specialist for FreedomCare, an agency that helps with Medicaid’s CDPAP program, he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had to share his thoughts and stories with people through this crazy place called the internet.
Image: Comprehensive Home Care
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