When considering senior home care, you may think going through a home care agency is a quick and easy route to quality care. Hiring through an agency may be quick and easy, but not all agencies are alike, and some may provide lower quality care than you expect.
While several companies operate under the home care agency title, they may have differences in services along with requirements and screening of employees.
According to a study by the National Institute on Aging including 180 home care agencies across 7 states, screening and training of home caregivers are highly variable and often of poor quality. Author Lee Lindquist stated, “People have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency…they may not be getting the safe, qualified caregiver they expect.”
While 91.9% of agencies surveyed conduct state criminal background checks, only 55.8% conduct federal criminal background checks which include convictions from across the nation.
When going through a home care agency to receive care, proceed with caution. While some states require background checks for in-home care providers, state laws vary greatly regarding the requirements.
You might be satisfied if a home care agency tells you it runs background checks on its caregivers. But even if background checks are done, some criminals may still be hired. Not every conviction disallows a criminal from working as a home caregiver, and laws often don’t specify what types of crime disqualify an employee.
When choosing a home care agency, it is important to find out what type of background check is run and what type of crime disqualifies a caregiver.
If you require medication, you may believe you are in good hands with your home care agency caregiver. However, only 31.1% of agencies surveyed conduct drug screening prior to hiring, and only 8.3% continue to drug screen randomly or for cause throughout employment. This can be risky for seniors taking strong pain killers or other expensive medications, which can easily be stolen for use or sale.
You may be under the assumption that hiring a caregiver through an agency guarantees that they are thoroughly trained and certified to provide care. However, when asked about on-site training, only 15.3% of agencies surveyed said they provided this type of training to employees. And, while many employees were asked if they had previous experience and/or certification, it was not always specified what type of experience or certification was required.
Choosing an Agency
Before selecting a home care agency, research several agencies in your area. Some of your questions should pertain to:
- hiring requirements
- background checks
- drug testing
- health-related training and certification requirements
- services provided
- how caregiver skills are assessed
- protocol of substituting caregivers
- supervision of caregivers
Make sure the home care agency you choose can answer all of your questions. If an agency cannot answer your questions or does not meet your standards, look into other agencies in your area or consider other senior home care options.
Other Options for Home Care
If you decide to bypass home care agencies and hire a caregiver on your own, remember to take safety precautions. If you aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to hiring a caregiver, a financial management service can help you self-direct your care. This route allows you to choose and employ your own caregiver while the financial management service handles all legal employer concerns.
Each home care agency has its own set of policies and subsequent care quality. It is important to research potential agencies and other care options before making a decision about home care services.