It’s the last thing we ever want to face – watching our parents age and becoming unable to care for themselves. We want to always remember them as they were when we were kids – young, vibrant, able to chase us and play silly games. But the fact is, our parents are getting older and so are we. We could find ourselves needing to find home healthcare quickly; isn’t it better if we’re prepared? Yesterday, we talked about May and the problems her son had finding a good, responsive private home healthcare agency.
May’s sons, Steven and John, knew the day would come when their mom needed some help around the home. They agreed May would stay in her home as long as she could but would never go to a nursing home. They agreed May would move in with Steven when she was unable to stay in the home she worked so hard to buy, but until then, they would do whatever it took to keep her home. When she had one leg amputated, they came home, built ramps, modified kitchen cabinets and widened doorways so she could hobble around her home. When doctors took her other leg, they made things even more wheelchair-compatible so May could stay independent.
When it became obvious May could no longer handle things herself, Steven took the lead in finding a home health agency to help out. He went to the Better Business Bureau. He asked May’s doctor. He talked to May’s caseworker. He was confident the agency he selected was the best he could find. So when Steven died suddenly, John didn’t know the first thing about it. So when things started going badly, John didn’t know what to do.
Why did things go so badly so quickly, even with a seemingly reputable agency? Increasingly, older ones and their families find themselves faced with almost a bait-and-switch situation, where the agency comes out, sends someone great for the initial interview with the family and then, from the first day, sends someone much less qualified, much less able to handle the older one’s needs. State and federal agencies find themselves in a quandary – they can shut down the agencies but if there’s no evidence of abuse, shutting them down can be worse than leaving them open; after all, they do at least provide some services, maybe not everything the patient needs, but at least they’re in their own home and being checked on regularly.
One of the biggest problems is the shortage of healthcare workers overall. Add to that the fact that most people today don’t want to deal with taking care of others in any way, shape or form, not even their children, not to mention someone not related to them. Companies are increasingly having to rely on people from overseas, for whom English is a second language, to work in more physical jobs, such as home healthcare aides, hotel housekeeping, lawn service, janitorial services in schools and businesses, and so forth.
The problem of home health agencies will not go away any time soon, as the population ages and more people want to stay home instead of going into crowded, equally understaffed nursing facilities. So how do you find the right home health care agency for your loved one? Here are a few tips right from Medicare, which pays billions for home health care each year:
To find the best agency available:
- Get as many recommendations as you can before you start your search; as your doctor, friends, family and other professionals
- Check out senior referral services
- Go to Medicare’s comparison of home health agencies in your area
When you’ve narrowed things down and start interviewing, ask these questions:
- Is the agency certified by Medicare?
- What services are offered? Do they have certified physical therapists, occupational therapists and other ancillary services available? Certifications are essential.
- Do they offer and guarantee personal hygiene services such as help with bathing, dressing, changing medical dressings?
- Do they offer support services such as laundry, housekeeping, cooking and shopping?
- Can they provide the services the doctor has ordered, such as changing catheters or wound care? If not, you’ll need to find a nursing agency to help with those tasks.
- Are their services available 24/7 or just certain days of the week at certain times of the day? Some agencies are available only Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm.
- How much will Medicare pay vs what you’re responsible for? Some services are not covered by Medicare and you could end up with a big bill before you know it.
- Do you do background checks on your staff and coverage if they don’t show?
- Is there someone available 24/7 in case of emergency?
It’s such a hard thing to deal with, the thought that someone you love is getting older and eventually will be unable to care for themselves, but we all face that inevitability both for our aging parents and for ourselves. It’s hard to think about but isn’t it better to think about it now, when there’s time to do it carefully, without rushing? If you’re not in this situation, keep this article handy … trust me, you’ll definitely need it.