It Takes a Village to Care for a Patient: Finding a Paid Caregiver
Rosalyn Carter said once “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Statistics support Carter’s comment. According to the National Family Caregiver Association, 29% of the U.S. population is currently providing care to a friend or family member, with 13% of caregivers providing 40 or more hours of care each week.
In our last blog, It Takes a Village to Care for a Patient, we discussed how to ask for help from family and friends. But, sometimes, the amount of caregiving required exceeds the amount of time or skills of family and friends can offer. So, a paid caregiver may be required. If that’s the case in your situation, how do you find a caregiver?
Defining Home Care
Home care is a general term that represents a wide variety of services available to individuals recuperating from acute situations or dealing with a chronic condition and on-going care needs. The skills and duties of home care personnel can vary. But their ultimate goal is to make it possible for care recipients to remain at home in a safe environment while providing caregivers with respite. Home care can be provided by the following individuals:
- Registered nurses (RNs) who provide skilled medical care including giving medication, monitoring vital signs, dressing and caring for wounds, and educating family members on medical issues.
- Home care aides who provide personal services like bathing, dressing, toileting, making meals and cleaning and transportation.
- Companion caregivers help with household chores but do not perform personal care tasks.
Getting Started with Home Care
When you have determined what type of home care you need, you will need to make certain that both you and your loved one are comfortable with someone taking on tasks you have been doing. This is often easier said than done. Getting beyond the objections of your loved one is not always easy, but other caregivers or professionals may be able to offer direction and ideas on how to deal with the situation. Some caregivers find it helpful for their physician to act as the “bad cop” and order home care as a requirement for the patient to stay in their home. This way any resentment and anger are directed at the doctor rather than the caregiver.
Once you know what kind of care your loved one needs, and your loved one has agreed to the situation (even if only begrudgingly), the inevitable questions arise: How much will it cost? And who covers the cost? Some federal and state funded programs and private insurance companies provide some home health care. But, the coverage may not fit your needs.
The majority of family caregivers need help with personal care tasks which are not typically covered by private health insurance or Medicare; it is often covered by long-term policies so it is imperative to review all insurance benefits. The reality is most, if not all the, costs of homecare services will come out of your pocket.
What do services cost? Some agencies charge a flat fee ranging from $100-$120 a visit. Other agencies charge by the hour with a two or four-hour minimum. The specific hourly rate will vary depending on level of services required and your location; generally it ranges from $13 to $35 an hour.
Choosing the Right Agency
There are several ways to find a home care agency. Organizations like the Area Agency on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association offer lists of home care agencies. There are also Senior Care Guides that can be commonly found at grocery stores and senior centers. If the type of care you need is approved and covered by Medicare, the agency you choose must be Medicare certified. If you need only personal care or companion care, Medicare certification is not a factor. It is important to interview service agencies to get a feel for how they work and their level of customer service.
Questions to Ask
- How long has the agency been in business? Are they a local or national company?
- Does the agency provide an initial assessment to determine patient appropriateness and best caregiver fit?
- Who performs the assessment – an RN or a social worker?
- Does the agency provide all the services you need? As your loved one’s care needs change, will the agency still be able to accommodate your needs?
- How does the agency choose and train employees? Do they background check employees? Do they fingerprint their employees? Do they perform regular drug tests? Do they provide on-going training to their employees?
- Does the agency have arrangements in place for emergencies or for sick employees? Are caregivers available 24 hours a day?
- When can service begin?
After you have selected an agency, they will work to find the most appropriate caregiver for your loved one. Now is not the time to be quiet about your loved one’s needs, desires, and personality quirks. If your loved one feels strongly that their caregiver be a specific gender, for example, speak up. Any information you can give the home care agency will make the entire process easier.
As an air medical transport service, we provide a crucial service for caregivers at a very specific time. We understand that caregiving extends after the air ambulance flight is over. Our goal in writing caregiver resources blog posts is to give you on direction on some of the issues you may face during your journey. Please let us know if you have any questions or issues you would like us to address.