Companions for Seniors has created this guide to help you select the home care company that is the best fit for your needs and your budget. It outlines what basic standards home care companies should meet, what reasonable expectations you should have as a consumer, and the specific questions you can ask to determine if a potential provider is a good match.
You should interview multiple companies before making a final decision. If you know what qualities to look for in a provider, you can be confident you are making an informed decision.
Starting Your Search for a Home Care Company
Begin your search by identifying your home care needs and determining the level of care you require. To do this, it is important to understand the two basic levels of in-home services: home health care and non-medical home care.
Although these two types of services are different, note that there may be some overlap in their provision. For example, a home health care company may also provide “homemaker” services if you identify a need for such household assistance in your plan.
Requesting Cost Information
The first piece of information most families want to find out when they contact a provider is, “How much do you charge?” There is a great deal of information that needs to be exchanged during a first phone call or consultation, and because home care services are personalized for each client, an accurate quote is based on all of these details. Companies should provide a range of hourly rates for reference and begin a conversation to learn more about the care recipient and their service needs.
Neither the company nor the consumer wants any surprises when it comes to determining rates. Leave the cost estimate to the very end of your fact-finding phone call, or wait to get a more accurate rate during a face-to-face consultation. Instead, ask about their policies regarding payment and billing.
- Inquire as to hourly rates and how those rates vary depending on services needed and training of caregivers.
- Find out how frequently the company bills.
- Determine whether they accept credit cards or require a deposit for services.
- Ask if the company accepts long-term care insurance and whether they will bill the insurance company directly or require you to pay up front and then seek reimbursement.
At Companions for Seniors we pride ourselves on being upfront in cost because we believe in our pricing structure. If you follow the link here, you can see exactly what our cost for care is.
Within the cost analysis, be aware that different levels of care require differing amounts of service, which is measured in hours.
Many companies set a minimum hourly requirement for visits—usually around two to four hours. This means that if you need approximately an hour of services one day in order to be driven to and from a doctor’s appointment, you will likely be subject to the minimum hourly requirement.
It is crucial to follow the steps below to establish a realistic care schedule (and associated cost estimate).
- Work with the provider to evaluate how many hours of service you realistically need.
- Inquire about hourly minimums per visit.
- Determine the process for adjusting care hours for changing needs.
- Find out if adjusting the number of hours will require a change in caregiver.
Companions for Seniors has no minimum hour requirements, but please note on our services page that the rate goes down the more hours you book.
Types of Home Care Companies
The size, composition, ownership and business models of home care companies vary widely. Generally, these businesses operate under two models: franchise or independent ownership. Each has pros and cons.
Franchised agencies often have a more widely recognized reputation due to established marketing plans, and franchisees may rely on the franchisor for policy and procedure decisions, pricing recommendations, and staff training programs. Alternatively, independent operators establish their own policies and procedures, pricing structure, and training processes.
Ask how long the company has been providing care in your community. Your final decision relies heavily on the contact you have with a company’s employees and your overall impression of how the business operates.
- Determine who owns the company and how long the current owner has been in place.
- Look for consistency in answers to your procedural questions between people throughout the company.
Verify that your Home Care Company is Licensed, Bonded & Insured
Licensing laws vary by state. If you are seeking home care services in a state that requires licensing, any companies you are considering should be operating legally and have their paperwork in order.
Home care companies often “bond” their employees as a means of covering themselves in case a client reports a theft. Bonding functions as insurance for the company and provides peace of mind for you. This is not a foolproof method of protecting consumers, but it does serve as an indicator of a company’s commitment to its clients.
- Ask if the company has bonded its caregivers and the value at which they are bonded.
Every business should have insurance coverage in place.
- Request a copy of a company’s “insurance declaration page” as proof of coverage.
Certification and Accreditation
There are various certifications and accreditations that home care companies and their individual employees can voluntarily pursue.
- Ask what certifications and/or accreditations the company and its caregivers hold and who provided them.
Caregiver Hiring and Training Procedures
Education and credential requirements, background checks and drug screenings are standard practices home care companies use in the process of hiring professional caregivers.
In Illinois, where Companions for Seniors is based, there are education and training requirements for providing non-medical services, such as companionship, light housekeeping, and transportation for appointments and errands. We make it a priority that all caregivers we employee are trained above and beyond what is required.
When seeking out a home care agency, be sure to find out the following information:
- Determine what training is provided to the caregivers within the company.
- Ask who provides the training.
- Find out if your state requires a specific amount of ongoing education and/or workshops each year.
- Ask the provider what they require on an ongoing basis as the mandatory minimum to keep their employees’ skills sharp.