Guest post by Jude Tarris, President of Valley of the Sun Homecare.

It’s 8pm on a recent Tuesday as I arrive at the airport for my red eye flight.  I’m heading to New York for a conference that starts in the morning.  As I’m waiting at the gate I can’t help to notice a man visually upset, pacing back and forth and constantly getting on and off the phone.  I’m trying to mind my own business but can’t help but notice that he is extremely stressed and I can only wonder what the problem may be.  Twenty or so minutes pass by and they begin boarding the jet.  The same man is still in disarray and he is now standing behind me in line.  I was planning on getting a few hours of much needed sleep and now I’m certain he is going to take a seat next to me.  Sure enough as I take my seat in 17A he comes in right behind me in 17B.

As he stakes his claim to the middle seat he begins rummaging through a bunch of loose papers.  It’s at this time I start to pick up on the telephone conversations he is having.  It appears there is some sort of medical emergency with a family member and he is on his way to help.

Out of concern I ask him if everything is ok.  He is quick to answer, telling me he just got a call a couple hours ago that his mother had fallen in the shower, and he has no idea what he needs to do to help take care of her.  “She has been declining in health over the past couple years”, he says, “and now this happens. She refuses to move back home with my family and doesn’t want to move into a retirement home either.  She has to make a choice now.”  I ask him if he ever considered home care, to which he replies that he’s not familiar with that option.  After learning more about his concerns for his mother I suggest he look into having a caregiver come into her home.  It seems that she mostly needs is a little extra help around the house with preparing meals, housekeeping, transportation to the grocery store and doctor appointments. Just as importantly she needs some companionship, and he needs the peace of mind that comes with knowing that she is being looked after.

If given the choice most seniors would prefer to age in place as opposed to moving into an assisted living facility, nursing home, or become a burden by moving into their adult children’s home.  Home Care is often the best option for your aging parent.  Not only will they feel most comfortable at home but it could also be more affordable than the alternative.  You should, however, do your homework when deciding which home care company to hire to take care of your loved one, especially here in Arizona where the non-medical home care industry is unregulated.  The following 10 questions are a good starting point to ask prospective agencies prior to hiring to ensure you are putting your loved one in good hands.

  1. What kind of background check do you do on your workers?Since trust is critical when hiring someone to help your parent in a home setting, background checks are a must have screening tool.  Valley of the Sun Homecare conducts a 50 state criminal background check prior to hiring.  We feel it is essential to hire caregivers with a blemish free background because they will be working in the home of your vulnerable loved one.
  2. Are your caregivers bonded?If someone is bonded, her work is basically insured, and your parents will be covered if she breaks the washing machine or steals something. Caregivers at Valley of the Sun Homecare are bonded just in case.
  3. How do you handle a worker’s sick days, vacation days, and holidays? Will you automatically send a replacement caregiver?Valley of the Sun Homecare will automatically send a backup caregiver who has previously been introduced to your loved one.  Everyone needs breaks and time off, especially home health workers. Find out how agencies cover for worker absences and what’s required from your end.
  4. Do you check your workers’ driving record and driver’s license?If you need someone to drive your parent, even occasionally, it’s important to know what kind of driver you’re getting.  And if the worker will be driving your parent’s or your car, check with the insurance company to find out how to include new drivers.  Valley of the Sun Homecare conducts MVD checks on all caregivers and also has additional auto insurance coverage.
  5. Do you provide any training for your workers?It is important that your caregiver properly knows how to care for your loved one.  Valley of the Sun Homecare provides training at the time of hire and on an on-going basis.  In addition, we don’t hire caregivers who don’t have at least 1 year of experience.
  6. Do you have clients I can talk to about their experiences?Ask for several references. This is one of the best ways to get a sense of how an agency performs over time.  Valley of the Sun Homecare will be happy to get you in contact with some references.
  7. Are your caregivers employees or independent contractors?Valley of the Sun Homecare employs their caregivers.  Some agencies function more like job referral services, linking independent workers with jobs rather than managing their own employees. With independent contractors, you’ll be required to do more paperwork and supervision.
  8. What’s the turnover rate of your workers?People who are happy with their work make better employees. See if you can get a reading on this.  Valley of the Sun homecare pays their caregivers on average 10% more than the competition which allows us to attract and retain the best caregivers available.
  9. Do you accept payment from insurance companies?If your parent has long-term care insurance that pays for the cost of in-home care, you’ll want to make sure the agency accepts this kind of payment. If not, you’re probably better off using one that does.  Valley of the Sun Homecare will help you through the Long Term Care Insurance and Veteran’s Aid & Attendance process.
  10. Will you take care of all required payroll paperwork for my parent’s caregiver?A significant amount of paperwork is involved when employing someone, covering such matters as taxes, Social Security, and disability. One plus to hiring from an agency such as Valley of the Sun homecare (and the reason it’s usually more expensive than hiring independently) is that it normally does this for you. Still, it never hurts to double-check.