4 Considerations When You Need Home Care Assistance

The spectrum of individuals who can benefit from some form of at home healthcare ranges from chronically-ill children and injured adults to seniors struggling with age-related ailments. If someone if your home needs some extra help but wants to receive it in a comfortable familiar environment, home care may be an ideal solution. Here are four things you must consider when it's time to choose a provider.

1. Medical vs. Non-medical Care

The first question you must ask yourself when seeking home care assistance is whether that assistance should include necessary health and wellness tasks. There are plenty of agencies that offer non-medical home care assistance exclusively. These services may include:

  • Grocery shopping
  • Local transportation
  • Simple personal care such as dressing and hygiene
  • Food preparation and cleanup
  • Laundry and other routine household upkeep

While some of these tasks may be helpful in a medical context -- such as transporting a patient to a doctor's appointment -- the caregivers can't provide services that require the skill and experience of a professional nurse. If you or a loved one in your home needs regular medical monitoring or assistance taking medication, you need to make sure the agency you hire offers these services. Some agencies offer a mix of medical and non-medical services, an ideal arrangement for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a physical disability.

2. Special Medical Skills and Needs

Does your loved one require medical aid beyond the simple administration of medicines and the checking of vital signs? Many health conditions call for specialized skills, knowledge, tools, and procedures. Choosing a home healthcare provider that offers these specialties can make all the difference between keeping your loved one in a loving home environment and moving him to a hospital or nursing home. Different home health agencies provide different "menus" of care, such as:

  • Physical therapy - Rebuilding of physical strength and flexibility in the face of an illness or injury
  • Occupational therapy - Exercises intended to restore one's ability to perform specific job-related tasks
  • Wound care - Specialized treatment for deep or serious open wounds
  • Mental and behavioral health care - Monitoring and counseling for mental/emotional conditions
  • Infusion therapy - Intravenous administration of drugs for patients who cannot receive their medicines through other methods

3. Costs and Scheduling

Some people never even consider home care assistance because they assume that the expense will be prohibitive, but this isn't necessarily the case -- it depends largely on how much care you choose to purchase. You might only need a few hours of medical and/or non-medical assistance each week, or you might schedule several hours of daily nursing care in blocks or shifts. If you're caring for someone with mild to moderate needs on your own, you can simply hire a caregiver as needed to help you balance your schedule and get some much-needed rest. 

At-home healthcare typically costs around $21 per hour, with non-medical home care assistance costing just slightly less. You can fund these services through your own retirement account or annuity, or you can use long-term care insurance to pay for them.

4. Credentials and Compatibility

When a loved one's health and well being hang in the balance, you can't afford to gamble on a home healthcare service's credentials. Confirm that prospective caregivers are accredited through the ACHC (Accreditation Commission for Health Care). This organization provides accreditation in areas of care ranging from physical and occupation therapy to general home health nursing.

Another important, but sometimes overlooked, consideration is compatibility. The home care assistance provider assigned to you or your loved one might be highly skilled, experienced and efficient without being the right match for the patient personality-wise. Make sure you're comfortable with the caregiver, not just as a professional but also as a person. If for any reason you aren't, you have the right to ask for a replacement.

Choosing the right home care assistant can provide essential peace of mind as well as quality of life for you or your family members. Give serious thought to these issues and options, and ask your prospective providers every question you can think of until you're satisfied with your final selection.