Hiring an in-home caregiver is one of those things that’s never on your mind until, one day, it becomes the only thing that you think about. There are many different and critically important things to consider before officially hiring an in-home caregiver for you or someone that you care about.
In this article, we uncover everything you may need to know, including the types of caregivers, self-assessing the level of care required, preparing for the job interview, and the pros and cons of hiring independently versus hiring through an agency. Yes, hiring an in-home caregiver can be overwhelming but hopefully, by the time you reach the end of this article, your path will become clearer.
What Is In-Home Care?
It may seem like an obvious question to answer but, as with most things these days, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. In-home care involves a large list of services that range from something as simple as weekly companionship to something more complex like administering medical treatments.
For a lot of seniors, in-home care grants them the ability to continue to enjoy the freedom of living in a familiar neighborhood and in the house that they just can’t bear to leave.
Types of Caregivers
Admittedly, “caregiver” is a bit of a catch-all. There are several types of caregivers to choose from that offer varying services. We will explore these next.
Let’s begin with personal care aids or PCAs for short. PCAs can cost around $11.55 per hour, and though they don’t have a license, they can still help with companionship, bathing and dressing, light housekeeping, meals, and walks.
Home Health Aides (HHA)
In-home caregivers that complete 75-hours of training and fulfill the certification requirements of their home state are known as home health aides (HHAs). That extra bit of certification qualifies them to check vital signs and assist with daily living activities like bathing and going to the bathroom.
Licensed Nursing Assistants
The next step up of certification and cost is licensed nursing assistants and certified nursing assistants. They are qualified to take vital signs too, though they can also set up equipment, change dressings, and administer some treatments.
Skilled nursing providers are licensed by the state, and can accomplish medical tasks like administering IV drugs, tube feedings, and shots. Some can even offer occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy. Though they can be expensive, Medicare does cover part-time and intermittent home health skilled nursing care.
Registered Nurses (RN)
Last on our list are registered nurses (RN). RNs require an associate degree or a diploma and offer direct care, can administer medications, operate monitoring equipment and assist doctors with medical procedures.
There’s a lot here to unpack, and a lot to choose from. But determining the right type of caregiver for your needs starts by assessing the level of care that your situation requires.
Assessing Level of Care
Now that we have a better understanding of the options available, it’s time to make a list! Write down all of the limitations, expectations, and doctor recommendations that come to mind.
It’s a critical exercise that must be completed as honestly and as thoroughly as possible. Assessing the level of care can begin to point you in the right direction, as well as give you a better understanding of the daily, monthly, and weekly cost of an in-home caregiver.
Once you’re able to establish your needs, it’s time to decide whether you’re going to go the agency route or hire a caregiver independently using a home health care registry.
Using an Agency
It shouldn’t surprise you that an industry as large and lucrative as home healthcare has established processes designed to make the hiring search easier. The Medicare website is a great starting point to get your agency search started.
So, what are the benefits of an agency? Agency workers are pre-screened, experienced, and come with liability protection. The agency takes care of most of the difficult paperwork, and they’ll most likely be able to provide backup care if your in-home caregiver can’t make it one day. Using an agency can also make it easier to adapt to changes in diagnosis that require additional services.
What are the cons of an agency? Well, the cost can be one con. Agency-provided caregivers typically cost more and come with a minimum hour threshold. They also give you less say in choosing the worker, which may be important if the one that they choose isn’t a good fit.
Using a Registry
Going the independent route means you’ll need to browse your local home health care registry. Registries can help connect you and your family with independent health care workers for a one-time connection fee.
Traveling down this path may make it easier to save money, fine-tune a much more flexible schedule, set your own ground rules, and ensure the best fit available.
The flexibility and customization come at a cost though. More paperwork, no backup plan if your caregiver is sick, and that’s before you mention the time that it can take to interview, screen, and hire the right professional.
Finding an in-home caregiver can be a lot of work, or it can be incredibly costly, or it can be both. The trick in making the right selection, that not only meets all of your health care needs but also fits within your budget, is correctly managing your time.
Urgency may dictate your decision. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to research, interview, and run background checks on the top-five candidates. In cases like that, opting for an agency is usually the wisest decision.
If you do have the time, going the independent route gives you a lot of control, more flexibility, and more for your money in many cases.
It may go without saying, but the first fit might not be the best fit. Don’t be discouraged! Keep looking, keep interviewing, and keep asking for referrals until you eventually land on the in-home caregiver that meshes well, fits within your budget, and is certified to accomplish all of the various tasks that you require of them.