Home Health Care: An Insider’s Guide

Top SecretAuthor’s Note: While responding to several new (and extremely positive!) reviews on SelectCare’s Angie’s List Page, I was prompted to answer some questions that could help people make more informed choices when picking a home care provider.  Below are the questions and our responses.

What secrets about home care should you REALLY know about?   

Paying for home care out-of-pocket can become very expensive, so check your retirement policies, life insurance and long term care insurance plans for “hidden” benefits that will cover some or all of the cost of home care services.  Some unions have catastrophic insurance policies that cover the cost of home care after you reach the plan’s deductible.  Some long term care insurances have benefits for home alterations needed to accommodate wheelchairs such as ramps and bathrooms.

Be sure to verify that your insurance will pay for services from the home care agency you choose.  Ask for a copy of the home care agency’s license BEFORE you begin services with an agency and submit the license to your insurance provider to ensure your insurance plan considers them an approved home care provider.  If the agency is not approved you may end up responsible for the entire bill.

What should you do before hiring a home care service provider?

Ask questions regarding oversight and supervision:

  • How often does a supervisor make home visits to ensure quality of care?
  • What is the communication procedure for reaching supervisors after hours?

Request a current fee schedule and make sure you read and understand the Service Agreement, including any additional charges for services like nursing visits, medication pre-pours and pet care.

Your state department of health evaluates home care agencies for code violations.  While it’s not uncommon for some reputable agencies to have a few minor violations on their record, recurring deficiencies or a pattern of violations should be a warning sign.  New York families can contact the New York State Department of Health at 212-517-5888 to assist families with questions and concerns regarding their home care provider.

How could you save money without seriously compromising quality when hiring a home health care provider?

Your local Department of Aging will have a list of cost saving programs that you may be eligible for, such as pharmacy prescription plans, heat and rental savings plans, case management support, Meals on Wheels, shopping and housekeeping programs.

By blending services from community organizations you may be able to lower the number service hours you need from a private-pay home care agency, but still enjoy the oversight and safety these companies offer.

Are there any misconceptions about the home care profession?

There is a common misconception that a Home Health Aide (HHA) is the same as a housekeeper, when in fact home health aides are trained medical workers.  Although their responsibilities include keeping a house hygienic for the client’s health, heavy cleaning (ovens, gutters, carpet shampooing, etc.) can be done better and more inexpensively with the help of a dedicated housekeeper or a company specializing in heavy housecleaning.

What’s the one thing clients should stop doing right now?

Simply put, do not accept subpar service. Unless the client or a family member notifies the agency about a deficiency in the service they receive, it is unlikely that any improvements will be made.  Good agencies send a field nurse supervisor to the client’s home on a regular basis to evaluate the home caregivers’ performances, but even that level of oversight can fail to identify shortcomings without your participation.

What’s the biggest surprise/obstacle SelectCare has encountered on the job and how did they resolve it?

The most challenging cases involve vulnerable adults who are discharged from the hospital without support of friends, families or social service agencies to ensure they are safe in their homes.  They may have difficulty understanding their medications, unable to go to follow up necessary medical appointments or find the help they need to stay at home. Unfortunately, many people in this situation are in danger of hospital re-admissions in a short period of time or worse, injure themselves and not be able to remain at home.

To overcome this challenge, we have developed partnerships with many organizations that provide clients with supportive services in addition to home care through SelectCare. Some of the agencies SelectCare calls include:

  • Visiting Nurse Services of New York for Physical Therapy services
  • Lenox Hill Hospital Visiting Doctors – A Doctor at Your Door Program
  • Service Programs for Older People  – (SPOP) For mental health services in the home

Finally, we serve as advocates for our clients, working with them and their insurance company to make our services as affordable as possible.

I hope you found some of this information interesting.  To learn more about SelectCare or to find out how we can help keep you or a loved one safe, comfortable and independent, call our agency today.