How to Choose a Home Health Agency

Story by Mimi Greenwood Knight

When you or a loved one is discharged from the hospital and in need of continued care, it may be time to find a home health agency. Their aid workers can provide anything from cooking and cleaning to feeding and bathing. Staff nurses can administer medication, explain doctors’ orders, and check vital signs such as heart rate or blood pressure. More than 90 percent of older adult’s report that they prefer to stay in their homes. A home health agency can make that possible, leaving more time to focus on recovery and wellness from the comfort of home.

Home health workers are trained professionals who care about the wellbeing of your or your loved ones. It’s just a matter of finding the agency that’s right for you.

Start by asking for home health agency references from the hospital social worker or discharge nurse. You can also use the home care and hospice agency locator tool on the National Association for Home Care and Hospice website to search for agencies by ZIP code, city, or state.

Before you contact any agencies, take an inventory of which services you or your loved one will need. Determine which costs will be covered by your medical insurance. Then, make a list of agencies you can consider. Ask friends and family in similar circumstances to see what you can learn about the reputations of the places on your list. Take note of this input but make your own assessment as well.

Plan to visit the agency, or if this isn’t feasible, ask someone you trust to visit in your stead. A lengthy phone call may also suffice. Either way, it’s important to find out about the agency itself and its staff qualifications. How long has the agency been in business? Can they furnish you with a Patient Bill of Rights? What are the staff credentials, and how are they trained? Who supervises the staff, and how can you contact this person?

Ask for a satisfaction report on the agency and references for any workers who would be assigned to you. Contact the references and ask about their experience with the agency. What level and quality of care did the agency provide?

Find out how the agency plans to assess and address your needs. Will they coordinate with the doctor or hospital? Who makes the care plans, and can the family be involved in this process? How does the agency handle emergencies? Are staff available day and night? Can they ensure patient confidentiality?

Of course, the cost is a factor. Ask about all expenses upfront and be sure to get it in writing. What are their coverage options? Do they accept your form of insurance? Will they provide a monthly statement? Do they offer discounts for military, fixed income, or other?

Once you are able to evaluate the agencies on your list, you can meet potential home health workers to see who feels right to you. Make your decision, and then adjust to life with in-home care so that healing can follow.

Once you are able to evaluate the agencies on your list, you can meet potential home health workers to see who feels right to you. Make your decision, and then adjust to life with in-home care so that healing can follow.

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