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What to Look for in a Home Health Agency
When you’re looking into home health agencies for professional in-home assistance, you’ll find many options for many types of care. Some agencies may separate the types of care using two terms, “skilled” and “non-skilled” care.
The term skilled care (also known as medical-related services) refers to any care provided by a licensed healthcare professional. Examples of licensed healthcare professionals are:
- Registered nurse
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Social worker
- Speech therapist
The term non-skilled care (also known as non-medical services), refers to non-licensed caregivers. Examples of non-licensed caregivers are:
- Home health aides, who may help with housekeeping services
- Certified nurse assistants, who may help with bathing, dressing, and vital signs
- Companions/sitters who will keep your loved one company while you sleep, work, or run errands
I find the terms “skilled and “non-skilled” can be confusing. Those that fall under the “non-skilled” umbrella are very skilled at what they do, they just don’t hold licensure at the state level.
Medical versus Non-medical Services
Some agencies may only provide non-medical services. Others provide both medical and non-medical. Medical (skilled) home health services may include:
- Routine physical assessments
- Blood draws
- Administration of special medications
- Urinary catheter maintenance
- IV maintenance
- Wound care
- Tube feeding
Non-medical (unskilled) home health services include assistance with:
- feeding your loved one
- light house duty tasks
Medicare and most private insurance companies don’t pay for non-medical home care. However, some long term care insurance companies may.
Important Questions to ask When Choosing an Agency
When looking for a home healthcare agency, it’s important to know that some non-medical home care agencies are unregulated in some states. That’s why it’s important for you to ask questions when considering which home health agency to select.
- Does the agency do background checks?
- Are the caregivers employed, or are they considered independent contractors? This makes a difference because if the caregiver is employed by the agency, the agency is held responsible for the care delivered by the caregiver. Whereas, if the caregiver is an independent contractor, there is less accountability.
- Is there a written agreement? Make sure the agreement outlines the care you need to be given, and includes cancellation policies.
- Will the agency send out a professional caregiver that speaks the same language? Communication between you, your loved one, and your caregiver is essential. A language barrier can be frustrating and often leads to miscommunication.
- Is the agency evaluated and accredited by a governing agency such as The Joint Commission’s Home Care Accreditation Program (commonly known as JACHO)? JACHO is a nonprofit organization that audits healthcare organizations, making sure they’re up to standards.
Home health care is an excellent, cost-effective alternative to institutional care. In addition, it serves as a good tool in helping you better balance your life while caring for your loved one. In what ways can a home health care professional benefit you? What other questions would you like to ask of a home healthcare agency, to determine if they’re a good fit for you and your loved one?