10 Tips to Choose a Home Care Agency

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Care at home is becoming increasingly popular among seniors and families in the UK, and it is proving to be a better alternative to residential care homes. Instead of moving into residential care, more and more elderly people are actively opting to stay at home in the company of their loved ones surrounded by things they love as they start requiring assistance with their daily lives. Additionally, families now have more options and control over the type of care and support they receive as they get older, regardless of whether they are footing the bill for the care services themselves or receiving support from their local authority. 

However, one key issue remains. Many families are having a hard time choosing the right home care agency for their ageing loved ones. Most people are finding themselves looking for a care provider by themselves without any prior experience, or being left to choose from a long list of home care agencies without any criteria for identifying the most suitable company for their specific needs. To help you make a more informed decision, below are 10 expert tips for choosing a home care agency for you and your loved ones. 

1. Plan ahead and do your research 

While this might not be easy, as a family, you have to take more responsibility in terms of decision-making when it comes to senior care. And as such, researching and planning ahead is paramount. This helps to avoid having to make rushed decisions in times of crisis. Make the internet your friend and also consider asking the local authority social care team to provide you with a list of home care providers. You can also seek the advice of your pharmacist, and other health professionals. If possible, you can employ low-level hourly home care early on in the process to help build trust and relationships among all people involved before more care and support is required. There are many benefits of home care but you need to be careful. 

2. Engage your loved ones in the discussions

It is important to fully involve the senior or senior couple who is to benefit from the care and support. While you might have their best interests at heart, failing to discuss care and support with them before hiring the care service may not produce the results you are hoping for. You should take the time to understand what kind and amount of care they require – be it low-level hourly care, round-the-clock live-in care, medication help or maybe specialist care for conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia. 

3. Check ratings on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website

For those not aware, the Care Quality Commission is the body that regulates all health and social care services in England. It also conducts an annual inspection of all home care agencies and publishes reports of their findings on their website. The reports include company ratings ranging from Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement, to Inadequate. Reading the company’s CQC report will help you to make a more informed decision. 

4. Check for accreditations and awards, and review the company’s website 

Checking through a company’s website is always a great way of learning more about the company and its services. Here, you can find out whether they specialize in senior care and if they are accredited with the relevant bodies or have won any awards for their services. 

5. Consult the Care Management Team

After researching the company, you should get in touch with the care management team and have all your questions and concerns addressed. Gauge whether the company representatives are welcoming, responsive, informative, and keen to understand your specific needs or those of your loved one. Find out how they approach individual client needs and come up with appropriate care plans. 

6. What are the processes for ongoing communication and do they have a 24/7 on-call support?

You need to ensure that there is an easy and effective way of communicating with the company and also confirm that the support team will continue to meet your needs, which are bound to change with time. You should also ensure that there is an on-call professional available round-the-clock including nighttime, weekends and holidays to respond to any emergencies. 

7. Does the company have an effective staff recruitment and training program including for specialist conditions like dementia?

Seek to know the criteria used to screen the staff, check criminal records, and recruit them. It is important to find out whether they are full employees of the company. This is because some companies only serve as introductory agencies and don’t provide any kind of support or bear any responsibility for their staff. Also, find out how the staff is trained. Ask if the carers are given specialist training in medication management or for conditions like Parkinson’s, dementia, or stroke. A good company should provide an appropriate combination of theory and practical training to their staff. What criteria do they use to assess whether a staff member is competent enough to start work and going forwards? Ensure that the staff receives regular support and supervision. 

8. Does the company introduce and match carers to clients?

Besides individual care needs, it is also important for carers to be matched to clients according to personality and interests. It is also advisable to introduce the carers to the clients and their families before the care giving begins. Additionally, the company should have a proper means within which concerns regarding a carer can be raised. 

9. What quality control measures does the company have in place?

A good company will have in place effective procedures to track the quality of the services provided. These can include contacting the clients to find out whether the carer is doing their job as expected, communicating and working alongside the GP and other health specialists, monitoring important events and measuring results for the clients, regularly stopping by a client’s home to support their staff and ensure that the client is okay, and performing random spot checks on their carers. You should also find out if care plans are regularly reviewed and updated, and if they send out annual satisfaction surveys. 

10. Arrange a meeting with the home care manager or care management team

Before the task of caregiving begins, the company should send over qualified personnel to assess your loved one’s needs at home (or care setting in case they are coming back from a care home or hospital). You may also arrange to meet with them before this assessment. Take advantage of these ‘no obligation’ consultations sessions to gather as much information as possible and also to ensure that they are the right fit for your family. In case you aren’t comfortable with the team for whatever reason, move on to the next company.

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