What to Look for in an Elder Care Agency
May 11 2019
What to Look for in an Elder Care Agency
Finding the Right Type of Care for Your Loved One that is also Quality Care
It is important that you not only find an elder care agency that offers quality care for your loved one, but that it also offers the services that your loved one is in need of, or may soon be in need of. This important task can be stressful and cause anxiety. But by following these tips, you’ll be able to confidently select the best elder care agency for your loved one.
Make a List
Start by making a list of what services your loved one is in need of. This can be something as simple as companionship or something as detailed as dementia and health care. No matter how small the need is, be sure to list it. Also, list any future needs your loved one may have, such as those brought on in the future by a chronic illness or the general decline due to aging. It is important to find an agency that can also meet future needs, as this will minimize the need to switch agencies later.
Know The Types of Elder Care
There are many different types of elder care services or agencies out there, such as adult daycare, companionship agencies, independent living facilities and in-home care. Companionship programs and independent living facilities are great for seniors who are able to live mostly independently but need some social interaction or help with chores. Adult daycare is for those seniors who cannot be left home alone all day and could also use some social interaction. Long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and in-home care are more intensive and are for those seniors who cannot be left alone and need health care. For more information about the different elder care services available, read our blog post on basic elder care services.
Narrow It Down
Once you have made a list of your loved one’s needs and know what type of service or services they could benefit from, compare those needs to what is offered by the different agencies you are choosing from. For example, if you have decided that in-home care is the best type of elderly care for your loved one and they will need help toileting in the future, be sure to look for an agency that offers that particular service.
Now create a list of companies that check off all, or as many of, your loved ones current and future needs. Be sure to place a star next to any company that offers services for all your elderly loved one’s needs.
Evaluate the Agencies
Once you have narrowed down the list of agencies to those that offer all or most of your loved one’s needs, it is time to evaluate each agency. This will help you choose not only an agency that offers the services your loved one needs, but also provides quality care.
You can find much of this information either by looking at the agency’s website or at their literature. Part of the evaluation process is also interviewing a representative of a prospective agency in which you can ask any questions of them you may have. Some quality standards to consider are listed below.
- Certification and Licensing: One of the easiest ways to know that an agency offers quality care is that the public health department has licensed them. Certifications from other notable health organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, can also indicate that the agency’s care reaches or surpasses a quality of care standards. Care that meets these quality standards can ensure that your loved one will have no or little compounding health issues, such as contracting a UTI later due to poor health care.
- Background Checks: Entrusting your loved one’s care to someone else can be scary. However, an agency that performs background checks on their employees is a great safeguard for your loved one and can offer you some peace of mind. Note that a background check will only flag what is on the record of the employee at the time the background check is performed.
- Referrals and Recommendations: One of the best ways to find a quality elder care agency is to get referrals and recommendations from trust sources, such as your loved one’s doctor, a local hospital or even family and friends who have used elder care services themselves. This can be perhaps your most valuable tool in finding a quality elder care agency as you are getting information from first-hand sources who have personal experiences with the agencies.
- Customized Treatment Plans: Because each person is different, they will require different care. Look for an elder care agency that creates an individualized program or treatment plan that is customized to your loved one’s needs. Make sure that the agency will continually re-evaluate the plan and change it as needed.
- Specialists on Hand: If your loved one is in need of specialized care, or you think they may need it in the future, look for an agency that has specialists on hand. These specialists can ensure smooth and knowledgeable care of your loved one, bringing you peace of mind that they are well cared for.
- Communication is Key: Not only is it important that the care team communicate well with you, but that members of a team communicate well amongst each other. This is especially important if your loved one is receiving health care, ensuring that all members of the team are on the same page when it comes to treatment.
- Availability: Depending on the type of care your loved one needs (24 hour versus a few hours of companionship a day), it is important to know the availability of the agency. Does the agency offer a 24-hour help line with access to a nurse? How does the agency handle coverage when the usual caretaker or program leader is sick or on vacation? These are important questions to answer. A quality elder care agency, depending on the services offered, should at least provide coverage for a caretaker who is unavailable. For agencies that offer medical care of your elderly loved one, 24-hour access is crucial to quality elder care.
- Language and Culture: If your loved one speaks a particular language or uses sign language, is more comfortable speaking in a native tongue or you think your loved one may revert to using only a native tongue (as can happen with dementia), it is important to find an agency with caretakers who speak that language or offers interpreters if you or another family member are unable to be there during visits. Language barriers can make it extremely difficult to provide quality care, no matter how amazing a caretaker may be. If culture is important to your loved one as well, be sure to look for an agency that can handle this. You can do this when interviewing potential agencies, asking them if they have caretakers that can meet these specific needs of your loved one.
- Attentiveness and Compassion: Part of quality elder care is knowing that your loved one is receiving the same level of compassion and attention that you would give them. You should be able to get a sense of an agency’s compassion and attentiveness to your loved one based on referrals from trusted sources and when interviewing potential agencies. You can also ask a representative of the agency how they deal with employees who don’t meet the agency’s standards on compassionate care and, if you were to switch out caretakers, how that process works.
- Relationship with a Caretaker: Not only do you want a caretaker who is attentive and compassionate, but you also want one whose personality meshes well with that of your loved one. Know that there is always an adjustment period as everyone gets to know each other, however, once this period has ended and you are still not happy, you should be able to switch caretakers. Be sure that an agency is willing to do this and know how that process works, to ensure smooth care of your loved one.
Make Your Choice
Once you have evaluated your shortlist of elder care agencies, you should be able to make a choice based on the referrals and recommendations you’ve received as well as all the other information you have gathered. Make sure that the agency you choose checks off all or as many of the services your loved one needs and also checks off as many of the quality standards as possible.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to find an elder care agency that not only offers the care your loved one needs or may be in need of in the future, but you can also ensure that they receive the best care possible from a compassionate worker. This can go a long way in giving you some peace of mind that your elderly loved one is in good hands.