IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK
I don’t know what to ask! That’s okay, you’re new to the game. Read below for a general starting point when first calling various in-home service providers. This will give a high level overview of questions to start with. Through your conversations with various providers, you will quickly learn what are some of the more relevant issues.
When first starting to place your phone calls for finding a company to provide a caregiver, make sure you have a pen and paper handy to take notes. Keep in mind that homecare is a very personal service and having a good feel for the company you are speaking with is vital. If you think you will remember all details, think again. You have a lot of information about to come your way. Be prepared.
One of the first things to note is how responsive the company is when calling. Most homecare companies will answer the phone 24 hours a day. If you are calling after hours and you leave a message for a callback, how long does it take to get a response? This can be very telling about a company. If they take a long time to return your call after hours (or even during business hours!), is this going to be indicative of their response times for current clients? If they are very prompt to respond, this is a good sign. There are many occasions when it is necessary to contact a homecare agency outside of normal business hours. Do not overlook the importance of this one point when first starting to explore your options. I actually encourage people to make inquiry calls for homecare during both normal business hours as well as after-hours. Being quick to respond is a must!
DO NOT PASS GO!
Before we get into some specific questions to ask, take note of the information below as you begin your calls. It can quickly eliminate companies that will not be a good fit for you.
A good point to note is how knowledgeable the representative is. Do they truly know what they are talking about or are they making part of it on the fly? Honesty is absolutely a critical component to having an ongoing, trustworthy relationship with a homecare agency. This is a business where you are having total strangers come into your loved-ones home. You MUST be able to trust them. This trust begins with how honest they are with you right from the start. It is okay for someone to say they do not know the answer to a question you may have. It is not okay to make up an answer just for the sake of having one.
When speaking with an employee of a homecare agency, how easy do the answers come to your questions? Take note of this. A knowledgeable rep is well versed in the game. Answers will come quick and effortlessly. If they are stumbling for words; this is not a good sign. You are not trying to find faults with everyone you call, you are merely trying to find an expert. This is homecare. There is no more important job than caring for your loved one. Be particular, be specific, ask your questions and take notes. If they are annoyed by your questions, move on.
Another important note; are they asking a lot of questions about your situation and loved-one? The should be! It’s how they determine what level of care and the various caregivers they might have as a good fit. The questions below are mixed. Some of them listed are typical questions that you will find on all provider’s marketing websites. Others are questions that may very well be relevant in the real world of using a homecare agency. This comes from years experience and I am not sugar-coating anything. In a future article we will talk about the realities of homecare.
So you have an agency that has been prompt to respond to your interest, and you feel they are trustworthy and willing to take the time with you that you deserve.. Now what? Now let’s begin with a few questions to get to the important information you need to know. Keep in mind, these are questions to ask on the phone as a starting point. Depending on where you live, there is likely to be a large number of providers. These questions will help to determine whether you want to take the next step and schedule a home-visit.
- Please tell me a little bit about your company / agency. How long have they been around? Are they a licensed homecare company?
- Are the caregivers they use an actual employee or are they contracted caregivers. Generally an agency will have actual employees that they hire. This means that general liability and worker’s compensation issues are with the agency and not your responsibility. This is a big issue for many people looking for homecare. Costs for services are generally higher for agencies compared to companies that use contracted staff. You need to determine if this is something you are comfortable with. If a caregiver gets hurt while working with dad, who is responsible to pay the medical bills associated with that injury?
- What do you do if a caregiver doesn’t show up for a shift? Are you in a position where you HAVE to have someone there for mom or would it be okay if they missed a day? This is an important factor when getting the answer to this question. Most companies should and will send a replacement caregiver.
- My mom has an issue with the caregiver. (She can’t stand her!) What are our options? This is easy. The company should send a different caregiver. Period.
- Do you have a nurse on staff? This is a nice benefit to have when using a homecare provider. It’s always nice to know that a nurse is a phone call away if needed.
- What would your caregiver do if my mom refuses to take a bath or some other task that is necessary? This is important. Trained caregivers know how to effectively direct their patients and clients to do things they that not may not necessarily want to do. Let’s face it, part of the reason you are getting the help is for personal hygiene. How an agency trains their staff for various challenges is important. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question. However, you can get a good feel for how staff is trained and managed by their response.
- What if we cancel a shift with little notice? There should not be a charge. Flexibility is key when finding a reliable homecare solution.
- Am I locked in with a contract when starting services? You should not be. If you are, keep looking.
The questions above again are a good starting point. Let the conversation lead you to the next question. You will find that an agency or company that is trustworthy will naturally answer most of your questions. If you have to fight to get answers or it feels like you are pulling teeth, then move on.
The last, most important question to ask is this:
Can you provide me with client testimonials?
The answer must be yes. One thing to keep in mind with this answer. Sometimes it takes time to get current testimonials because of the permission needed from the client to do so. Be patient but be sure to get the testimonials. There is no point more important than this one in finding a reliable homecare company to help your loved one.
YOU FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION!
How much does it cost? Please read this carefully. COST is not important! Let me say this again! COST is not important! Now, let me clarify. Obviously you must know whether you can afford the service or not. I am assuming you are able to afford the service. The only thing of importance when it comes to cost is what is your market currently charging for services?
If the average cost for service is in the $24.00 – $27.00 per hour (this will vary depending on what part of the world you are in!) then what is the big deal if the agency or company you trust is a dollar or two more per hour? You are looking for someone you trust to take care of a loved one. That’s kind of a big deal. If you want to save some money, go buy a used car and haggle until your heart’s content. THIS IS HOMECARE. You are having a complete stranger come into your house and help your mom take a bath. Are you really going to go with a company you didn’t have a good feel for because it saves you fifty bucks a week? Come on. Get real.
Cost is a concern. It is merely a question to make sure they are in line with what the other providers in your area are charging. Nothing more. Do not shop for homecare based on price. You will get what you pay for.
So you have all your questions answered on the phone and you have a good feeling about a provider! Congratulations! You are now ready to have the company come to your house and sit down and chat. This meeting is often referred to as a ‘home-visit.’ This will be a confirmation of your initial feelings. If the home-visit doesn’t go as planned, move on! Get back on the phone and start over! This is HOEMCARE! You will eventually find that ‘connection’ that is so critical in finding good help. It just might not be as fast as you want it to be. Mom and Dad deserve quality care. Do not rush to process just because you have to get Jimmy to a soccer game.
WE START MONDAY!
Awesome! You have made that connection and you have your first caregiver coming on Monday. Start here with out 7 Essentials To Have On Hand When Using a Homecare Provider to make life easier when using a homecare provider!