The home healthcare industry is facing major challenges and changes. To get an inside perspective, host Bob Roth recently had two esteemed guests on his radio show “Health Futures” – Bill Dombi, President and CEO of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, and Angelo Penola, Shareholder/Practice Chair Home Health, Home Care and Hospice at Polsinelli Law Firm. Their discussion provided interesting insights into the past, present, and future of home health care.
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A key challenge is the aging population and rise in chronic conditions requiring long-term care. As Dombi noted, home is now the number one care setting in the U.S. However, there is low awareness of the scope of home health care services. Many only think of skilled nursing care, when a wide range of supports are available. Greater education is needed so families understand their options.
The panel also addressed ongoing issues with Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. Rules and payments have not kept pace with rising costs, making it difficult for providers to deliver quality care while remaining financially viable. There is a need for legislators and policymakers to take a more holistic, value-based approach.
Workforce shortages were identified as another major obstacle, exacerbated by the pandemic. Attracting and retaining workers when pay is low and demands high is an industry-wide struggle. Creative solutions like immigration reform to expand the caregiver pool could help fill this gap. Technology may also play an increasing role in supplementing hands-on care.
Overall, the experts expressed optimism in the growth of home-based care. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer to age in place, and innovations in telehealth, remote monitoring and virtual care make this more feasible. However, major reforms are still needed to improve affordability, standardize regulations, and invest in the caregiver workforce. By coming together, government, industry and families can build a better system focused on quality of life.
But how do you choose what’s best and how to get care?
Selecting an in-home care agency to care for your aging parents or loved ones is a huge decision. You are inviting strangers into the home and trusting them with the health and safety of someone irreplaceable. How can you know whether an agency and its caregivers will truly look out for your loved one’s well-being?
We sat down with two industry insiders to get their advice on what families should look for when vetting home care services. Read on for their top tips to ensure you choose a provider you can trust.
Look Beyond First Impressions to Gauge Professionalism
A slick website and fancy brochures don’t necessarily mean an agency’s caregivers will provide quality care. According to our experts, you need to look deeper to assess an agency’s true professionalism.
Some key indicators include:
- Rigorous vetting and training of caregivers
- Ongoing supervision, support and evaluation of caregivers
- Clear policies and communication with families
- Long-term staff who feel valued and respected
“A professional agency invests in its people and processes,” explains our insider. This shows they are serious about delivering consistent, compassionate care.
Understand the Various Types of Home Care
Home care encompasses a wide range of services, from companionship to skilled nursing. Be sure you understand the type of care needed before selecting a provider.
“Many people only think of nursing care, when there is a huge breadth of assistance available in the home,” our expert points out. Get clear on the level of care required so you choose an agency that specializes in that service. No single agency provides every type of care.
Ask About Training and Oversight
Look for agencies that go beyond minimum state training requirements for their caregivers. Ongoing education, testing competency, and regular performance reviews show a higher commitment to quality.
You should also understand how the agency oversees care in the home. “With dementia patients especially, you need to ensure proper supervision for vulnerable individuals,” our insider advises.
Consider Alternatives to Independent Contractors
Some families attempt to save money by hiring independent caregivers found through online registries. Our experts warn against this. “These contractors lack oversight or accountability,” they explain. For maximum safety and reliability, a reputable agency that trains and manages all staff is best.
Doing thorough due diligence takes time but gives peace of mind. As one insider sums up, “Caregiving is not just a job but a calling. Families should trust their loved ones only to an agency with staff who feel the same.”