Help at Home: Choosing the right home care for your aging loved one

Help at Home: Choosing the right home care for your aging loved one

- in Aging Answers, August 2016
Nurse assists an elderly woman with skin care and hygiene measures at home

Most people want to stay in their homes as they age, including those who are rehabbing from an illness or injury. You may not always be available to ensure an aging loved one remains in their home, but today there are many choices of help available.

There is no one single definition of “home care” for people trying to stay in their residences. Home health care services include a broad range of care and support services for those who are recovering from a hospital stay, are disabled, or who are chronically or terminally ill and need medical, nursing, social, or therapeutic treatment or assistance with the essential activities of daily living. Not all in-home services are the same; while some provide non-medical help, such as assistance with daily living, others involve medical care given by a licensed health professional, such as a nurse or physical therapist.

It’s good news that there are many services available to caregivers who assist a relative or friend who has physical or mental impairment, but how can you ensure that you are getting quality care at an affordable price?


Finding Agencies or Providers

Just as with all services, you have to shop carefully. Here are a few sources for help in locating a home health care provider.

First, talk to the doctor about the need for care, whether it is more personal care or more skilled care like that provided by a nurse. Ask for referrals to agencies that can provide help.

Second, ask friends, family and neighbors about their experiences. Getting a first-hand opinion from someone who has used in-home care services can be especially helpful.

Third, you can find and compare Medicare-certified home health agencies in your area through Medicare’s online tool, Home Healthcare Compare, at Also, check out Eldercare Locator at or call 1-800-677-1116.

Evaluating the Choices

Once you get some recommendations, the next step is to interview the providers. What kinds of questions should you ask? There are many considerations, including:


  • How many years has the provider been in business?
  • How are agency employees hired and trained?
  • Does the organization accept private insurance, Medicare, VA benefits or Medicaid?
  • Is the agency accredited? In other words, has its quality of care been surveyed and approved by an outside accrediting organization (such as CHAP, JCAHO or Medicare)?
  • Is the agency licensed by your state (if required)?
  • Does the agency ensure patient confidentiality? How?
  • Is there a written plan of care? Who gets a copy?
  • What happens if a staff member fails to show up and what should the patient do?
  • Does the agency staff educate the family members on the care being administered to the patient and ways they can assist?
  • Is the patient’s course of treatment documented, detailing the specific tasks to be carried out by each professional (i.e. medicines, exercises, daily activities)?
  • Are supervisors assigned to oversee care to ensure that the patient receives quality treatment?
  • How does the agency handle billing?
  • Will the agency provide a list of references?

By taking these considerations seriously, you can begin a long, fruitful relationship between patient and caregiver. These home-based years could be among the best yet for your loved one.


Laurie G. Steiner is a member of the law firm of Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd. She is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and the Ohio State Bar Association and an accredited attorney for the preparation, presentation and prosecution of claims for veteran’s benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She practices in the areas of Elder Law, Medicaid, VA and Disability Planning, and Estate and Trust Planning and Administration.

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