For many families, non-medical home care services are a great option for providing care for an aging or disabled loved one. By providing assistance with personal care, companionship and homemaking services, home care companies offer an alternative that enables seniors to remain independent and stay in their homes, rather than opting for an assisted living facility or other institutional living setting. However, many consumers are not aware of some important factors to consider when looking for home care in Arizona.
Why It's Important to Do Your Homework
Did you know that there are no licensing requirements for non-medical home care companies in the state of Arizona? That's right - currently the state has no licensing requirements or other regulations governing important matters such as caregiver credentials or the practices for hiring and training of caregivers. Further, there are no regulations regarding care supervision or quality control practices of non-medical home care companies. This means it is very important to do your homework on any company you may be considering to provide home care services for your loved one.
Questions to Ask
To make sure you select a quality home care company, you should make inquiries in several areas including those set forth below.
Caregiver hiring practices - There are many facets to the caregiver hiring process. Important matters to consider include the items listed below. The answer to all of these questions should be "yes".
- Are caregivers subject to criminal background checks?
- Are caregivers met and interviewed in person by the agency?
- Are caregivers subject to drug testing?
- Are caregiver references and employment history verified?
- Are caregiver skills tested or verified prior to employment?
- Are caregivers required to have current certifications in CPR and First Aid?
- Are caregivers required to have a current negative TB test?
- Do caregivers have credentials such as CNA, or other certifications?
Are caregivers employees vs. contractors? This is an important question to ask because some agencies provide caregivers that are deemed to be "independent contractors" and not employees of the agency. The use of independent contractors can lead to many thorny issues with regard to employment or legal liabilities. When using independent contractors, questions can arise as to who is responsible for caregiver worker's compensation claims, employment taxes, and other potential work related liabilities. A clear "best practice" in the industry is for the agency to employ its caregivers as employees and thereby assume responsibility for employment taxes and worker's compensation claims. By asserting an employer-employee relationship with its caregivers, the agency is "standing behind" its employees and the actions they take under the agency's policies and procedures. Caregiver employees are also typically covered by the liability insurance of the employer (see next section).
Liability insurance and protection against employee theft or dishonesty - You should inquire whether the agency carries commercial liability insurance including coverage against employee theft or dishonesty. The agency should be willing to show you a copy of their commercial liability coverage certificate. Beware that some companies make tricky advertising claims in this area. For example, they may say "all employees are bonded and insured". The key word here is employees - if the agency's caregivers are contractors and not employees, the claim of insurance and bonding may not be worth much.
Quality assurance and communication - It is important to understand the agency's quality assurance practices. A "best practice" would include regular quality visits in which a field supervisor drops by the home to assess the service quality and client satisfaction. In some cases, these visits may be unannounced. It may also be appropriate for visits to occur at different times, both with and without the caregiver being present. You should also understand the agency's practices for monitoring and reporting any changes in the condition of the client being cared for. How are such matters logged, tracked and reported to the family?
Business history - Understand how long the agency has been in business, how many employees they have and their general reputation. Asking for references may be appropriate too. Another important factor may be the size of the agency - if a problem occurs requiring a change in caregivers, does the agency have a deep pool of staff to call upon to find a replacement?
The Good News - Some Credentials to Look For
The information set forth above may make the process of selecting a home care agency sound like a scary proposition. But the good news is that there are some credentials you can look for that may help provide some assurance regarding the business practices of the company you are considering.
ALTCS providers - In Arizona, some agencies provide non-medical home care services to seniors who receive state assistance under the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS). Only a select few agencies have authorized contracts to provide such services. These agencies must adhere to strict guidelines on caregiver hiring practices, liability insurance coverage and quality assurance practices. Their caregivers must be CNAs or be trained and tested in the Arizona Direct Care Worker curriculum. Further, the practices of these agencies are subject to annual audits by the State or its insurance providers. In effect, by providing services under ALTCS, these agencies have "opted" to behave as a regulated entity, even though the industry as a whole in the state is unregulated. Ask if the agency is an ALTCS provider and ask about their audit results.
Arizona Non-Medical Home Care Association (AZNHA) - AZNHA was established to improve consumer confidence in the non-medical home care industry by establishing and enforcing a strict Code of Business Ethics and Credentialed Minimum Standards of Service. All members must pass the AZNHA's credentialing process and agree to be bound by a Code of Business Ethics. Ask if the agency is an AZNHA member.
About SYNERGY HomeCare
The SYNERGY HomeCare Sun City office follows the best practices outlined in this article. We are also proud to be an ALTCs provider and a member of the AZNHA. With SYNERGY you can rest assured that you will receive the utmost in quality service from our entire care team. We serve the communities of Sun City, Sun City West, Surprise, Glendale, Peoria, El Mirage, Youngtown and Phoenix. Senior care, elder care, home care, senior services, Alzheimer's care, elderly care, elderly services, senior assistance, elderly assistance.