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Home Care Agencies vs. Referral Services

May 21, 2015, 01:26 AM


You’ve finally decided that Chicago home care is the right option for your elderly parent or loved one. Now comes the task of choosing a qualified, compassionate caregiver. When it comes to hiring at-home help, you have several options including agencies, private caregivers, and home care referral or registry services. Understanding your options will help inform your choices and make the process smoother for everyone involved.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by picturesbyann via flickr

Home Care Agencies: Pros & Cons

Home care agencies are the most popular option for those seeking home care services for several reasons. First and foremost, agencies handle all aspects of the screening, hiring, and training process for all professionals on staff. Agencies must be accredited, and most are certified by Medicare, Medicaid, and national home health oversight organizations such as the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP). Many agencies have agreements with managed care organizations and have their services covered under long term care insurance or regular health insurance plans. These agencies process the paperwork involved with insurance companies, allowing the subscriber, you, to be free to focus on your loved one’s health and wellbeing. Additionally, agencies have a pool of qualified nurses, aides, and therapists that are able to provide coverage on short notice in case a client’s regular nurse or aide is sick or on leave.

The main “cons” that some users find with agencies is the inability to select or choose a specific caregiver, as well as the perceived cost of home care. While clients have the option to meet with potential caregivers and can specify to the agency what kind of caregiver they are seeking, professionals are ultimately assigned to clients by the agency. Additionally, the out-of-pocket cost associated with private home care can be more than expected without the subsidy of government packages or insurance. ¬†Home care agencies are well versed with the various subsidies available to help their clients solve these issues.

Referral Services: Pros & Cons

A referral or registry service is another option you have when choosing to hire a caregiver independently. A referral agency functions as a sort of broker between you and the caregiver by setting you up with a nurse or aide as requested. These agencies pre-screen caregivers of all skills and levels (like a staffing agency would) and collect a finder’s fee once you choose to hire a caregiver they send your way. Once the caregiver is hired, the referral service’s work is done; you function as the employer and are responsible for paying the caregiver’s salary, supervising and managing their work, and insuring the caregiver.

Individuals choosing to hire caregivers through a referral service enjoy more control over the process, and value the convenience of having pre-screened candidates sent to them (as opposed to hiring privately through ads and spending time personally screening candidates and checking references). Clients of referral-hired caregivers also have more input in the tasks and management of daily activities which they perform for their loved ones.

Those who hire caregivers independently through a referral service must contend with many of the same downsides of hiring privately including the responsibility of federal and state taxes associated with private employment, overseeing/managing the caregiver’s sick and personal time off, finding replacements when the caregiver is unable to work, and insuring/bonding the employee against theft and worker’s compensation. Some employers of independent caregivers find that while the initial hourly rate of hiring privately appeared lower than agency home care, the hidden costs associated with the aforementioned tax and insurance considerations outweighed the perceived savings. Additionally, some employers of private caregivers find it difficult to have a positive personal relationship with their caregivers while also scrutinizing their work habits (attendance, tardiness, efficacy of care).

Which Home Care Option is Right for Me?

As with all other options regarding care for a loved one, the decision is up to you and should be arrived at after thoroughly investigating the benefits and disadvantages of each. Carefully consider the degree and type of care your loved one requires. hosting information If you’re unable to properly assess their medical or emotional needs, consult a geriatric care manager or social worker to help make the decision easier. Talk with other family members, as well as the individual who will be receiving the care, to discuss the financial considerations as well as the amount of time each is willing able to contribute as an informal caregiver.

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