Everyone’s needs and circumstances are different in old age which is why there’s a range of home care services available. The challenge is selecting the right provider to meet your needs. Once you have been assessed and your Home Care Package (HCP) allocated, it is time to evaluate and select a suitable home care provider. Choosing who will manage your HCP is an important decision. Ideally, your research should cover multiple providers to determine which will best meet your care needs and budget.
To simplify the selection process, we have created a five-step plan for you to follow when undertaking this research:
Step 1: What services do you require? Make a list
Each individual’s care needs will differ and some providers may be unable to meet all your requirements. The first step is to document the services you need and then check that each provider can deliver them. Services may include personal care, light housekeeping, shopping, driving to appointments and socialisation.
You may have more specific requirements; for example, you may prefer carers of a particular culture, gender or ethnicity. You may require specialised dementia care, overnight or weekend care, or staff able to assist where mobility is limited.
The range of services may also need to include access to allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists or podiatrists.
Step 2: What providers are located within your area?
It is easier and more cost effective for care services to be delivered from a provider within your local area. A simple way to find local providers is to utilise the myagedcare website. Using the site’s service finder tool, you can locate information and filter for providers that offer the service level required. You can find it at www.myagedcare.gov.au If you do not have access to the Internet, you can call 1800 200 422 to identify services in your local area.
Step 3: Compare the providers you have identified – care staff, fees, and communication
Once you have created a shortlist, you should compare the providers on three key attributes.
a) Care staff: Possibly the most important consideration of all relates to the care staff who will be carrying out the care duties within your home. Carers often work alone so it is vital that they are adequately screened, trained and monitored to ensure you receive high quality care.
Questions to ask:
- Are the provider’s own staff or agency staff utilised?
- Is there consistency in terms of carers within the home?
- Are carers matched to home care recipients?
- What background checks are carried out on staff, and how is confidentiality ensured?
- What qualifications and experience are care staff required to have?
- What ongoing training is provided to care staff?
- What support is available to staff when they work out of hours e.g. nights/weekends?
- What are the procedures when staff identify risks within the home?
- What are the education levels and experience of the case managers?
- What is the process if a carer is considered unsuitable?
As your Home Care package will provide you with a certain funding level to meet your care needs, it is important to understand both the type and level of fees charged by the provider, to ensure you maximise your benefits.
- Administration/Case Management Fee – the provider will charge a fee for managing your care package. These fees can vary widely, ranging from 15 per cent to 50 per cent. It is reasonable to expect that costs associated with operating a home care business need to be recouped for the provider to remain viable. The industry average is 25 per cent.
- Hourly rates – these are the rates charged for providing services such as personal care, cleaning, and allied health visits. Some providers have been known to charge personal care rates of $80 per hour, with carers receiving around $22 per hour. It is therefore important to understand the hourly rate that will be charged for each service, to determine whether it is reasonable, and see how it compares to other service providers.
- Monthly statement – the service provider must supply a monthly statement that details the amounts charged for the services delivered. It is advisable to ask to view a sample client statement to check for transparency and clarity, and see how the provider accounts for unspent funds.
c) Communication and reputation
As you will continue to have an ongoing relationship with the home care provider, it is vital that appropriate communication pathways are in place. As your care needs will change over time, it is important that regular reviews are carried out and communicated with you and your family.
Questions to ask:
- How often are care plans reviewed?
- How often do case managers visit the home care recipient?
- How do care staff communicate concerns to management?
- How do family members communicate with care staff and case managers?
- How are care plans developed – these should be developed in consultation with the care recipient and their family (if appropriate)?
- What process is in place to deal with complaints?
The reputation of the home care provider is also worth exploring. Harness the power of social media such as Facebook and ask your friends and connections for reviews and recommendations of local service providers. Additionally, you should consider the overall mission of the service provider; are they a non-profit, church, community based or a for profit organisation? The length of time they have been providing services within the community is also a key consideration.
Ask if the fee is negotiable – can you elect to pay for some services privately? Some providers are willing to negotiate the daily care fee contribution, with some charging less than the maximum allowable amount. You make the decision as to what will be funded by your care package. You may find it is more cost effective for some services to be funded privately; for example, services such as cleaning and gardening may be less expensive when sourced privately rather than via the home care service provider.
Also, check whether the home care provider charges exit fees. If you decide that the service is no longer suitable, or it is unable to provide higher care needs, you should ascertain whether an exit fee will apply if a new service provider is engaged. Be sure to understand this and check the amount before signing any contracts.
If you do not feel comfortable or able to communicate and negotiate with service providers, use the support of a family member or friend who can provide initial and ongoing support as required. Home Care needs evolve over time and complex decisions relating to your care must be made on an ongoing basis to ensure you can remain living independently for as long as possible.
If you live in a remote or rural location, you may have fewer choices in terms of service providers. In these circumstances, it may be more cost effective to look outside of the HCP for some services, such as cleaning and gardening.
Whatever your needs from a Home Care service, be sure to do the research, ask plenty of questions and importantly, be comfortable with the people delivering your service. If you want to remain living independently in your own home, you need to select the Home Care service that will enable you to do this comfortably.