How the information you provide can make a difference in the services home caregivers provide to you

We often share information about selecting a home healthcare agency and what factors go in to home health companies providing quality home caregiver services.  Doing your homework, knowing what questions to ask and getting referrals for quality senior care providers can all help set you up for a successful in-home care experience.  Home healthcare quality varies widely, and an agency should have good processes and systems to set their home caregivers up for success in providing quality care.

But what happens once you have found an agency?  How can you contribute to the success of this new relationship?

Typically, home health care agencies will set a time to meet to do an in-home assessment with the potential client (and family, where feasible–or this piece may take place via phone and email communications for those who live at a distance). This home health assessment is designed to ascertain the type of care needed and to put together a care plan based on your needs. 

A home healthcare agency can typically provide help with activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, eating); household help such as light housekeeping, laundry and meal preparation; medication management; safety/supportive services; help within the community such as running errands, senior transportation and escort to appointments or activities.  The care planning process involves determining which services are needed (and desired at the time) and how/when to provide them (i.e. the hours and days desired for home caregiver services), but it’s also your opportunity (and the agency’s) to start the relationship off on the right foot.

Home health care agencies may use different processes in their initial evaluation and care planning.  Find out a little more about how they go about this when you are hiring. It is important that the agency wants to know who you are, what you need and how they can fit the care provided to your needs.  For example, EasyLiving uses a Personal Life History and Daily Routines Questionairre with home healthcare clients.

Sometimes clients and families wonder why we ask so many questions…

As with hiring many services, expectations are an important part of the process.  As you find out about the agency and their processes, you should learn what you can expect from them.  Similarly, you can help them by framing your expectations.  In-home care is very personal.  You would probably be surprised at the range of preferences and expectations that different clients have.  Without setting some expectations, asking some background questions and better understanding the client, the caregiver is unlikely to be able to provide what you want.

What information is helpful for your home caregivers and why?

A little bit of background information about the person(s) for whom care is being provided, such as job and life history, interests and preferences.  Some examples include favorite activities and past/current hobbies, occupational and life history (family, past work experiences).  Why?  This information helps your home caregiver to 1. know a little more about you and personalize the work, 2. find common ground or conversation topics, 3. suggest activities that might interest you, where applicable.

Your daily routine, i.e. when do you like to wake up and do various tasks, do you like to take a nap?, eat at certain times?  Why? This one might be a bit obvious, but your caregiver can do things on your schedule and help you keep the routine you prefer.  This can also be useful in determining the initial care plan/hours (for example, when an agency should send someone providing a “wake up” service to help a client get ready in the morning).

Specific instructions/information on ways you like things done.  We all get so used to doing things a certain way, we often forget others may not.  Laundry is a simple example…some people only use cold water, some people put everything in the drier while others hang certain items (and then there’s ironing!).  If you are helping a loved one hire home caregivers, this is an area where you can really help.  Brainstorm with your loved one and make some notes, think about the things you know your loved one is particular about or really likes to have done a certain way.  Sometimes clients fear seeming demanding, but it can save everyone a lot of hassle providing this information up front.

Bonus tip: If you have had help before and there were things you did not like, share this with the agency.  Maybe it was not an experience with home caregivers, but a skilled home health agency providing short-term home healthcare assistance or a cleaning service–there still might be important points you can share from those experiences.

A quality home healthcare agency will try to personalize care as much as feasible and ask you for information to arm their caregivers to do the best job.  However, if you take the initiative you can really help to make the relationship better for everyone.