How to Get a Good Home Health Aide for Your Loved One

What to look for in a home health aide

Traits to look for in a home health aide include compassion, good communication skills and attention to detail, says Christian Steiner, owner and operator of the Manhattan office of Home Instead Senior Care, a national provider of home health services.

Flexibility, honesty, patience, physical stamina and some medical knowledge also are required to do the job well.

“The most important traits of a good home health aide are skills and experience,” says Nancy Avitabile, who owns and runs Home Care Match, an employment agency that works with caregivers.

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There are at least three ways to find and hire caregivers:

Hiring a home health care aide through an agency

An agency should handle hiring and human-resource matters such as background checks, payroll, taxes and insurance. They should also handle any mishaps or complaints and are responsible for monitoring and supervising the home health aides.

If a particular health aide isn’t working out or there is change in the care recipient’s condition requiring a more skilled aide, an agency will find a replacement. It also can provide substitute aides when your regular aide is ill or needs time off.

Look for an agency that has been licensed by the state where it operates. Your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to guide you to resources. Medicare rates private home-care services and has a searchable directory at its website. AARP has links to each state’s caregiving resources as well as a checklist of questions that can help you evaluate in-home care agencies.

Using a direct-hire group to hire a home health aide

Direct-hire agencies, also known private care agencies, maintain networks of independent caregivers and facilitate their introduction to clients looking for help, taking into consideration clients’ personal needs. These caregivers are paid directly by the family and the families set the terms of the arrangement.

“Direct hire agencies give families the opportunity to pick the candidate for their loved one and specifically match [caregiver] responsibilities to their loved one’s needs,” says Avitabile.

After all, “Home health aides are not interchangeable. Each has his or her own skill set, experiences with different patient conditions, personality and cultural background,” says Betsy Gold, cofounder of the caregiver network Lean On We, which advises families about their options and matches them with caregivers. “Be sure to specify your specific needs so you can hire somebody who is a good fit.”

Some direct-hire firms charge a one-time finder’s fee, normally a percentage of the aide’s gross pay, says Avitabile. They may be able to refer you to third party providers for payroll and benefit services, as well as provide a substitute aide to cover an emergency or the regular aide’s scheduled vacation, she adds. Families should also inquire about background checks.

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