If someone close to you has Alzheimer's disease, you probably want to care for him or her at home for as long as possible. But if you work, if you live far from your loved one, or if you yourself are ill, providing home health care may not be possible without help.
Home health care providers are trained professionals who come to your home to help care for your loved one. There are different types of home care providers for a person in the early-to-moderate stages of dementia. They are called certified home health aides (CHHAs), home care aides (HCAs), and personal care attendants (PCAs). Depending on the type of aide, this person may be able to:
- Help your loved one with activities of daily living. This includes bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, and exercising.
- Provide company to your loved one and supervise his or her activities.
- Remind your loved one to take medications.
- Help with laundry, light housework, errands, food shopping, and meal preparation.
Home care providers can come from home health agencies, homemaker and home care aide (HCA) agencies, or staffing and private-duty agencies. Home health agencies are the most tightly regulated. Many of them are Medicare-certified. Visit the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov/hhcompare/). It has an online tool called "Home Health Compare" that lets you compare local agencies.
When choosing an agency, ask these important questions:
- Is the agency licensed by your state? To find out if your state requires licensing, contact your state's Department of Health.
- Is the agency accredited? Has a monitoring organization approved its work?
- Is the agency an approved Medicare provider?
- How long has the agency been in business in this location? (Look for several years or more.)
- Are home health workers supervised by an agency employee (often a nurse)?
- Is there a written care plan for each person's treatment? How often is it updated? Will you be given a copy of the care plan?
- Do home health workers document their treatment of patients, especially if more than one worker cares for the patient?
- Are home health workers available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
- Is a nursing supervisor on-call 24 hours a day?
- Do health workers teach family members how to care for their loved one?
- Does the agency have a Patients' Bill of Rights? (It should discuss the rights and responsibilities of the agency, the caregiver and the patient.)
- How are employees recruited and trained? Does the agency do background checks? Are employees screened for contagious diseases?
- What does the agency do to protect a patient's confidentiality?
- How does the agency work out disputes between workers and patients or their families?
- Does the agency have a contact number for families with questions or complaints?
- If a home health worker doesn't show up for work, who is responsible for finding a substitute?
Created on 05/29/2007
Updated on 10/12/2010
- Visiting Nurse Associations of America. Choosing a home health care agency.
- U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 edition. Nursing and psychiatric aides.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Home health aides and personal and home care aides.
- National Association for Home Care and Hospice. Who provides home care?