Finding a Caregiver for Mom
by Brandee Cowley, RN BSN, Apostolic Christian Skylines Home Care Services

Imagine you are a son or daughter supporting an 83 year-old mother. Her physician has just told you that she can no longer live by herself and, because of her medical condition, she must have 24-hour/seven-day support—immediately. You and your mother decide that the best course for her is to move in with you, but since you are still employed, she will need someone to be with her while you are at work. How will you make this happen?

Using the Internet and advice from a couple of trusted friends, you rapidly build a list of three caregiver agencies. Now, how are you to decide which of them, if any, to choose? The best course is to interview all three. As you meet with each agency’s representative, one of your first questions will probably be the cost of care (and be sure to get the agency’s complete list of services and prices). But cost isn’t everything! What else should you be asking? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Is your agency licensed? 
    In the state of Illinois a caregiver agency must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Ask to see a copy of the license. It should be current and state that the agency is a Home Services agency. That license is an indication that the agency meets the requirements of Illinois law.
  2. How long has your agency been in business?
    A well-established business is generally an indicator of stability, with management and care staff who know how to work together smoothly to deliver care.
  3. Is your agency also licensed for Home Nursing or Home Health services?
    While a Home Services license is required by law for non-medical care, some agencies hold one or both of these other licenses, which are for medical services in the home. This is an indication that (1) there are registered nurses on staff and (2) the agency is in a good position to support your mother with in-home nursing services if the need arises.
  4. Do I sign a contract with your agency for this service?
    The law requires the agency to execute a contract with you. The exact wording of each agency’s contract will differ; ask for a sample copy.
  5. Are you the employer of the caregiver? 
    Under the law, the agency must be the employer of the caregiver and is responsible for supervising the caregiver, paying employer taxes, withholding for Social Security and Medicare, providing workers compensation insurance (in case the caregiver is injured in your home), and liability insurance. Ask to see proof of current insurance coverage.
  6. How does your agency screen prospective employees? 
    The law requires a fingerprint-based criminal history records check against the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Health Care Worker Registry. Some agencies also do a third-party background check, pre-employment health check, and drug screening. Ask which they do.
  7. How do you decide who will be caring for my mother?
    Look for an agency that uses a system that matches your mother’s needs and preferences with their caregivers’ skills and preferences.
  8. Do you supervise the caregiver or do I? 
    The contract should explicitly state that the agency supervises its caregivers. Relieving you of this responsibility lets you be a daughter—not a care manager. If there is a problem, you will contact the supervisor at the agency, who will handle it.
  9. Are replacement caregivers provided if the normally scheduled one is unavailable?
    A replacement caregiver who matches your mother’s needs as closely as possible should automatically be provided. A supervisor should accompany her on first visit to introduce her.
  10. How does the agency track the caregiver’s arrivals and departures from my home?
    Some agencies use paper time sheets to log arrival and departure; others use your telephone or the GPS on the caregiver’s cell phone. The latter is preferable and minimizes the potential for later confusion.
  11. How do I get in touch with you later if there is a problem?
    Agencies are required to tell you their office hours and how to contact them outside of office hours. Ask if out-of-hours coverage is provided by an answering service or a staff member; connection directly to a staff member is preferable.
  12. How do you check up on the caregivers?
    Caregivers are required to document their activities after every visit as well as any changes they notice in the client’s condition; this information goes to their supervisor. Also, the law requires a supervisor from the agency to visit you at least every 90 days to be sure everything is running smoothly.
  13. Does your agency belong to any professional trade organizations?
    Trade association membership is a good indication that the agency is keeping up with legal requirements and best practices. Look for membership in Illinois HomeCare & Hospice Council, Home Care Association of America, or LeadingAge Illinois.

AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home caregiving and nursing services. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to homecare@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.

Apostolic Christian Skylines’ continuing care retirement community offers senior living options ranging from independent living to skilled nursing care. For more information, call Apostolic Christian Skylines at (309) 683-2500 or send email to info@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylines.org or Facebook.com/acskylines.