Choose the appropriate level of care for the patient (skilled nursing, therapy, or caretaker)

Choose the appropriate level of care for the patient (skilled nursing, therapy, or caretaker)

What mistakes to avoid when looking for home health nursing/therapy or caretakers

You can’t do it all, and when you realize that you can’t do it all you are either going to hire someone else for the task or delegate between siblings, or just let it go. Self-neglect, or neglect of a family member is not the best choice so looking at other options is a must.

Know the difference between home health nursing and in-home care. Home health nursing and in-home caretakers are two different things entirely. A professional home health nursing agency provides actual medical care and therapy by licensed nurses, or therapists, following a physician order. An in-home agency provides caretakers who deal with basic housekeeping, cooking, dressing and bathing – basic needs to maintain life in the home when these simple tasks are too challenging. Be very careful that you watch for more serious issues such as confusion regarding medications, these patients might be better served with a nursing agency in conjunction with a caretaker.

Don’t put it off. The number one mistake people make when dealing with aging and caregiving is not hiring professional care early on. There is a lot of evidence which shows using a professional caregiver – whether in home health care or adult day care – improves the psychological well-being of nonprofessional caregivers. Studies in publications like the Journal of Aging and Health have found that people often seek professional caregivers to alleviate stress and depression that results from taking care of a loved one around the clock. You didn’t sign up for this, so hire someone who has the skills and the training to do it right.

Don’t pretend to know it all.   Many people neglect their own health. They don’t go to the physician even when they have life-threatening illnesses or emergencies. So, it stands to reason that people often put off asking the family physician to step in and order home health for their loved ones, or even themselves. What many people fail to realize is that home health nursing and therapy is a benefit afforded to every American when they become eligible for Medicare benefits and it is also covered by most major insurance carriers. It is a benefit most likely overlooked because it isn’t discussed as often as it should be.   When there are falls, injuries, wounds, or diseases that need to be managed don’t pretend to know it all – get the physicians involved so they can write an order for home health nursing and/or therapy.

Don’t fail to do your homework. The vetting process for choosing a caregiver or agency can be intimidating, especially if a friend or family member recommended a caregiver. Just because it worked out for someone you know doesn’t mean it will for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, and discuss the background check process that is done for each employee at the agency. Go to for actual performance data which is collected on each home health agency.

Don’t be an island. It’s important to periodically ask your mom or dad how things are going with their caregiver in case their needs are not being met. Or, meet with the nursing staff at the next appointment in the home and see how the interaction is between them. If you get a “funny feeling” you are probably right, and should ask questions, or start interviewing other agencies. Hopefully by being present when you are able, you can really get a feel for how care is being provided. A good home health nursing agency will always look for partners (such as a relative or close friend) to help with the medication reminders and care of homebound patients. The more people a patient has to support them, the better the outcome in most cases.


Get the right help, at the right time. Start your search now for home health agencies and caretaker agencies (remember, they are two entirely different things!) so that when the time comes you have narrowed down your search. It only takes a few minutes to do your comparisons on the Medicare website and you will have a better understanding if you start your search now. Go to and type in your zip code and begin to compare the various agencies. Next step is to make a phone call and ask to speak to a nurse, or manager. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll be glad you did the due-diligence ahead of time.