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#1 Agencies, Registries and Companion Services, Oh My!

Understanding which type of home care provider fits your needs is critical to hiring the RIGHT provider. Believe it or not, not all home care providers are the same. In Florida, there are three primary types of home care providers, agencies, registries and homemaker companion.

Home Health Agencies

A home health agency is a business which is licensed and regulated by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and is the only type of home care provider that is able to provide skilled medical services (nursing services; physical, occupational, respiratory or speech therapies; as prescribed by a physician) as well as non-skilled services (home health aides, homemaker companion services).

Agencies are also the only type of providers who are able to hire employees (as opposed to independent contractors) to provide personal services such as “bathing, dressing, eating or personal hygiene” as well as assistance with physical transfers, ambulation, and assisting with medication.

Nurse Registries

A nurse registry is a business which is licensed by the Florida Agency for Home Care Administration and contracts health care related personnel.

Home Maker Companion Service

A homemaker companion service is a company that must be registered with the Florida Agency for Home Care Administration. They are only able to provide general household chores that may include “housekeeping, cooking, shopping assistance, laundry and other routine household activities”.

A homemaker companion is NOT able to provide personal hands-on care like an Agency or Nurse Registry.

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#2: Understanding the Fee Structure

There is more to it than hourly rate.

As you begin researching a home care provider, you’ll want to take your time to understand the fee structure of each agency, registry or companion service you are considering hiring. It can be tempting to shop primarily on “hourly rate”, which makes perfect sense. Be careful though we have seen instances where a “lower hourly rate” can actually cost you more in the long run.

Here is a list of common fee structures for agencies, registries and companion services:

  • Minimum number of hours of care (per visit, per day, per week)
  • Evening, night and weekend premium charges
  • Requiring deposits before starting services
  • Fixed /minimum length of service

Five key questions to ask every home care provider you are considering hiring.

  1. What is your hourly rate for _______
  2. Do you charge different rates in the evening, overnight or on weekends?
  3. Do you require a deposit to start services?
  4. Do you require a contract? Am I signing up for a minimum number of hours of service and/or minimum number of visits?
  5. Are there any fees if I choose to terminate services at any time?

RED FLAG: If the person answering the phone isn’t able and/or willing to answer these questions for you, make sure that you feel comfortable with the reason why they can’t answer them for you. Do you have to wait for someone to call you back?

Take the time to do the math to determine the actual cost of services you will be buying from a provider. You might be surprised that the most expensive hourly rates may cost you the least amount of money in the long run.

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#3: Ask about their care giver screening process.

Whether you are looking to hire a caretaker for yourself or a member of your family, it is important to conduct a background check on those individuals who will be providing the care. When you contact providers, be sure to ask them about the process they use to qualify their caregivers. Dig deep – don’t just accept an answer like “we do background checks on all of our caregivers” – that doesn’t tell you anything. If the provider isn’t willing and/or able to provide a detailed explanation of their hiring process, consider going with a different agency, registry or companion service.

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#4: Ask about after hours and weekend response – then test it!

Is there anything more annoying than needing to talk with someone and not being able to get a hold of them? We think not!

Working with a home care provider that is responsive to you or your family members needs during business hours is one thing, it is critical after hours, on weekends and over holidays. Ask the provider about their afterhours, weekend and holiday support policies. Then once they share them with you, TEST THEM!

If their policy is to return calls within 30 minutes, call them after hours, leave a message and ask them to call you back, see how long it takes.

If they use an answering service, call them afterhours or on the weekend, leave a message and see how long it takes for them to call you back.

If they tell you they answer their phones 24/7, test that too!

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#5: Trust your intuition

At this point, you have a good understanding as to what type of providers there are, have calculated the costs, understand their screening processes and have tested their afterhours/weekend response time, now it is time to sit back and trust your intuition.  Hire the agency, registry or companion service that feels like they are going to fit your needs the best.    We promise that 9 times out of 10 you’ll choose the right organization! And that organization is Able Healthcare Services.

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#6 When in Doubt, Call Us

If you have any questions regarding any of the information in these tips, please call us, we will be happy to answer any questions you have.  Our number is (239) 437-2434

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It may be time for you to consider in-home care for your loved one! Start by taking our short Home Care Survey to help you better understand whether the time may have come to pursue care options for your loved one.

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