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Choosing the best home care agency for your loved one is a major decision, and it only makes sense to explore your options ahead of time. But just what should you be looking for, and how do you go about finding the best home care agency? The Home Care/Hospice Agency Locator from the National Association for Home Care & Hospice makes it easy to search from more than 30,000 home care and hospice agencies in any particular area of the country.

There is a lot of information out there about what questions to ask when looking for a home care agency, but it can be even more important to know what mistakes to avoid when conducting your search. That’s why we rounded up 50 expert tips and quotes about the biggest mistakes caregivers make when it comes to choosing the right home care agency. Read through this list before you start evaluating home care agencies to learn more about how to evaluate and choose the right home care agency for your loved one.

  1. Putting it off too long. “The biggest mistake made when hiring a caregiver is putting it off. Many people wait too long to hire professional help for their parents. Studies suggest that hiring a caregiver early on improves the psychological well-being of patients as well as their family members.” -- 5 Mistakes to Avoid While Hiring a Caregiver, 24 Hour HomeCare; Twitter: @24HrHomeCare

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  2. Not getting enough information about services provided. “Does this provider supply literature explaining its services, eligibility requirements, fees, and funding sources? Many providers furnish patients with a detailed "Patient Bill of Rights" that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the providers, patients, and caregivers alike. An annual report and other educational materials also can provide helpful information about the provider.” -- How Do I Select the Right Home Care Provider?, National Association for Home Care & Hospice; Twitter: @OfficialNAHC
  3. Only thinking about the cost. “Many people base the decision for care solely on its price. Remember: Price is only important in the absence of value.  Price is a definitely a consideration, but what about the importance of “Registered Nurse Supervision,” properly insured agency, meeting national standards for care? Is the agency “customer-service oriented”? How often will they communicate with you about the changing needs of your loved one? There’s a lot more to the decision than just “price.” The right agency will sit down with you and develop a care plan that meets your needs, and work within your allowable budget so that you get the most value for your money spent.” -- Choosing a Home Care Agency, Retire-at-Home Services; Facebook

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  4. Not checking your state survey agency. “Your state survey agency, (found in Medicare Helpful Contacts under Home Health Agency), [is] the agency that inspects and certifies home health agencies for Medicare, [and] also has information about home health agencies. Ask them for the state survey report on the home health agency of interest to you.” -- Home Health Compare: Find Out More, Medicare; Twitter: @MedicareGov
  5. Hiring an agency that doesn’t offer sufficient backup care. “To help you decide on an agency, ask about backup care. One woman I know had to spend her entire Christmas Eve and Christmas Day sleeping on her elderly aunt's couch because the agency they had coming in didn't have backup for the holidays, and the caregiver who was to come got delayed by a late plane. People get sick. They have sick kids. They take vacation. Ask if the agency has sufficient backup staffing for emergencies and other occasions.” -- Carol Bradley Bursack, What NOT to Do When Hiring Home Health Care, Aging Care; Twitter: @AgingCare

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  6. Not asking about employee training. “How does the agency train, supervise and monitor caregivers? Does the agency provide continuing education?” -- Mayo Clinic Staff, Home care services: Questions to ask, Mayo Clinic; Twitter: @MayoClinic
  7. Having a revolving door of caregivers. “Clients like having the stability of one caregiver and one point of contact. Having a “point man” ensures responsibility is taken and assures clients that nothing will be lost in communication.” -- Kristi Larson, Top 10 Complaints from Home Care Clients, Home Care Pulse; Twitter: @homecarepulse

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  8. Not having a care plan in place ahead of time. “Using the needs and preferences you've noted, develop a care plan with checklists that details what the caregiver is going to do each day they work. For instance, if the caregiver is to grocery shop, explain what store to go to, how to find out what to buy, where to get the money for purchases and other pertinent information. The care plan also should contain emergency contacts.” -- Doresa Banning, 7 in-home care mistakes to avoid, Elder Care Link; Twitter: @eldercarelink1
  1. Putting your wishes ahead of your loved one’s. “Family members often search for a care provider that they like and feel comfortable with rather than focusing on how the person in need of care feels. Whether a loved one is ill, elderly or disabled, they should feel comfortable with the person providing care to them. Make your decision based on how your loved one feels around the potential care provider rather than just how you feel around him or her.” -- Avoid These 6 Mistakes Most People Make When Choosing a Home Care Provider, Senior Care of Utah; Twitter: @careofutah

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  1. Not conducting a thorough background check. “There are a number of suspicious individuals that try to obtain positions as senior caregivers, which is why you should ensure that any care provider coming into your home, or the home of your parents, has been thoroughly screened.” -- 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Hiring In Home Care, Comfort Keepers; Twitter: @ComfortKeepers
  1. Finding help while in crisis mode. “Start your search well before you think you’ll need such care. Get referrals from friends, check the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHCH) website for member agencies, check at the Better Business Bureau to make sure there are no complaints against the agency, and then set up interviews with a few providers.” -- Elizabeth Hanes, Choose the Right Home Health Agency – Before You Need It, Next Avenue; Twitter: @NextAvenue

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  1. Not setting clear expectations. “Do you expect the aide to cook? Clean? Do laundry? Pick up medications from the pharmacy and run errands? Will she bring her own lunch or cook and eat with your loved ones? Make your expectations clear. It's also important to tell the aide when her routine evaluations and raises will occur. If you put all these details in writing, you won't run the risk of disappointment once you've hired your aide, and you'll have better luck keeping her on board.” -- Lisa Trottier, Hiring the Right In-Home Caregiver or In-Home Nurse, Caring.com; Twitter: @Caring
  1. Focusing too much on a single factor. “"There are three kinds of elements to having in-home care – the financial piece, the skills that the caregiver brings and the personality of the caregiver," says Randy Brown, CEO of Quaker Gardens Senior Living, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community that offers in-home care in Stanton, California. "I think a mistake you can easily fall into is to only look at one of those elements and not equally weight all three. It's great if a caregiver has a wonderful personality and is honest, but if they have poor skills, that doesn't help your parent. Or if you focus so much on the financial side, you short yourself on the other two."” -- Geoff Williams, 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Caregiver for Your Parent, U.S. News & World Report; Twitter: @usnews

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  1. Not insisting on an agency with adequate experience for any of your loved one’s conditions. “A caregiver who has no experience with your loved one’s condition can cause more harm than good.” -- Clayton Birney, The 7 Greatest Risks When Choosing a Home Care Provider, Arista Home Care Solutions; Twitter: @AristaHC
  1. Thinking you can do it all. “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.” -- Lori Jo Thomas, Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for Home Health Nursing/Therapy or Caretakers, San Angelo Home Health; Facebook

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  1. Selecting the wrong type of agency. “When making your decision on the type of agency, keep in mind that it might be possible for a skilled medical/home health care agency to provide not only the skilled medical care, but also the basic services that a nonmedical home care agency can provide. However, a nonmedical home care agency cannot provide the medical services a skilled medical/home health care agency can.” -- Stepping Stones to a Positive In-Home Care Experience, The Gathering Place; Facebook
  1. Not asking about 24-hour services. “Life does not just happen during regular business hours. You want a home care company who has management level staff you can reach 24 hours a day 365 days a year.” -- How to Avoid the Mistakes When Choosing Home Care, Affordable HomeCare

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  1. Not interviewing in your home. “Meet with a prospective home care agency or provider in your home. Prepare questions beforehand. It's a good idea to have a third person present so that afterwards you can discuss your impressions.” -- In-Home Health Care, Alzheimer’s Association; Twitter: @alzassociation
  1. Not sharing information between providers. “When several practitioners and caregivers deal with the same client, each one is likely to have information that will be useful to the others. Unfortunately, information doesn’t always make it to all of the right professionals. For people who need care, navigating a patchwork of policies, agencies, and service providers can be both physically and emotionally difficult. It isn’t easy for those on the provider side, either.” -- Michel Paquet, Top 3 Complex Care Challenges Facing Home Care Providers, Aetonix; Twitter: @Aetonix

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  1. Not checking in from time to time. “You also have to consider how to monitor the situation at home once you hire a caregiver. Talk to the agency about their monitoring process. If you want, you can also drop by every now and then to check with your loved one. Check if they seem agitated and uncomfortable or happy and relaxed — this might give you a clue about your loved one’s situation at home.” -- Things to Consider When Choosing a Home Care, My Angels HomeCare; Twitter: @MyAngelsHC
  1. Not speaking with an actual provider. “When you meet a prospective caregiver, chatting with them can be a great way to access their attitude and how comfortable you may be with them helping you or your loved one.” -- Tips for Choosing Quality Home Care, Assisting Hands HomeCare; Twitter: @Assisting_Hands

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  1. Not letting your loved one know how you feel. “Often, we project our own fears and worry onto others. Share with your parent your own concerns about their well-being. Seeing your side may help them understand and come around to accept some form of in-home care.” -- Holidays are a Great Time to Discuss Home Health Care, Sunny Days In-Home Care; Twitter: @SunnyDaysIHC
  1. Going with the first referral you receive. “Sudden illness or injury strikes your family and without warning, you’re a caregiver. The hospital stay is brief but there will be rehab and perhaps home care after that. Where do you want your mom to be treated? Who will be around for her when she returns home? ‘Here is a list of all the licensed services in the area,’ is all the discharge planner will tell you. ‘Choose one.’” -- Frank Blood, 7 Mistakes Most Caregivers Make, Caregiver Harbor; Twitter: @CaregiverHarbor

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  1. Assuming Medicare will automatically pick up the tab. “Neither Medicare nor Medicare supplements or other private health insurance plans cover non-medical home care. Medicare will cover short-term, intermittent care services in the home through a licensed agency.” -- Denise Kuhbier, No, a Live-in Caregiver Doesn’t Work 24/7 & Five Other Key Myths About Home Care, Lean on We; Twitter: @LeanOnWe
  1. Not getting enough information about an agency’s history. “It is always wise to choose a home care agency that has a long and strong reputation for being a positive part of the community. This will give you peace of mind, since you can assume they will want to provide you with honest help at a fair price, because they value how they are viewed by your family, friends, and neighbors.” -- Kamran Nasser, How to Select the Best Home Care Provider, NuevaCare; Twitter: @NuevaCare

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  1. Not checking an agency’s star rating. “Across the country, most agencies fall “in the middle” with 3 or 3½ stars being the average rating across the 9 measures. A star rating higher than 3½ means that an agency performed better than average compared to other agencies. A star rating lower than 3 means that an agency’s performance was below average compared to other home health agencies.” -- Quality of patient care star ratings, Medicare; Twitter: @MedicareGov
  1. Not keeping family in the loop. “Invite everyone who is a vital part of your loved one’s life to participate in the interview process. It is important that everyone be clear on the boundaries and service obligations expected of a caregiver... Avoid the potential for upsetting misunderstandings by keeping everyone who matters in the loop.” -- Caregiving Is The Fastest Growing US Occupation, Active Care Home Care; Twitter: @ActiveCare_IL

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  1. Paying an agency in cash or “under the table.” “Don’t make the mistake of paying someone ‘in cash’ – it’s illegal, and in addition, opens you up to serious potential liability issues.” -- Cynthia Kuster, 6 Major Risks Arising from the Growing Dementia Crisis, Lamson & Cutner, P.C; Twitter: @LamsonAndCutner
  1. Not taking the time to find the right match. “Have the agency send a caregiver over to spend some time with your loved one, so they can see if the match is a good one. Not every match is right and it’s important that you hire an agency that understands this.” -- Maintaining Your Independence With Senior Home Care Services, Senior Homecare Solutions; Facebook

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  1. Hiring a private caregiver. “Many people are hired through sites like Kijiji or Craigslist, with very little research into their credentials or background checks. Aside from possible illegalities of working under the table, and personal risks of injury and theft with uninsured care, remember that any employee needs proper, ongoing training and supervision to handle the care of your loved one.” -- Choosing a Home Care Agency, Retire-at-Home Services; Facebook
  1. Not understanding applicable tax laws. “If you are considering hiring someone who is not employed by an agency, you may find you are responsible as an employer for taxes and for liability, should the caregiver get hurt on the job… Get the facts you need from your state employment people, check references carefully, and make sure you are covered for worker's compensation and other risks.” -- Carol Bradley Bursack, What NOT to Do When Hiring Home Health Care, Aging Care; Twitter: @AgingCare

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  1. Hiring a caregiver that isn’t adequately trained. “Clients are sometimes upset when caregivers can’t perform basic cooking and cleaning requests. One woman we interviewed said when she asked her caregiver for a grilled cheese sandwich, the young woman stuck cheese on a piece of bread then dropped it in the toaster, creating a huge mess. Some caregivers may benefit from basic cooking instructions or recipes.” -- Kristi Larson, Top 10 Complaints from Home Care Clients, Home Care Pulse; Twitter: @homecarepulse
  1. Choosing a provider without a license. “Many states require home care providers to earn a license to operate. To obtain a license, a provider must meet the basic legal and operating standards imposed by the state department of health. Your state health department can provide you with information on its licensed providers.” -- Where Can I Find Additional Information About a Provider’s Services?, National Association for Home Care & Hospice; Twitter: @OfficialNAHC

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  1. Not being specific in needs and preferences. “Initially, write down the specific care needed and what exactly those tasks entail. Does bathing mean a bath or shower? What does housekeeping entail? Determine how often those should be done, and on what days, if there's a preference. For every task, specify when, how and where (as it relates to errands, for example) it should be done.” -- Doresa Banning, 7 in-home care mistakes to avoid, Elder Care Link; Twitter: @eldercarelink1
  1. Assuming an agency is quality at face value. “Many people find a company that offers lavish benefits and a high price tag to go with it so they assume that they are receiving the best deal. Never be too quick to judge. Just because a company offers a pretty face on the exterior does not mean that it is everything you want for your loved one. Find a company that employs personnel that actually cares about the people they provide care for.” -- Avoid These 6 Mistakes Most People Make When Choosing a Home Care Provider, Senior Care of Utah; Twitter: @careofutah

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  1. Not staying involved enough. “While you may be hiring a caregiver to help relieve the burden of your parent’s health, it’s important to stay involved. It’s important to ask your parent how they feel about their caregiver and pay close attention to the help they are receiving. This is the best way to ensure that your caregiver is trustworthy and that your parent is healthy and happy.” -- 5 Mistakes to Avoid While Hiring a Caregiver, 24 Hour HomeCare; Twitter: @24HrHomeCare
  1. Not ensuring adequate workers compensation insurance. “Another biggie, believe it or not home care companion aides get injured more than most people think. They’re on their feet a lot, they help transfer elders, assist in the bathroom, a lot of unexpected things can happen.  Failure to have proper coverage in place can prove costly.” -- Clayton Birney, The 7 Greatest Risks When Choosing a Home Care Provider, Arista Home Care Solutions; Twitter: @AristaHC

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  1. Becoming too friendly. “If your employee thinks of herself as your pal, she may be more likely to take liberties such as bringing her kids or pets to work, or she may bridle when you assert your authority and request a change. The bottom line: Keep it professional.” -- Lisa Trottier, Hiring the Right In-Home Caregiver or In-Home Nurse, Caring.com; Twitter: @Caring
  1. Assuming all companies are run by nurses or other healthcare professionals. “Make sure the company you hire is an experienced home care provider who offers Nurse supervision and direction of caregivers. As your loved ones age, their needs will increase and it will be important to have the right professionals managing their situation.” -- Choosing a Home Care Agency, Retire-at-Home Services; Facebook

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  1. Not flagging desired caregiver qualities. “Be sure to ask about their policy for rejecting an individual's services or requesting a better fit. For instance, if your mother would be uncomfortable having a male caregiver or would prefer someone of the same nationality so that they have more in common, please speak up. Many elders wish to have someone in the house that is familiar with their own customs, cuisine and even language.” -- Stepping Stones to a Positive In-Home Care Experience, The Gathering Place; Facebook
  1. Not trusting your gut instinct. “One of the most important things to consider is your loved one’s trust and comfort. Home care is more than just helping them while they recover from a major surgery or reminding them to take their medicine at the right time. It’s about your loved one being comfortable with and trusting the person assisting them. When considering a home care, choose an agency who provides you with a caregiver who would treat your loved one with dignity.” -- Things to Consider When Choosing a Home Care, My Angels HomeCare; Twitter: @MyAngelsHC

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  1. Not listening to your loved one. “Listen to understand your parent’s needs and concerns regarding home health care options. Ask open-ended questions to get them talking. You might be surprised to find out they’ve been thinking many of the same things, or have issues of which you were unaware.” -- Holidays are a Great Time to Discuss Home Health Care, Sunny Days In-Home Care; Twitter: @SunnyDaysIHC
  1. Not checking references. “In addition, ask the home care provider to supply you with a list of references, such as doctors, discharge planners, patients or their family members, and community leaders who are familiar with the provider's quality of service.” -- How Do I Select the Right Home Care Provider?, National Association for Home Care & Hospice; Twitter: @OfficialNAHC

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  1. Not checking an agency’s accreditation. “Accreditation doesn’t necessarily ensure higher quality service, but it does mean the agency’s gone through an external process that evaluates core service values, such as ethics, client safety, and emergency planning. Two organizations that accredit private duty home care agencies are CHAP (Community Health Accreditation Program) and the Private Duty Home Care Association. If your agency claims to be accredited, check the website of the accrediting body to make sure they really are.” -- Elizabeth Hanes, Choose the Right Home Health Agency – Before You Need It, Next Avenue; Twitter: @NextAvenue
  1. Not conducting an interview with the agency and its providers. “Always interview the caregiver candidates to determine if they're a good match in terms of skills, experience and personality. Is there chemistry between the caregiver and recipient? Does the care provider have a good attitude? Do they fully understand the person's needs? Ask open-ended, rather than yes or no, questions.”  -- Doresa Banning, 7 in-home care mistakes to avoid, Elder Care Link; Twitter: @eldercarelink1

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  1. Believing all certified providers are the same. “Any business that meets certain administrative qualifications will be granted a state license to provide care. There is a huge gap between companies that compete for your business with first-class services and those that compete on price only. Some have a 24/7 emergency phone line and others only have a cell phone. The quality of their employees is equally dissimilar.” -- Frank Blood, 7 Mistakes Most Caregivers Make, Caregiver Harbor; Twitter: @CaregiverHarbor
  1. Not consulting with other family members. “Before deciding on a caregiver, it’s important to consult with others who may be involved in your parent’s life. Siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren should all be kept informed and involved in the process. After all, they will also be interacting with the chosen individual.”  -- 5 Mistakes to Avoid While Hiring a Caregiver, 24 Hour HomeCare; Twitter: @24HrHomeCare

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  1. Not staying in touch with the agency. “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.” -- Lori Jo Thomas, Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for Home Health Nursing/Therapy or Caretakers, San Angelo Home Health; Facebook
  1. Assuming your loved one is ready to accept care. “Many family members that call to request help for their parents are also dealing with a lot of resistance about accepting help. This is a common problem that can be overcome with the right approach. Ask each home care agency what they will do to ensure they help your loved one transition into accepting help and how they will manage any push-back.” -- Choosing a Home Care Agency, Retire-at-Home Services; Facebook

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  1. Not asking people in your network for a referral. “Almost every family has had to make the same difficult decision at some point in their life. Start your home care selection process by asking other people [in your community] if they know of a compassionate and experienced home care provider. Friends and other family members will give you honest answers on what companies you can trust and which agencies should be avoided.” -- Kamran Nasser, How to Select the Best Home Care Provider, NuevaCare; Twitter: @NuevaCare

If you’re evaluating home care services for your loved one, take care to avoid making these mistakes and hire a home care service with confidence.