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How to choose a home health aide

Houston residents who have a relative in need of in-home care may be interested in how they may want to go about choosing a care provider. The choices can be daunting. According to a report from the National Center for Care Statistics, there are 12,206 home health agencies in the U.S. Of these, nearly 72 percent are certified for both Medicare and Medicaid, 22 percent are only Medicare certified and just over 1 percent are only Medicaid certified.

Experts suggest starting home care planning with a decision about what kind of care is actually needed. Home health aides generally provide personal care but don't provide medical care. If an individual needs constant medical care, they may be better suited for an assisted living facility. If an individual doesn't need help with bathing or dressing but simply needs assistance with errands, cooking and cleaning, then a homemaker or personal care assistant may be the best option.

When choosing a home health aide, one can either manage the services themselves or hire an agency. The benefit of using an agency is that the agency will handle the administrative aspects of the care, like hiring, training, payroll and taxes. Experts suggest looking for an agency that has been in business at least five years and meets all of the state's legal requirements. Individuals are also advised to ask about how the agency hires aides, how aides are trained and whether the aide is capable of handling conditions that are specific to the individual who is receiving care, such as dementia or Alzheimer's.

While home health aides are helpful for individuals who want to stay in their homes during their later years, issues might sometimes arise. The sheer number of home health aides suggest that there may be some who are not completely qualified to provide the necessary care. Others may be negligent in their duties. Individuals who suspect an elderly person is receiving negligent or incompetent care may want to consult with an elder law attorney. The attorney may be able to provide advice for legal options to protect the elderly person's rights and to take any necessary steps to help end the negligence or abuse.

Source: USA Today, "3 things to know when hiring home health aide", Robert Powell, December 30, 2013

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