how to choose a home care agencyMany individuals around the UK require extra help at home either due to ageing, illness or disability.

If family members aren't available to provide that help, often a professional home care agency must be employed.

This can be a stressful time for your family, as knowing how to choose the best agency for your needs might not be immediately obvious.

In this article, we'll cover a checklist to help you make an informed choice.

Decide What Help Your Loved One Requires 

First off, it's important to decide what type of help your loved one requires. Talking to your family member or friend about day-to-day challenges they face should uncover any issues.

Functionally, your family member might be struggling with particular activities of daily living, such as getting from the bed to the chair or washing and dressing in the morning.

If they also suffer from a medical condition like Multiple Sclerosis or Dementia, it's sensible to consult with their GP and associated medical professionals to discover the input required moving forward.

Additionally, it's important to decide what time of day they require help, as this will contribute to the care plan of prospective agencies.

Do they require help every day? It may be that due to mobility issues, your loved one finds it difficult to collect their groceries and simply needs assistance once or twice a week to remain independent.

Finally, it's important to discuss finances with your family member or friend, as their budget may determine their access to care. Speaking to their GP or social worker about a care assessment will inform you about care services your loved one may be entitled to.

Finding Care Agencies

When you've listed your requirements and discussed your financial means, you can begin looking for care agencies in your area.

If you already deal with medical professionals in some capacity, you can ask for specific recommendations, or consult your GP.

Alternatively, friends may have had experiences with agencies local to you and be able to provide word of mouth referrals.

Next, you can begin searching for area-specific agencies on the Internet. It may take a few searches with different words and phrases, but you can start to build up a list of agencies to contact.

Depending on the number of companies on your initial list, various care home directories exist on the Internet to help in your shortlisting process.

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Shortlisting Care Agencies

Now you have a list of potential agencies, it's important to narrow your focus to select the most appropriate for your situation.

The first step is to ensure they're regulated and meet the standards of their relevant professional body:

England - Care Quality Commission
Northern Ireland - The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)

These organisations also provide home care agency inspection reports, so you can be assured that their safety and performance has been reviewed.

You can also check that the agencies on your list are members of the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), which has a code of practice to ensure care standards throughout the industry are maintained.

Another consideration is whether the care agency you're considering is regulated to deliver services you require.

When you've verified the basics, you may want to dig a little deeper online. For example, you can often read Google reviews of the agency to see if any issues have been highlighted by previous care recipients.

You can also check websites such as Glassdoor to see if staff are happy with the organisation. High employee satisfaction might be a positive sign, translating into a good care experience.

Questions to Ask Home Care Agencies

When approaching home care agencies, try to organise a meeting at home with your loved one.

This will allow you to get acquainted with the agency to see if they're compatible.

It's then important to have a series of questions organised. For example:

  • How do you match care workers to clients?
  • Will you see the same care worker?
  • What training do your care workers receive?
  • What is the provision of care like during evenings, weekends and bank holidays?
  • How do you perform quality control?
  • What is the emergency/feedback procedure?
  • What records are kept for each visit and are copies available?
  • Do you have a contract when you work with clients?
  • What are your prices? Is there an hourly charge and a minimum spend?
  • What payment method is accepted and how often is payment expected?
  • Is a trial period possible?
This may seem like a complicated process, but it's advisable to perform your due diligence from the start.

Performing initial research and getting your questions answered from the outset will ensure you're in the best position to identify a quality home care provider, one that caters to all your needs.