I’ve written already here about how I firmly believe home care can work well for people living with dementia in their own homes. But how do you choose which home care provider to use, and how can you tell which are reliable and capable of offering specialist dementia home care?
Here are some questions that can help to inform your search.
When engaging home care providers, I think the key thing is to find out about their care team. Who are the people you are going to be letting into your partner or parent’s home? It’s a relationship of trust and the truth is they are going to be doing some intimate things – whether it’s helping the person with having a shower or being in their kitchen.
You want to find out as much as you can about what sort of care workers they recruit, what knowledge their staff have of working with people with dementia and what ongoing training and support is available to the staff in terms of dementia care. It is vital that the care team are given training in dementia – because so often it’s not about what the care worker does, it’s how they do it that makes the home care a success or a failure.
Find out how the provider matches clients with care workers. A person living with dementia needs to be able to feel comfortable enough to build some sort of chemistry with the care worker. It can’t be just any person who walks in to help – they have to be the right person and have a good fit with the person living with dementia. If it fails once, I would say try again – it may take two, three, even four more times before that chemistry is right.
Age could be a factor here too, so it’s worth finding out about the age of the workforce. Sometimes it can make all the difference to have a mature aged care worker supporting an older person with dementia – they see the worker more as a companion than a formal paid care worker.
Consistency of care workers and continuity are crucial and can make or break home care for a person with dementia. When a person is having difficulties with short-term memory, asking them to get to know a changing line-up of care workers is not an option. So do ask about what efforts the provider makes to ensure continuity of care, and how they would respond if the care worker is away.
Find out how the care provider keeps in touch with family carers. Is it via the care worker or is it via the head office of the provider? How will this communication usually take place? And how often?
Families need to feel sure that there will be follow through if the care worker picks up on changes in the person, if there’s a deterioration in their situation or a crisis. Providers should also be reporting to families not just when there’s a problem, but also to convey that things are going well. Positive reporting is so important.
Make sure you find out about all the services that are available from the provider so that if the person’s needs increase in the future, it will be possible to stay with the same provider. If you need equipment or input from allied health professionals or you need someone to mow the lawn, ideally you want to be able to come to one provider and know that they are going to be able to coordinate everything. Be clear about what options are available on a privately funded basis too.
Ask about all the costs involved in accessing home care. Get a good understanding of the service fees and admission fees and compare them to other providers so you know it’s competitive and you’re not being overpriced.
Sometimes it is worth paying a little more. If you’re going to get that continuity and consistency and they have committed, trained dementia workers, then that is worth paying for.