In the past, if your in-home care was government-funded, then there was only a small part that consumers played in terms of who provided the services. As Consumer Directed Care (CDC) becomes a reality, this is all changing and consumers are more empowered in the choice.
How do you find the provider and what do you ask? These are real questions that people are tackling. Here are some starting points of the areas to consider in making your choices that go beyond the ‘gloss’ of the marketing materials.
Which are the practical choices?
Different providers of in-home services have different coverage and are approved for different packages, so the first thing to do is to identify those that are likely to be able to meet your particular need and in your situation. There are a few reference points for you. Firstly, the government website www.myagedcare.gov. au allows you to search for service providers with a number of filters that can quickly narrow down the potential providers for you. You can also ask your ACAT assessment team to provide you with a list of providers in your area. Identifying the potential providers, however, is the easy part. Assessing which provider will be best for you is much more difficult.
Getting feedback on personal experiences
A good starting point is to talk to the people you know who are already using the providers you are considering. If you are living in a retirement village or over 50s community, the management may be able to introduce you to other residents using different providers for you to have a chat with and get some feedback about.
If you don’t know anybody in your network who is familiar with the provider, then ask the provider for references you can talk with. It is unlikely they will tell you of anybody who was unhappy with their service, but it is still better to talk to a satisfied client than to nobody at all when making a choice.
Perhaps the most important aspect to be comfortable with is the actual people who will be providing services to you and so you want to be as specific about this as possible. Whilst you do need to know about the level of training of staff and back-up arrangements that a provider may have, you should try to dig deeper than this.
Unfortunately, the care provider is unlikely to have allocated any individual staff members to you when you are making your choice. Most likely, that will only happen after you actually make your choice of provider and after an internal discussion about your needs, requirements and schedules.
However, if you are serious about one or two providers, then it is reasonable for you to ask them to talk to you about the people who they are likely to put on your case, given your location and needs. Ask if you can meet these individuals. At the very least, you would want to meet with one of the supervisors for your particular area.
Also, get assurance that if you are unhappy with the performance of the staff assigned to you or if the chemistry is simply not right, then the service provider will change the staff who provide your in-home services. Ask about the steps that you will need to take and how fast these decisions about staff changes are made. Don’t be afraid to ask about some real examples and how the situations were handled.
Remember that your needs change over time, and sometimes these can be very rapid changes, so you have to gauge how your provider of choice will be able to manage this.
Ongoing Quality & Reliability
Two of the most frequently asked questions people have been, “What happens if my home care provider does not show up?” and, “Who do I talk to if I have a problem with the staff.” These are two semi-related questions that the providers you are considering should be able to answer straight away, and if they can’t, you probably want to move on to the next provider on your list.
What you want to hear in response is the process the provider has in place for these eventualities; the back-up team, the role of supervisors in the team, the surprise visits that supervisors make on staff when they are working in people’s homes and the escalation process for complaints and problems.
Expect your needs to change
Remember that your needs change over time, and sometimes these can be very rapid changes, so you have to gauge how your provider of choice will be able to manage this. For instance, if today you are pretty mobile and need only minimal assistance at home, a provider with a basic level of staff, skills and resources may be a good choice. However, tomorrow if you have a hip replacement or a fall, or are diagnosed with dementia, your needs may change overnight.
What then? Does your provider have the variety of services or the network to be able to cater for you or will you be going through the whole process again at a time when you are least able to do so? Ask the providers you are considering how they stay flexible and how they help with getting resources that they may not have themselves but which could be needed in the future.
As experience with CDC grows, so will our understanding of the real drivers of services, real case studies and what makes for good and not-so-good services. This is an evolving area, in which this list of areas to explore is only a starting point that will get revisited often.