There are many home health agencies in California. How do I find home health care providers near me? How can I tell if they are good? What should I ask them?
Finding Home Health Care Providers Near Me
If you or a loved one are recovering from an inpatient hospital stay—surgery, a bad injury, or a terrible illness—you might still need some assistance even after you’re discharged. A loving family can help with recovery, but this is often not enough. Family members have their own concerns and lives to live, never mind the specialized training needed to help patients on the road to recovery. Thankfully, there is no lack of providers in the United States; Googling “health care providers near me” will return multiple results no matter where you are in the US. There is no lack of health care professionals out there to hire.
But not all home health care agencies are the same. You might need to do some research to find the organization that helps you best.
Proximity matters a lot when choosing a home health agency. After all, you don’t want to wait for ages for help to arrive when a crisis occurs. (Nor do the caregivers want to cross the city in rush hour traffic.) Many agencies charge additional fees for each mile of travel, so there’s no need to incur additional costs if there is a good agency near your home.
Finding agencies by proximity is easy. Visit Google and type in “home health agencies [your ZIP code]”. Look at the map, which will be centered on your ZIP code, and each agency will be a tack on the map, allowing you to easily estimate the distance from your home. Selecting a tack will let you see any ratings and reviews the provider has, giving you a small insight into their services.
Yelp also makes it easy to find caregivers nearby. Input “home health care” or something similar in the search bar, type your ZIP code in the location bar, and search away. Yelp is loaded with information about the various businesses as well as customer reviews and ratings, even more so than Google, so this is a good place to get a general sense of how these health agencies function.
Yellowpages.com offers similar functionality as Google and Yelp, summarizing the services offered, listing reviews, and allowing easy searching with a map.
Narrowing Your Search
Proximity is not the only consideration, of course. Every big city in the United States has lots of home health agencies. If you want home health care in Los Angeles, there are probably several suitable providers not far from you. How, then, do you separate the wheat from the chaff, eliminating from your list the services that might not be suitable for you or your ailing loved one? It’s time, then, to make use of your connections.
- Family doctor: Is the patient’s primary physician well established in the community and experienced? Then he probably has a professional opinion on the quality of nearby home health services and can provide a recommendation or two.
- Hospital discharge: Many people, when recovering from surgery or a bad injury, still need assistance after being discharged. Many hospitals, as part of their discharge routine, will organize visits from a home health service to ensure the patient is recovering well. However, patients are always free to choose a different provider or to request additional services from the provider recommended by the hospital.
- Friends and family: Word-of-mouth referrals remain relevant even in the information age, so don’t forget your personal connections. Friends who have hired a home health provider had a close look at the quality of their services and can offer a perspective that you might not get from medical professionals.
Another method of assessing various home health services comes courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). They created a tool (available at medicare.gov/care-compare/) that lets you search for Medicare-certified home health services (and hospitals, doctors, hospices, and much more) by city or ZIP code. Users can quickly see how long an agency has been operating and what services they offer. There is no convenient map with tacks in it, but the care and compare tool allows you to directly compare several agencies against one another. Nor are results sortable by distance, so it’s best if you find “health care providers near me” by other means before using this tool.
The CMS assigns providers percentage ranks on several metrics, such as “how often patients got better at bathing” and “how often patients remained in the community after discharge from home health.” They are also ranked through a patient survey, which asks questions like “how well did the home health team communicate with patients” and “would patients recommend the home health agency to friends and family.” Being able to quickly compare agencies might help you narrow down your list.
Getting in Touch
Once you have a shortlist of candidate home health agencies, it’s time to contact the agencies and ask them some questions. Remember: though home health agencies are full of compassionate caregivers, they are still money-making enterprises, and they want your business. Don’t be shy about asking lots of questions. If you worry that the person answering the phone isn’t a medical professional, ask for the contact information of someone who is. Make them earn your business; don’t agree to anything until you’re certain they will provide top-notch care to you or your loved one.
Here are just a few of the questions you might want to ask:
- How are the employees trained and supervised? What are their qualifications and backgrounds?
- Ask for the company’s literature. Reputable agencies will have brochures and statements explaining their services, fees, and eligibility requirements. Especially, request a “patient bill of rights,” which explains the rights and responsibilities of both patients and caregivers. Ask for an explanation of anything that seems unclear.
- How is the plan of care created? A proper care plan is unique for each patient. Make sure they consider the input of the patient and her family when creating the plan and making changes to an existing plan. Ask if there’s a sample plan that lets you see how it works.
- Request references: if they have been in service for long, they will have worked closely with hospitals and doctor’s offices who will recommend the agency. Ask for the references’ contact information, and consider giving them a call to ask about the agency.
- Consider the specific needs of you or your loved one: has the agency helped those with that condition or illness?
- What happens in case of an emergency? They should have a helpline available around the clock, and on-call nurses ready to make urgent visits.
And so much else. You can’t ask too many questions, especially when the health of you or your loved one is on the line. We at UCLAHHC field many questions every day, and sometimes even our busy nurses will take time out of their days to reassure potential patients. If you’re looking for home health care in Orange County or Los Angeles, send us a message. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.