Home Health Aides: You Get What You Pay For!

Most elderly and their primary caregivers agree that they would prefer to live out their lives at home rather than an assisted living facility or nursing home. This decision often means hiring a home health aide and/ or home health agency to support your loved one with their everyday needs including bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, medication management, shopping and all other activities of daily living (ADL’s). Once this decision is made the real work begins; selecting a home health aide or home health agency that you trust with the lives of your loved ones.

This blog will be part of a series titled, “Navigating the World of Home Health Care,” which will answer important questions relating to the topic of how to select a home health aide/ agency. For many of us, there are several things that we consider as priorities when choosing a home health aide or agency; including the following: Cost, Liability, Consistency, Expertise and Flexibility.

First, let’s discuss Cost. According to the “Genworth 2013 Cost of Care Survey,” the average cost of a licensed home health aide in Pennsylvania is $20/ hour. This may seem like a large sum, especially if you need someone for upwards of 8 hours per day, but let us consider what that cost covers. If you are working with a licensed, Medicare-certified home health agency this cost includes the following: competitive wage to the employee (typically around $11/hour), liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage for the employee, training, reference and background checks for the employee, and comprehensive case management and billing services for the patient and their families. In layman’s terms this cost covers you if… items in your home are lost or damaged at the hands of a home health aide through a licensed agency; your home health aide becomes injured on the job and requires medical attention; your loved ones care needs change and they now require a higher level of skilled care; or your home health aide is sick or takes vacation and you need coverage for your loved one. These are just some of the many scenarios that may occur when you have a home health aide in your home caring for a loved one.

So in terms of cost verses return on your investment it all comes down to risk. You may be able to find an unlicensed home health aide for $12/ hour; however you need to be willing to take the increased risk that comes with the hourly savings. The bottom line is you get what you pay for.  If cost is the most important thing to you and you are looking to save money on caregivers for your loved one then paying someone out of pocket may be the best option for you.  However, if you are not willing to take the risk of your home health aide calling in sick, not working well with your loved one, not being trained to care for your loved one properly and prevent issues (such as falls) and all the associated costs and lost time from work to manage these issues, then hiring a home health aide through a licensed home health agency would yield the highest return on your investment with a low amount of risk. Licensed agencies work very diligently to match the needs of your loved one with our home health aides, as well as adapting to the ever-changing needs and schedules of you and your loved ones. We strive to make the lives of our patients and their caregivers as stress-free as possible.

Please keep an eye out for our next blog in this series, “Navigating the World of Home Health Care,” where we will discuss other important items to consider when hiring a home health aide/ or home health agency.

Laurie B. Conbeer, RN, BSN

Assistant Director of Nursing