Finding in-home care services or alternative living options for a parent or other loved one – whether it is assisted living, nursing home or personal care services at home – is one of the challenges the nation’s 44 million caregivers of those over age 50 face. Conducting an online Google or Bing search will provide options but not context and confidence about the choice you make. Caregivers want two things for loved ones: Quality of care and affordable cost; and one thing for themselves: Peace of mind.
Now there is a new breed of online service providers who provide a caregiver’s “soul mate” in terms of caring for a loved one. Similar to relationship matchmaking services (think Match.com or OurTime.com for boomer/senior dating), caregivers create a profile with specific details about the care needs and nuances of their loved one, view the professional health care worker or facility options matching the profile, coordinate a meeting or tour of the facility and hopefully fall in love.
Before starting the search for the perfect match, caregivers need to think of this similar to a job interview except in this scenario, they are the hiring boss:
1. Create a detailed profile or job description. Caregivers need to talk to a parent or other loved one to outline the entire wish list of both their needs as care recipient and your needs as their caregiver. Be as specific as possible. Special meal preparation (e.g., your loved one is lactose intolerant), language issues (the care worker needs to be bi-lingual) or specialized services (such as for those with dementia) need to be discussed with your parent and then included in the profile.
2. Establish a monthly budget. In some instances, caregivers may be able to negotiate fees for in-home care services directly with the care worker but only if they know the going rates and it meets the budget limits. While some costs may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or long term care plans, more often than not these costs are coming out of a parent’s savings or a caregiver’s own pocket. Caregivers also need to know the definitions of home health care professionals and other workers. For Instance, there is a difference between personal care workers versus home health aides or licensed registered nurses. There are legal limitations to what unskilled workers can provide (such as administering medication and injections or changing dressings for bed sores).
3. Get background checks and referrals. Always ask for background checks and previous employer referrals. Often if using an agency, they will conduct the background and security checks but ask to see the report. Caregivers want to know if the worker you are hiring was reliable and kind as well as skilled.
4. Check out the job candidates’ social media activity. It is amazing what can be learned about someone from their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube or other activities that may give a caregiver pause and what may not show up in background checks conducted by an agency.
Keep in mind these types of online caregiver matchmaking services make their money in one of two ways: either you will pay a fee for their service or they are paid a commission by the facility or service providers to make referrals. I am not making an argument one way is better than another. Each option has advantages and disadvantages and you must weigh cost versus value.
I advise caregivers to consider seeking professional guidance through a geriatric care manager, patient navigator or even getting a referral to a professional through your employer or an elder law attorney. These experts are trained in what to look for and can become a guide to making confident decisions.
For caregivers who decide to skip the matchmaker services for in-home care such as those listed below, beware of Craig’s List or “gray market” workers found through word-of-mouth from other caregivers or through local community online classified ad listings. These workers will come into your home or the home of your loved one and are responsible for watching over your most precious thing in life – your family member. Often stories of elder abuse, identity theft, robbery and worse are associated with these services which may be inexpensive but come at a more precious price – the health and welfare of your parent.
Following is a rundown of some of the new senior care matchmaking services:
A Place for Mom.com – This service site allows caregivers to put in a zip code and the type of senior living facility sought to receive relevant matches. Caregivers can compare amenities and costs. There is a toll-free number caregivers can call to talk to a Senior Living Advisor. The advisor can then meet the caregiver to tour the facilities in person. The cost to caregivers is free since the list of 18,000 facilities pay to be listed as part of this service. Joan Lunden serves as their celebrity spokesperson after she used the service to find a facility for her mom who has dementia.
Care.com – This site offers a wide spectrum of in-home and facility care options for families including child care, senior care and pet care. It also offers services to employers and military/government organizations needing back-up care for its caregiving employees. Caregivers are asked to post a job description and provide a few details (such as cost range), search for free and pay the health care worker or facility directly. Care.com conducts background checks and provides telephonic advisors for an additional subscription fee.
CareLinx.com – Offers an efficient and cost-effective way to find a personal care aide, also known as a personal care assistant. The matches are limited to personal care services such as meal preparation, transportation, medication reminders and companionship, also known as respite care. They do not provide skilled nursing care. Caregivers create a free profile for the care needed for their loved one, view online videos of the personal care worker selections, conduct a video chat interview with the home health aide or arrange to interview him/her in person and negotiate the fee.
CareLinx manages the scheduling, billing and other necessary administrative tasks to make this a fully integrated and time-efficient service for caregivers. And since the health care service is provided through an online virtual agency rather than a bricks and mortar location such as other health service agencies, ultimately the caregiver saves money because there are limited overhead costs. One caregiver saved $10,000 over 12 months for the service versus what the cost would have been with a traditional retail agency.
CareScout.com – This is the same service that administers the AARP Caregiving Help and Advice from Genworth. Both an online and offline service, the database of local senior housing and home health care service options includes 90,000 entries across the country which caregivers can search free of charge. For a membership fee (or included in AARP membership where caregivers can access the information using a loved one’s AARP member ID), caregivers can receive the SmartMatch service, which matches a loved one’s care needs to specific providers in the loved one’s area.
CareScout has created an extensively detailed database with care provider answers to more than 80 questions about its service including holiday and weekend rates and split shift offerings. CareScout uses this information to create its own rating system that caregivers can review. In addition, the services are also rated by the caregivers or loved ones receiving the care provided, so you get a second rating from actual users to help you make an informed decision.
CareScout also offers Care Advocates – its own network of professionals across the country who can conduct assessments and help caregivers put together a care plan for their loved one based on a variety of needs.
Caring.com – This is the highest traffic online site dedicated just for caregivers, with a lot of great articles and information such as state-by-state senior driving laws and Medicare information. While the site’s main focus has been educational content and tools such as the Alzheimer’s Steps and Stages for care transitions planning for dementia caregivers, it also offers toll-free telephonic service to talk to a Caring Advisor. This non-commissioned customer service professional helps caregivers understand different care options.
For instance, Caring has a senior care finder of more than 100,000 resources for in-home help, housing options and Elder Law attorneys – all with ratings by other caregivers who have used the services.
This story excerpted from Sherri Snelling’s book: A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.