Finding a competent and honest caregiver to help take care of a family member or loved one is a complicated and perilous process. The demand for caregivers is growing every year, as we live longer with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Additionally, with hospitals discharging people faster than ever, even after complicated surgery, many people return home needing intense assistance, at least for several weeks.

Most caregivers are family members or spouses of the patient. This may work well for a short time, but family member burnout is often quick. Family caregivers, especially among the elderly, usually have medical issues of their own and are intimidated by the never-ending demands of caregiving.

Added to all that is the cost of bringing in a caregiver. Most caregiving is not covered by medical insurance or Medicare. That’s because the majority of home caregiving is not medical in nature, but rather assisting in the functions of daily life, such as bathing, dressing, cooking, serving meals, or driving the patient to medical appointments. Nor is it cheap, with average caregiving rates starting at about $25 to $35 per hour, depending on the state you live in.

But here are some tips to help you find competent and affordable caregiving services in your community.

Assess the need. Be realistic in scoping out your or your loved one’s caregiving needs. Speak with your doctor about what the short-term and long-term prognosis is in terms of the patient being able to regain function or how quickly further deterioration may occur. Many hospitals and home health-care agencies have home-care assessment teams that will come to your home to determine what equipment might be needed, such as lift chairs, hospital beds, walkers, ramps, and bathing or shower assisting chairs. If ordered by a physician, this type of equipment is often covered in total or in part by your medical insurance.

Finding reputable caregivers. Most areas have a number of agencies that provide in-home caregivers. Start your search by contacting your county’s Area Agency on Aging. These federally funded offices are administered by your state and are a great source of information. Ask for a listing of caregiver agencies in your community. Also search online for caregiving providers in your area. Speak to several providers. Ask for references and check them out with your state’s department of health. Check as well to see if there are any complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

Help from family and friends. Ask other family or friends if they have any caregivers or caregiver agencies whom they might recommend. Your church or synagogue can often recommend caregivers from their own congregations or organizations with whom they have an affiliation.

Is home care realistic? If the family member’s medical or lifestyle needs are significant, home caregiving may be inadequate or even dangerous. People in those situations may be better served by an assisted living or nursing home facility on either a short- or long-term basis. Making such decisions is extremely difficult but is usually in the best interest of the patient.

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