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Critical Characteristics to Evaluate and Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Care Agency

If and when life changes due to an illness, accident or aging, it can be difficult to maintain one’s independence and personal care as you once did and remain in your own home. Help with errands, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, personal care, medication reminders, meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping and more can relieve much of the stress you and your loved one may be experiencing.

Care provided by a qualified, professional and loving home care agency is an ideal option for many individuals and their families while bringing back the joy in family life. Home care is a scalable service designed to provide just the right amount and type of care needed for your specific needs. There are many agencies available to provide services in the home; however, not all are the same. That is why we at FirstLight HomeCare have developed this handy guide that will make you aware of the characteristics you will want from a qualified home care agency. We hope you find it helpful.


  • Is the agency licensed by the state? Most states — but not all — require agencies to be licensed and reviewed regularly. Reviews may be available on request through your state health department and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Does the agency meet federal requirements for health and safety with such things as OSHA, infection control, a disaster plan? If not, ask why. At FirstLight HomeCare we meet and or exceed all of these requirements and our policies and procedures are written to exceed JCAHO – Joint Commission Accreditation for Home Care.
  • What type of employee screening is done? When you hire a professional home care agency, you expect to receive quality care provided by a compassionate, empathetic and caring person. The real question; how do you make sure this will occur? FirstLight HomeCare screens caregivers for experience, skill competency, general reasoning, attitude and personality. To ensure caregivers are reliable and honest, drug and alcohol tests, extensive background checks, are performed on all new hires and we are fully insured and bonded.
  • Are the caregivers experienced? The very best agencies hire experienced caregivers or like FirstLight Home Care, have a Personal Care training program written by a Registered Nurse with extensive experience in home care and education.
  • Do the caregivers receive health, skill and competency testing? A good home care agency will test employees to assure their personal health, skills and capability. Standard testing for all FirstLight HomeCare employees includes competency testing, TB tests, pre-employment health screening and skills competency testing, and drug testing.

Quality of care

  • Does the agency have a caregiver bond and culture of care? FirstLight HomeCare is proud of our extraordinary caregivers that are the most significant members of our team in delivering our service commitment to others. In addition, our culture of care philosophy is the cornerstone of FirstLight home Care and comprises the beliefs and values which guide us every day as we service others.
  • Does the agency provide training and continuing education? Our caregivers have an opportunity for not only the Personal Care training but in addition ongoing training in dementia and Alzheimer care from our Nationally Certified Dementia Care Practitioner, chronic and acute illnesses, as well as practices and procedures.
  • Is there supervision and unscheduled visits by the agency’s supervisor to evaluate the quality of home care? A good home care agency will provide supervisors or care coordinators who perform unscheduled supervision visits to help make sure that you are receiving the best care possible. The care coordinator visit is also a good time to communicate any concerns you may find uncomfortable discussing with your caregiver.
  • Does the agency have a quality assurance and improvement program? We at FirstLight have an extensive program which measures client and caregiver satisfaction, operational and service compliance, as well as instances such as infection or significant events.
  • As part of the agency’s quality assessment, do they have a client satisfaction survey system? For peace of mind you need an agency that has a process to know you are satisfied and keeps you and your family informed. FirstLight HomeCare works with a third party to make calls to ensure your satisfaction with our caregivers and our agency. Our caregivers keep careful notes of each visit in your home to provide a quick snapshot of their activities and are always available for review via the FirstLight HomeCare online portal. Our staff is also trained to alert family members regarding any changes or concerns regarding the client, in addition to responding to clients’ or family members’ concerns.
  • What happens if my caregiver does not show up? One of the most common problems that people have with the average home care agency is that the caregivers don’t show up. Choose an agency that has a system to handle the caregivers who cannot fill their shift. At FirstLight Homecare we assign a backup to every client and have “on-call” caregivers.


  • How does the agency handle expenses and billing? Ask for literature explaining all services and fees, as well as detailed explanations of all the costs associated with home care. FirstLight HomeCare has a rate card we will provide to you.
  • Will agency fees be covered by health insurance or Medicare? Find out what arrangements are in place for specific health insurance plans. Although we do not bill Medicare there are many other insurances that will pay for service such as the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance, Long-term care insurance, Work Comp insurance and some traditional plans.

Understanding services

  • Will you receive a written care plan before service begins? The care plan should include details about medical equipment and specific care needs, contain input from your or your loved one’s doctor, and be updated frequently.
  • Will you receive a list of the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved? This is sometimes known as a client or patient’s bill of rights.
  • Will the agency work directly with you or your loved one, family members and health care providers? At FirstLight our goal is to coordinate your care with everyone involved.
  • When will service be provided? Is care available round-the-clock, if necessary? Care is provided to you as planned during your initial in-home visit from our Care Coordinator. We can provide for 24-hour care by shifts, if the setting is right and safe for your loved ones and our caregivers.
  • What procedures are in place for emergencies? Ask how the agency or home health aide will deliver services in the event of a power failure or natural disaster. Our agency and caregivers are prepared for emergencies and practice to ensure the safety of all concerned. We also have planning information for you to assist in preparation for natural disasters.
  • How are problems addressed and resolved? Who can you or another family member contact with requests, questions or complaints? Our agency provides you with our contact information and our phones are answered 24 hours every day!
  • When can services begin? Our promise is to work with you to create a schedule which will fit your needs and can be flexed if your family is in town or you go on vacation.

Monitor your home care services

After you’ve found a home care services provider, monitor the situation. If you’re concerned about the care or services provided, discuss it promptly with the agency. If necessary, involve your doctor or your loved one’s doctor as well