elderly woman and her son with caregiver

How to Choose an In-Home Nurse

The types of questions you need to ask when choosing an in-home nurse don’t have a simple yes or no answer. 

Are you wondering how you should go about choosing an in-home nurse? First and foremost, you need to determine whether or not you need a skilled caregiver in your home. It’s not necessary to hire an in-home nurse to help with tasks like eating, bathing and grooming. Those types of caregiving are what a personal care attendant can handle. However, if the needs are medical-related, you will want to hire a trained, qualified nurse.

Once you’ve decided to hire a nurse as the experienced caregiver for your elderly loved one, there are several things you’ll want to know before you choose which one is the best fit for your situation.

Knowing the Difference Between Types of In-Home Nurses

You’ll find there are generally two types of in-home nurses: those who work independently and those who work for an agency. There are pros and cons to both, and you owe it to yourself to do your homework before making a hiring decision.

Agency nurses will often charge a higher rate per hour than a nurse who works independently. Keep in mind though, the agency pays FICA taxes, and will have liability coverage on all their workers. With those fees factored in, either worker’s cost is about the same.

Agencies have numerous caregivers to offer, so if one isn’t a good fit, an agency can send out someone else. This will continue until you find the right one you feel most comfortable with.

Another advantage of choosing an agency nurse includes the agency providing a substitute in the event the primary caregiver is sick or takes a vacation. Plus, most agencies make sure their caregivers have proper insurance and bonding, and are always in compliance with the agency’s policies concerning work ethics and other company regulations.

Finding the Right In-Home Nurse

Regardless of the source you settle on, the task of making sure you choose the right nurse still lies ahead. Set up an interview with any candidate you’re considering. This allows you to get a better feel for their personality and a chance to ask questions about their skills and previous experience.

This person will be caring for someone you love and you may find yourself spending a good bit of time with the caregiver. How she fits in and gets along with you and your family is as nearly as important as the skills she possesses.

Whether dealing with an agency or an independent, don’t be shy about asking for references. Speaking with previous clients can give you a good idea of how they perceive this person you may be hiring to take care of your loved one.

Background Checks Are Important

When choosing an in-home nurse, regardless of how or where you find them, it’s important to know their background. Most agencies do this before hiring their caregivers and so should you.

If you’re considering an independent in-home nurse, you can Google their name or look them up on Facebook to get a broad picture of the person, but for peace of mind, you’ll probably want to invest in a thorough background check.

Get It in Writing

You can avoid a lot of problems from miscommunications if everything is in some form of a contract. Your expectations of the duties of the in-home nurse and their expectations of their salary and benefits are two important topics where you must find agreement beforehand.

You should discuss contingency plans in the event of illness, hospitalization, or vacation, on either side. It’s a good idea to set guidelines about what should happen if either party determines the job is no longer a good fit.

Verify Licenses and Credentials

Most agencies will have already taken care of this important step before they send someone to your home. Knowing they have proper certification is one of the advantages of using an agency-provided in-home nurse.

If you don’t use an agency, it becomes your responsibility to make sure the in-home nurse you’re hiring has the proper certification and a current, valid license to operate in your state.

Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring an In-Home Nurse

  1. Postponing the decision too long. If you wait until you absolutely, positively have to have an in-home nurse overnight…then you’re less likely to have the time, and less inclined to take the time, to properly conduct your due diligence.
    As soon as you realize the health of your loved one is failing, it’s a good idea to start looking around at the services offered in your local area. The sooner you start researching, the more peace of mind you’ll have when the time comes that you need to hire in-home care.
  2. Not properly vetting the agency or the independent in-home nurse. It may seem a bit intimidating, questioning the experience and credentials of someone else, especially if you’ve never had to do it before. But it’s important to verify everything is, in fact, true, before you bring them into your home to take care of your loved one.
  3. Trying to do everything by yourself. Even if you’ve been doing the caretaking up to this point without help, when the time comes to hire an in-home nurse, try to include siblings, other relatives or friends in the process. That puts everyone on the same page as far as expectations, and hopefully helps avoid any future arguments.
  4. Not monitoring the situation. Most in-home nurses are good-hearted, honest, hard-working people. However, especially in the beginning, remember this is a stranger you’re allowing in your loved one’s home. From time to time, you need to ask your loved one how they feel about the way things are going. If they’re in a more vulnerable position and are unable to accurately tell you, it’s even more important to keep a close check on the situation.
  5. Not recognizing several elements will ultimately shape your decision. While finances will, of course, be a part of that decision, you must also consider the scope of skills available from an in-home nurse. Lastly, the nurse’s personality must be a good fit for your loved one.

The decision to hire an in-home nurse is an important one, and can be emotionally overwhelming for you, your family, and your loved one. Bringing someone new into the home is a major change. When you take the time and effort to be thorough in your search, you will find a dedicated, skilled and loving in-home nurse. 

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