Before you sign up with a home health agency, make sure you know what kind of services your loved one needs and how they can be covered.

Home health care can comprise skilled care services from a licensed nurse or therapist, custodial services (such as cooking and cleaning), and/or personal care services (such as feeding or bathing). If your loved one meets certain criteria, Medicare may cover skilled care and some personal care at home. Medicare never covers custodial care.

Medicaid and other programs can cover other types of home care and may cover your home care needs if your loved one does not qualify for Medicare-covered home care. Some people pay out of pocket or rely on long-term care insurance.

To begin your search for a home health agency:

  • If your loved one is being discharged from the hospital, you can ask the hospital’s discharge planner or social worker for the names of local agencies. These professionals should know which services are dependable and will be covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid.
  • You can get the names of home health care agencies through Medicare’s online comparison tool.
  • You can also use the search tool on the web site of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). NAHC’s web site also has useful advice on how to choose a home care provider.

Then, call the agency directly. Find out:

  • What kind of care does the agency provide? Do they offer the services your loved one needs?
  • What is the cost of services? Get this information in writing.
  • Is the agency certified to take Medicare or Medicaid as payment?
  • Does the agency offer discounts or free service to people with limited means?
  • How does the agency decide what kind of services your loved one needs? Do they do an assessment? Will they talk to your loved one’s doctor?
  • Who would come to the house (a nurse, home health aide, a volunteer, etc.)? How much training has this person had?
  • Does the agency have references or satisfaction reports for itself and staff?

Make appointments to meet in person with representatives of the agencies that sound best to you.