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More and more families find themselves looking for in home care for elderly family members than ever before as we enter the beginning of baby boomers reaching Medicare age.

At the same time, home care agencies are popping up like convenience stores. In heavily senior populated areas like Sun City or Sun City West it is not uncommon to see four companies within a square mile.

As a family member who is faced with the idea of hiring an agency for the first time, what separates one company from the next? How do you know the people they hire truly know what they are doing? What happens if you aren’t happy with the service?

There is one commonality in all of these questions and that is the caregiver. It is the caregiver that separates one company from the next. The best companies don’t hire people who are interested in being a caregiver, but either have never done it or only cared for a family member in the past. And having the best caregivers means you will likely never find yourself unhappy with the service.

If you are hiring a non-medical home care agency in Arizona there is one important thing to be aware of. There is no governing agency that oversees this industry and there are no regulations that tell agencies who they can and can’t employ. This means agencies can literally hire anyone, experienced or not, trained or not, and send them out to your home to care for a loved one with complicated health issues.

For some companies, this means they can keep their labor cost down and sell their services at what seems like an unreasonably low rate. Many times it is because they independently contract caregivers instead of hiring them. This eliminates the company’s need to cover the caregiver with liability insurance or pay a company portion of Social Security and Medicare Tax. In these cases, there is usually a clause in the service agreement that you will indemnify the company from responsibility if something the contracted caregiver does that causes harm to the client or property.

For those companies who believe that there is a higher standard that should be met for someone who is being asked to care for a vulnerable human, the challenge becomes finding caregivers that share that belief and whose qualifications meet the standard that should be expected from a care provider.

Assisted Living Facilities, Group Homes, Nursing Homes and Hospitals all pay higher than non-medical home care agencies because they have the revenue streams to do so. A caregiver in one of these facilities can be responsible for up to 15 residents during their shift. This enables the facility to split the cost of a caregiver over those 15 residents.

Home care doesn’t have that luxury, as every hour paid is an hour billed. Median level home care agencies in Arizona will pay $80,000 or more per year in Worker Compensation, Liability Coverage and the employer portions of Social Security & Medicare. These costs all cut into what an agency can pay caregivers.

Then there’s the complicated matter of finding qualified caregivers. In many ways this industry has become a mercenary field, where caregivers will jump between agencies depending on who has the most hours at any given time. They’re generally not thinking of who might have group insurance, who carries supplemental insurance policies or who has been in business longer. Getting eight hours a day instead of six could be the difference in being able to pay the rent or not.

Our company currently has about 20 caregivers who have been with us now for more than a decade. This is extremely uncommon in our industry. The first caregiver we hired has been with us now for more than 30 years. These caregivers aren’t still with us because they will be able to afford a villa in Spain when they retire. They are with us because they feel valued, listened to and respected. We believe life is bigger than your job, that family always comes first and that because we hire experienced certified professional caregivers we expect them to be treated as such both by our management staff and by our clients.

We frequently hear how uncommon this approach is to treating caregivers. Unfortunately the standard we have makes recruiting incredibly difficult. Our demographic is still largely analog, either not owning a computer or not having internet service in their home. This means they aren’t looking on employment websites for jobs, or if they sign up, you never know when they will check it again.

The challenge of recruiting the best and not settling for less means we go through extended stretches where we are unable to take on new clients because we would not be able to provide the service at the level we expect and the level that has people calling us every day looking for help. While it frustrates us when we can’t take on a client that is perfectly suited for us, it means that when we do take a client on that client will receive care at the highest level possible. In the end, that’s what people should expect from care providers.