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Home Care Terms

What type of aide do I need?

If you are starting to explore options for your aging parent or other loved one, your head may be spinning due to the many home care terms and acronyms that flood the internet. There are resources out there to guide you, but sometimes those can be confusing too.

Oasis Senior Advisors can help you sort through the morass of terminology and lingo. Make an appointment for a complimentary consultation to discuss your thoughts, questions, and concerns as you face the next step for your mom or dad. Give us a call at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901, or simply complete our online form.

Common Questions about Home Care Terms

Below we answer three common questions about home care terminology.

What is the difference between a CNA, an HHA, and a home companion?

All three provide some kind of companionship and care. There are overlaps, but also some differences in training and job expectations.

A home companion requires the least training of the three. The companion supports the social and physical well-being of the client by providing emotional support, helping improve quality of life, and being a companion—which means interaction, conversation, and other social activities, such as playing cards, watching Jeopardy on TV, or going out for tea. A companion can also do supportive chores like laundry, housekeeping chores, and meal prep that help the client maintain independence.

A home health aide (HHA) is hired as a caring helper for someone and covers some of the same areas as a companion. They also provide some basic services, such as help bathing, dressing, and eating. An HHA may help with light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, and drive their client to appointments in states where the law allows. HHAs are typically not trained or authorized to provide any medical assistance, though some states allow them to administer prescription medications.

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) can also work in the home, though they are employed in nursing homes and assisted living and memory care communities. They will be able to provide all the services an HHA can offer, but since they work under the supervision of a nurse can perform other tasks, at times monitoring vital signs, reporting to medical professionals, documenting changes in health, and, with proper training, in some states and cases, administering medications.

What is the difference between an agency and a registry?

When you hire someone to care for your parent in the home, you have a few options. Some people simply hire a friend, someone they know from church, or a retired neighbor, maybe with a nursing background. Another option is to look on a registry, that acts as an access point where those looking to hire can find those looking to be hired. Finally, you can use an agency.

The main differences lie in who employs the caregiver, licensure, and the process for hiring. An agency hires trained caregivers and provides them with supervision by a registered nurse. All the hiring protocols, including background checks, are done by the agency, and you engage the agency, not the caregiver, directly. If the caregiver calls in sick, it is the agency’s job to find a sub. This is ideal if you do not have the bandwidth to supervise your loved one’s care provider.

On the other hand, a registry is a referral source where you can find a list of home care providers on an independent contractor basis. Though some of those may be bonded, licensed, and insured, it is up to you to check the background information and provide direct supervision.

If you hire someone from a registry or a friend or neighbor, you are the employer, with the obligations that come with that role. That means you take on the obligations, responsibilities, and liabilities of an employer, including workers comp and unemployment insurance.

Typically, a caregiver you find on a registry will be a little less expensive. An agency is paid for all the vetting and ongoing supervision they provide.

What does it mean to be Medicare or Medicaid-certified?

Some agencies and health providers are Medicare or Medicaid-certified, but not all. What’s the difference? It has to do with reimbursement. If your parent’s recovery from a hospital or rehab requires in-home care, Medicare may cover that for a limited time if the provider you select is certified. Similarly for long term care, Medicaid may cover the cost of care.

A health provider can become Medicare/Medicaid-certified to bill Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) for their patients’ or clients’ care. The certification allows them to receive payments from CMS while ensuring the quality of care since the qualification requirements to become certified are fairly rigorous. They must submit a complete application form to pass inspection by a state government agency and receive a National Provider Identifier (NPI) and Medicare/Medicaid billing numbers.

If you receive a service usually covered by Medicare, but your provider is not certified, you may have to pay out of pocket. This government website lets you find certified providers in your area.

Learn More with Oasis Senior Advisors

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. It explains just a few of the terms and acronyms that can make navigating senior care complicated—or not if you understand the terminology. If you need help understanding these and other terms involved with the care of a loved one, please give Oasis Senior Advisors a call. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have and ensure that you have all the information you need to make the right choice for your loved one. Reach out to us today for a free consultation. You can fill out our online form or dial either of these numbers: 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901.

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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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