Comparing home care providers – a guide

Shopping around for a home care provider for yourself or a loved one can be an overwhelming task.

There’s a lot to think about, often in a short space of time, and you want to make sure you find an organisation that fits your lifestyle and is as passionate as you are about meeting your needs.

We’ve put together a simple guide to help you find the right home care provider for you and your particular situation – to ensure you or your loved one stay empowered and in control, while having those care needs met.

Middle aged couple planing and budgeting at home

Start your home care provider search early and do a little planning

There is currently a national waiting list to get a Government subsidised home care package, so the sooner you can start your search for a home care provider, the better.

Choosing a home care provider should feel like an empowering decision, and if you’ve done your research up-front, when you do get your home care package, you will be well-prepared to make an informed choice.

To help familiarise yourself with your options, why not:

  • Make a list of the services you need and when you need them, so you can ‘compare apples with apples’ when you are speaking with providers. This is important because costs will vary depending on what services you need or want
  • Know what you’re looking for in a service (perhaps you have specific language or cultural considerations, or perhaps you would actually prefer to get out of the home and take part in activities)
  • Find out which service providers deliver services in your local community. You can call the My Aged Care hotline on 1800 200 422 to get this information

Doing your research means you’ll know the right questions to ask, you won’t feel pressured into making a rushed decision, and you’re far less likely to feel overwhelmed by all the information out there.

Here are some other tips to help you out in the early research stage:

  • Read the ‘About Us’ section of their website and see what each organisation stands for
  • Do their values align with yours?
  • Are they an ‘Approved Provider’ and do they have experience in providing home care?
  • Check out the testimonials and reviews of current and past clients

Check for openness and transparency

The key to any great relationship is honesty, so look for transparency from any potential home care provider. You’re inviting this organisation and their people into your home. You should expect openness and genuine flexibility.

Transparency is particularly important around fee structures. Remember, your needs might change and you don’t want to get stung by unexpected expenses down the track.

Also, be aware that different home care organisations present their prices and fees in different ways, which can make it difficult to compare their offerings.

Here are some possible questions to ask your potential home care provider, to help you compare accurately and make the best choice for you:

  • What is the maximum number of hours I can get per week of the actual services I want, without me paying any top-up or daily fee? (This is the single-most important question you can ask!)
  • Please list all the other fees you charge on top of actual support hours (for example, administration, case management, exit or startup fees or core advisory charges are some of things you might see)
  • Do you charge for phone calls or any assistance with managing the package?
  • What is the hourly rate for your services? Be sure to ask if they’re more expensive at certain times of the week
  • How much notice do I need to give before I can switch my services to another provider?

While you’re engaging with these home care organisations on the phone, pay close attention to the following:

  • Do they ask questions about what you need? (this is a good sign they’re listening and will really personalise a plan for you)
  • When you ask your list of questions, how do they answer them, are they open and helpful?
  • How willing are they to help, even if you are looking at your options and may choose another provider?

To understand what value you’re getting for your package funds, hours are important

Evaluate what is more important to you. Is it a home care organisation that can offer a slightly less expensive hourly rate or one that can offer significantly more hours of services for you?

Don’t just go for what seems like the cheapest option. Look closely at what kind of service you’re getting for those fees. Take a look at each provider’s track record of providing the kind of support you’re looking for or you might need in the future.

Ask to see an example of a monthly statement. It should be clear and easy to understand. Make sure it clearly shows costs for actual care hours, separate fees, and any accrual of unspent funds for you to use later.

Again, some providers have hidden costs and charges, so be sure to ask for a full list of fees and costs.

Look for consistency and quality of staff

When selecting a home care provider you need to be reassured there will be reliability and quality of care at all times – especially at those times when close family and friends can’t be around to help.

Look for an organisation that hires its own staff, rather than one that hires agency or other outside staff. Most companies have robust systems in place when they employ staff directly, ensuring both a good quality of in-home assistance and consistent staff for clients. It also means the staff should be properly trained to deliver all appropriate services (for example, culturally appropriate services.)

You also want consistency in terms of who will be providing that care. Knowing the same people will be providing your care builds trust, gives you confidence in the services provided, and allows a quality human connection to develop between the person giving the support and the person receiving the support. That means the little things get noticed and helps ensure the very best care, while maintaining independence.

Will they go ‘above and beyond’?

Remember, home care is all about you or your loved one. You want to find a provider who is passionate about meeting your needs while understanding your need to be in control of your own life, on your own terms.

Ask whether the provider offers services beyond just “being cared for”. For example, do they offer social programs, events or help for carers? Is there evidence they’re always looking for new ways to help meet needs and make life easier for their clients?

Also look for an organisation that is always willing to help you – all the way from the start of your journey, with advice, through to choosing a final provider, and to changing your services when you need to. If they are willing to help, even if you might not become their client – then that’s a great sign they care about offering you the best possible home care to match your needs.

Comparing home care providers can be a tiring and tricky exercise. Call for an obligation free Home Care Package Health Check.

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  • I’m in a queue for home care and can’t wait
    Most types of Government subsidised home care have long waiting lists. If you are waiting for a home care package but need some support in the interim then our Quick Start program might be right for you. You can also explore Respite Care options, some which can be accessed if you are providing regular support to a loved one or friend. Other Government programs like the Commonwealth Home Support Program may also offer some relief. Contact us for more information about further emergency options.