home care professional

Four safety and security questions to ask before welcoming a home care professional into your home

We’re continuing our “buyer beware” series to talk about another critical topic: safety and security. 

Any credible home care provider conducts a thorough background check on every service provider they hire, but there are other details to consider. The four questions below will cover those bases.

As always, look for concrete answers in addition to noting the tone and tenor of their response, because anyone who sounds defensive or offended by questions about safety and security is also waving that big red “buyer beware” flag. 

1.Are your home care workers contractors or employees?

This is one of the most important questions to ask, because it potentially affects clients in two ways.

The first is financial. Employers are required by law to deduct taxes, EI and CPP from their staff’s salary. But contractors are responsible for handling these details themselves. 

If the CRA audits a contract worker and finds they haven’t declared all their income, they could target the client to recoup any taxes owing.

The second is liability. Contract workers should carry their own malpractice and workplace insurance, but many don’t due to the cost. Employers on the other hand are mandated to carry this insurance.

If you’re using an online matching service to find home care workers at a lower cost, be sure to ask if their staff are contractors or employees. 

2.If the caregiver I’m assigned isn’t a good fit or I’m mistreated, how will you find a better match?

What online matching services may fail to mention is that when you hire one of their home care workers, you have technically become an employer. 

That means any issues that may arise, whether it’s just a bad fit personally, discovering their skills aren’t up to snuff, or if you’re outright abused, is a problem you’ll have to solve on your own. 

So the answer to this question reveals whether they hold themselves accountable for the staff on their roster.  If you find yourself left in the lurch you’ll have to do all the work to handle the problem as well as starting at square one to find someone new.

Licensed home care agencies that employ full-time staff are less likely to hire problem staff in the first place because they’re accountable if a problem arises and they have a management team in place to respond.

3.Does your company conduct criminal record and vulnerable sector background checks for all the staff on your roster? 

The biggest safety risk is of course knowing your worker is who they say they are and hasn’t committed a crime.

There are many kinds of background checks that find this information. Ask your provider if they conduct vulnerable sector background checks on all their staff. 

4.Are your caregivers vaccinated?

While the worst of the pandemic is over, contracting COVID or some other virus will always be a concern for those with a vulnerable health status. 

If you believe you’ll be at risk, you have every right to ask this question to ensure your safety. GEM requires three COVID vaccinations for all their staff.

In addition to these questions, starting with a care plan assessment conducted by a nurse or care coordinator is a preventative measure. 

There’s nothing less safe than missing a service that could prevent a fall, fire, or some other accident that makes it impossible to stay where you’re most comfortable: at home.

home care

Buyer beware! Four questions to ask about qualifications before welcoming a home care worker into your home

For seniors and other folks who need support to live at home, finding the right mix of home care services can mean the difference between autonomy and dependence.

That’s why it’s so important to choose the highest quality people to support you.

But how can the average person screen highly-trained health professionals, especially in a world with “disruptors” entering the home care space? 

The good news is that no one can stop you from asking questions, and any agency that doesn’t provide thorough answers is waving a red flag saying “buyer beware”.

Two areas in particular where you need trustworthy information are around qualifications and safety & security. We’re publishing posts that cover each topic, starting with qualifications.

Asking about qualifications isn’t just about understanding an agency’s basic standards. It’s also an opportunity to ask about specialized skills that meet your particular needs. 

Here are four questions we think you should ask:

1.What are the minimum requirements you require to add home care staff to your roster?

The answer to this question will give you a baseline regarding their post-secondary education and licensing requirements. 

You can also use this information to see if the rest of the answers are consistent with their baseline.

2.How does your company verify credentials? 

Look for employers who require their staff to provide proof of their diploma or degree, as well as any specialized certificates they’ve earned. 

They should also be confirming the credential was granted by an accredited institution. 

3.What training requirements do you have for your home care staff?

Here you’re looking for basics like CPR and First Aid., as well as skills that are specific to your particular needs, like mobility assistance.

You’re also looking for in-house training that ensures staff are familiar with internal policies and procedures as well as relevant legislation.

And don’t forget to consider management training. The tone of their responses will show how much experience they have operating within a complex health-care system.

Do they come across as an agency that will take responsibility for problems that may arise, or the kind that passes the buck and blames their staff? 

4.Do you provide professional development and training for the staff on your roster?

A commitment to providing professional development that ensures their skills are up-to-date is another answer to look for. It shows an understanding that investing in their staff is necessary to provide continuous quality care.

It also gives you the opportunity to let a home care agency know they could be missing a particular skill set that a prospective client needs.

There are no cookie-cutter solutions

So consider the answers to these questions to be a starting point. 

Any successful home care plan starts with a thorough assessment from a licensed health-care professional who will link you to the right mix of services to help you stay at home for as long as possible. 

Because the last thing you want is a home care provider who doesn’t know what they don’t know.

* Stay tuned for our next “buyer beware” post about safety and security.

PSW helping man

Why community PSW’s deserve better compensation

People who receive home care services love their personal support workers (PSWs). 

And why wouldn’t they? PSWs provide the personal care seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations need to stay in their homes — like bathing, providing medication, meal prep and light housekeeping.

Community PSWs spend more time with home care clients than any other home care worker and become an important presence in their lives. They play a critical role in our healthcare system by significantly improving quality of life for their clients in a cost effective manner — most of the dollars spent on PSWs goes to care rather than on operating an institution. 

So why are community PSWs paid a lot less than PSWs who work in the hospital or long term care? 

Before the pandemic, home care PSWs were paid an average of $16 – $17 per hour. Those who worked in a hospital or long term care facility made $25 to $30 per hour. While the government did increase pay for community PSWs, it’s still falling short by an average of $5 per hour.  

This doesn’t make sense. PSWs in the community need the same skill set and perform the same tasks as those who work in institutions. If anything, home care PSWs have a tougher job because they work alone and in more challenging conditions.

We hire a lot of PSWs and send them everywhere — sometimes almost all the way to Kingston —  but we can’t guarantee them a 9-5 schedule because our clients’ care plans vary and people’s needs are always changing. It’s just the reality of the homecare sector. That’s why a lot of PSWs must work for more than one agency. Understandably, they’ll take whoever can give them the most hours and the best shifts.

The government could help solve this by giving care provider agencies more funds to compensate our PSWs’ for their travel time. We pay a flat rate between shifts, but there’s no incentive for us to pay more for their travel time because we won’t get paid for it. Every time our PSWs need to travel, providers like GEM lose money. 

That’s why we want the Ontario government to invest more in this critical service, so care providers like ours don’t have PSWs leaving us to work for minimum wage jobs that give them steadier work.

The important role PSWs play in our health system has been neglected for long enough.