Before you hire an in-home health care provider …

In-home health care, which most people prefer, is generally more affordable than nursing home care, but still can be expensive. Nationally, it costs about $33,000 per year for a home health aide visiting six hours per day, five days a week. Whether you’re looking for round the clock care or just a few hours a day or week, Better Business Bureau can help you pick a home care provider.

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Determining what level of care is needed for home care is the first step you need to take. There’s skilled and custodial care. Skilled care addresses a patient’s medical needs. Custodial care includes help with housekeeping, shopping, meal preparation and personal care, such as bathing, dressing and feeding. Some agencies only provide one type of care; others offer both.

Over the last year, BBB recorded almost 1,800 inquiries locally about in-home health care providers. Nationally, BBB received more than 7,300 inquiries and more than 220 complaints about this industry.

When choosing an in-home health care provider for your loved one, BBB offers these tips:

• Get recommendations from friends and family. If they’re pleased with a provider they’ve used, most likely you will be too. Also, get recommendations from your doctor.

• Ask for references and call them. A reputable provider would have no problem providing them.

• Determine what kind of care the home health care provider offers.

• Find out how long the company has been in business.

• Does the provider supply literature explaining its services, eligibility requirements and fees? Also, be sure the “Patient Bill of Rights” that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the providers, care recipients and caregivers is given to you.

• Ask if Medicaid or Medicare is accepted or any other acceptable insurance.

• Make sure the provider is certified and licensed as appropriate.

• Check to see if its caregivers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not all home care agencies are available 24 hours a day or guarantee replacement coverage if the assigned aide is unable to come.

• Find out if the provider includes the client and family members in developing the plan of care.

• Be sure the provider can meet any special needs you may have, such as language or cultural preferences.

• Find out how the provider selects and trains its employees. Also, ask if they perform background checks.

• Ask who should be contacted if there’s a problem with the caregiver.

• Check if the agency is insured and bonded appropriately.

If you have any questions regarding in-home health care providers, you can always get help from BBB, such as a list of BBB Accredited Businesses and Business Profiles on ones you're considering. For more information, go online to or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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