When considering senior care services, it’s important to know the difference between a private sitter and using an agency for in-home care for you or a loved one.

Potential clients should be sure they’ve done their research and asked all of the important questions before making a final decision.

Agencies have a number of policies and procedures in place to offer top-notch quality care. Look for an agency where each client is overseen by a registered nurse (RN) to ensure client care is medically reviewed.

Agencies provide caregivers with ongoing training to ensure that clients are receiving advanced, up-to-date care. Caregivers also receive specialized training for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as these clients often have specialized care needs.

A privately hired sitter might not have safety precautions in place such as bonding and insurance. Home care agencies operate under strict legal guidelines, ensuring that each caregiver is bonded and insured in the event that unfortunate incidents occur.

Agency caregivers are also covered by liability and workers compensation insurances to reduce risks. Additionally, agencies can file long-term insurance claims for their clients and ensure that all employment taxes are paid.

Home care agencies have teams of caregivers and can provide greater availability than private sitters. If a caregiver is sick or needs a day off, an agency will be able to offer a replacement to ensure that this does not jeopardize the well-being of the client.

Agency administrative staff can schedule and orient the caregivers to each assignment.

Additionally, some private sitters might be difficult to reach outside of normal operational hours. Look for an agency that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the event that seniors or their loved ones have any emergencies or unexpected issues outside of regular business hours.

Finally, one of the big differences between an agency and care from a private sitter is the rigorous screening process a good agency provides. Many private sitters cannot provide completed background checks or reference checks.

It is difficult to test a private sitter for the proper skills needed for a prospective client. In turn, this can equate to poor quality of care or even issues with the caregiver-client relationship.

Look for an agency that has a thorough hiring process to ensure that only the most qualified, competent and trustworthy individuals are caring for their clients.

This hiring process should include knowledge testing, drug testing, a personal interview, employment verification and reference checks, license verification, sex offender check, criminal background check, state driving record check, social security verification, proof of negative TB test, full skills orientation and training in OSHA Universal Precautions.

When you are looking for care you want to make sure you have the best caregivers available to you or your loved one.

James Wogsland, MBA and Certified Senior Advisor, is co-owner of ComForCare Home Care, and chairman of the Beaufort County Walk to End Alzheimer’s. JWogsland@ComForCare.com; www.HiltonHead.ComForCare.com