Public support agencies can be a great asset to any community. They can provide much needed support to those who cannot otherwise afford it and they can act as a bridge service in times of crisis. However, there are many limitations you will be want to aware of if you are relying solely on this type of service or if you have a specific need that must be addressed such as suddenly being too weak to get out of bed.

The following is a list of questions I wish I’d known to ask when my loved one got floored by a bout of flu after his 7th round of intensive chemo and simply couldn’t get bring himself to standing. He could still walk but couldn’t get past that last inch to standing. It had to do with prolonged steroid use.

1. Can you provide the needed service? (In this case to come to standing)

2. How long will it take to get someone in to provide this service?

3. If you need this service daily ask whether or not the service provider will be able to provide the service daily.

4. If the service provider’s personnel becomes ill what is the back up plan? Is there a back-up plan? You do not want you loved one lying in bed for days while the service provider looks for a replacement person or needs to train someone new.

5. What are the service providers not allowed to do? What are they allowed to do?

6. Does your staff know enough to wash their hands prior to calling in to the office to check in? Very important when someone’s immune system is depressed. I had to tape a sign to the phone that said in bold black marker- Please wash your hands before using. If you assume people will do, as they should, you will be appalled. Assume they are like children and you’ll reduce your stress level exponentially.

7. How long will it take to get a team in place that:
a) Is trained in the exercises he will need to do to be able to get up
b) Will consist of the same people on a regular basis
c) Stays in place- when trained PSWs were not available we had young petite women come in to wash my husband’s face. He could wash his face. What he needed was an assisted lift to standing. This incompetence undermined his wellbeing.

8. I am the primary caregiver. Please do not send a supervisor or therapist to my home to train people on a piece of equipment I am renting or to assess my loved one’s well being when I am not present. This is extremely disrespectful and unprofessional.

9. Is your staff trained in how to be respectful to the individual they are caring for? Here are a couple of examples of PSWs being disrespectful. One PSW disregarded mine and my husband request that she not do the regular exercises that day. I explained that earlier that day he had completed a cognitive rehab session that left him exhausted. After she had exercised him in his state of exhaustion he felt very dizzy and ill. In his last weeks, I had another PSW change the channel on the T.V. from golf, which my husband wanted to listen to, to tennis, which the PSW wanted to watch. My husband hated tennis. It is also disrespectful to speak to the patient about dying, God, heaven, and other such subjects when one does not know the patient’s beliefs.

10. Can you guarantee you will deliver on what you are saying you will deliver? (this question was added in November 2016.) Asking it and not getting a guarantee is the reason I hired extra support for my father when he was released back into the community. It’s an essential question to ask, especially when someone is in need of consistent support. You want to know beforehand that your loved ones are fully supported and what that will look like.

There is no such thing as common sense so ask as many questions as you can think of. Chances are you will come across some that the person in charge does not have the answer to. Hopefully you will be able to get them to find the answer and hopefully this will improve the level of service they provide in the future.