Finding a Caregiver or Nursing Home

East Bay Reverse MortgageStudies suggest that Americans age 65 and older are less likely to be chronically disabled or living in a nursing home today than seniors of the same age were two decades ago. Still, there may come a time when the older adult in your family can no longer manage on their own. They may simply need help with daily grooming, bathing, preparing meals – or just getting around. Or, they may need round-the-clock care in a nursing home. There are options available.

How do I find help for my elderly mother who wants to continue living in her own home?

First, assess your mother’s particular needs. She may qualify for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) if she has very limited resources. IHSS is a MediCal program that pays for in-home assistance when it is necessary to ensure the elder person’s safety. To locate IHSS, call your local Area Agency on Aging.

If she does not qualify for IHSS and simply needs assistance with daily tasks, you could hire a caregiver through a home care agency or home care referral company. Or, you could hire someone on your own. However, if you are the caregiver’s direct employer, you will be responsible for paying employment taxes and worker’s compensation.

But whether you hire someone through an agency or on your own, be extremely cautious, seek referrals and ask a lot of questions. Such caregivers are not regulated by anyone.

Caregivers who provide medical care, however, must be licensed or certified. You can hire such caregivers through a licensed home health care agency. Home health care agencies, certified nurse assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed vocational nurses all must be licensed or certified by the state. The Department of Health Services can verify a caregiver’s license or certificate or refer you to the appropriate agency. (See Resources Below.)

Will Medicare cover the costs of a caregiver?

It depends. If a doctor prescribes medically necessary home health care for a homebound senior, Medicare will cover some of the costs. (You must use a Medicare-approved home health agency.) Medicare will not, however, pay for a caregiver who provides non medical assistance.

What other assistance is available for those who are elderly and homebound?

You can get hot meals delivered to your home through Meals on Wheels. And to give caregivers a break, respite care is available. Check into Adult Day Care Centers and Adult Day Care Health Centers (ADHC). In addition, community care facilities may fill unused beds on a short-term basis to provide respite care for seniors who need 24-hour supervision.

Where can I find information on nursing homes?

Your local Area Agency on Aging is a good place to start. You might also check the California Department of Health Services web site. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) and AARP provide information as well. (See Resources Below.) Or you could contact your local long-term care Ombudsman.

And to verify the license of a nursing home or other skilled long-term care facility, call the Department of Health Services licensing and certification unit at 1-800-236-9747.


1-888-687-AARP (687-2277) (Information and services for seniors)

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (
1-800-474-1116 (consumer line) (

California Department of Aging (
1-800-510-2020 (referrals to local Area Agencies on Aging and HICAP)

California Department of Consumer Affairs (
1-800-952-5210 (public inquiries, consumer complaints, license checks)
1-866-785-9663 (Office of Privacy Protections –
1-916-574-7870 (Cemetery and Funeral Bureau –

Eldercare Locator Service (
1-800-677-1116 (referral; to your local Area Agency on Aging)