Whether you need care for yourself or a loved one, short-term or long-term care, medical or mental health care, finding the best care is important. Finding care is the easy part. There are plenty of agencies, medical professionals, and caregivers available and offering their services. The difficult part of getting good care is evaluating and making the choice of which caregivers to use.

The important steps you need to take to find the right care include searching and evaluating more than one option, asking questions and looking at reviews and ratings, making visits to facilities, and even checking for malpractice suits against doctors. Not all care is the same, so to ensure you get the best, take your time and evaluate your choices before making a selection.

Where to Find Care

The first task to complete when seeking out care is to find out what your options are. This should begin with an assessment of your needs. For instance, if you have an emergency or urgent need, your options are limited and your decision will be made quickly. On the other hand, if you need care for an elderly parent, you have many more choices: residential facility, assisted living, in-home nursing, in-home care workers, and more.

Once you know what your needs are and the types of care that match those needs, you can begin your search. A good place to start is with a trusted doctor who can give you recommendations. You may also want to turn to friends or acquaintances who you know have gone through similar situations and may be able to recommend caregivers and facilities they used and liked. If you have no one whom you can ask for advice, an online search may be a good place to start to give you a list of options.

Using Reviews and Ratings

Regardless of how you find your care options, evaluating those options before you make a choice will ensure you get care that matches your needs and that is of the highest quality. A good place to start your evaluations is by checking out reviews and ratings. There are several websites that allow patients to evaluate and rate their experiences with doctors, therapists and medical facilities.

Look in reviews for things like expertise. For instance, if you need care because you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, check reviews and ratings for those doctors that have expertise in treating lung cancer, not just cancer generally. Experience is another important factor to evaluate. Has the doctor been treating patient for 20 years or just two? Does he or she work with a team of experienced experts or alone in a private practice?

In addition to the reviews left by patients, look for ratings and designations assigned by professional or government organizations. For instance, the National Cancer Institute designates cancer centers based on research, advanced treatment, and quality of care. For residential facilities, like assisted living, check into things like accreditation and licensing, as well as ratings with the Better Business Bureau.

Questions to Ask before Choosing a Caregiver or Care Facility

After you have narrowed down your options to a few choices, ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable making a final decision. Any reputable facility or caregiver will be happy to answer any questions you have, so if you are told you cannot ask more questions or they don’t have time for you, consider it a red flag. Your questions will vary depending on the type of care, but here are some examples of questions you may want to ask:

  • What are your credentials/licensing/experience?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What services are included with the costs?
  • What are the total costs of care?
  • How do you handle insurance and billing?
  • Who will be providing care?
  • For residential facilities, are there visiting hours or observation times?

Visiting Care Facilities

Another important step in evaluating care, and often the final step, is to visit the facility in question. As with questions, any reputable facility will be comfortable with and open to visits and tours, even drop-by visits that are not planned. As you tour a facility, ask all the questions you have, and make sure you see all relevant areas and services. Ask to meet with the people who will be providing the care. Look for things like cleanliness, good supervision of patients or residents, and be on the lookout for any signs of abuse or unhappy or bored patients.

If you will be choosing among services that offer in-home care, make sure you meet the people who will be providing the care in advance. It is also reasonable to ask for a trial day or two, paid of course, that will allow you to evaluate the service and decide if you want to continue or choose another agency or caregiver.

Searching for Malpractice Suits

When choosing a medical caregiver, such as a doctor or surgeon, a useful tool can be a search for medical malpractice lawsuits. These are lawsuits that patients or families of patients have filed against doctors or medical facilities because of mistakes or mistreatment. A malpractice suit may be filed for a wrongful death, a mistake made during surgery, a misdiagnosis, a failure to treat, or many other mistakes that a doctor may make that harms a patient.

Being sued once or twice is not necessarily a red flag. In fact, it is not that uncommon. Nearly 75 percent of doctors in low-risk types of medical practice have faced at least one malpractice suit during their careers. But, if a doctor has been sued multiple times, and has ever been found guilty of medical malpractice, you may choose to avoid him or her. There are a couple of resources you can use to search: the Federation of State Medical Boards and the Administrators in Medicine.

Monitoring Care over Time

Finding the right care for you or for a loved one is important, but it is just the first step. When you start receiving care, be sure to monitor it over time. A caregiver may meet your needs initially, but with time your needs may change or your caregiver or facility may decline in services in a way that leaves you unsatisfied with the services you receive. It is important to trust caregivers you select, but you also need to be your or your loved one’s constant advocate, ensuring that you are getting quality care.

Finding and evaluating care can be a lengthy process, but it means that you are your own health care advocate and that you ensure you get the best quality care. Researching, asking questions, checking ratings and reviews, and making actual visits are all important for evaluating care.