It’s daunting when you need to find a Consumer Directed Services (CDS) provider agency for yourself or a loved one. You see the ads on TV and in the paper. You know not all vendors/providers are equal. You want the very best.
Just like any other business, consumers should look for longevity and overall reputation, and ask around — talk to others who receive similar services about their experiences with the company.
Here are some other things to consider when selecting an agency for any kind of attendant services:
- The vendor returns your phone calls and maintains regular contact with you. Have you ever called an agency, left a voicemail and never received a call back? A good vendor returns phone calls in a timely manner, helps you resolve any issues and has staff assigned to work with you every step of the way as your services are authorized. After your services begin with the vendor, does the staff maintain regular contact with you and make home visits to see if you’re getting the services you need? It is wonderful to have vendor staff genuinely care about you and want you to succeed living independently.
- The vendor helps you learn how to advocate for yourself. A vendor with good practices will inform you of your participant rights under the Client Assistance Program and should support you if you ever need assistance speaking up for your needs. They will help you create and implement an emergency plan. If you’re on a consumer-directed program, a vendor will teach you how to be an employer and give you tips on how to hire a good personal care attendant.
- The vendor has staff that can answer your disability-related questions. Having assistance in your home to help with personal care and household tasks is just one facet of living at home and in the community. You may have questions about things not related to personal care, including, “What are my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?” “How do I get a ramp or lift installed for my home?” “How can I drive using hand controls?” or “How can I use public transportation since acquiring a disability?” Having a vendor with knowledge and access to resources that can help you meet your goals or get your questions answered can be very helpful.
- The vendor fulfills its responsibilities. The vendor should have policies and procedures in place for the program in accordance with the provider contract or participation agreement set by the overseeing state or agency. The vendor staff should be trained on maintaining confidentiality and mandated reporting. For in-home and home health programs, the provider agency should only send in trained, high quality staff who are reliable and on time. In self-directed or Financial Management Services (FMS) models, a competent vendor will have reliable payroll functions that get your personal care attendant paid and take the appropriate payroll taxes out of their check.
- The vendor respects you. People with disabilities are, first and foremost, people who are not defined by their disability. People-first language supports that by focusing on the person rather than the disability. A recent example of people-first language being adopted was in 2011 when Missouri removed all references to “mentally retarded,” “mental retardation” and “handicapped” in state law, changing to “developmentally disabled,” “developmental disability” or “disabled.” Paraquad has put together a Words with Dignity handout that discusses people-first language.
If you live in Missouri and need personal care attendant services, contact Paraquad’s Information and Referral Department for more information.
Amy Cichacki is the Assistant Director of Consumer Directed Services (CDS). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.