Aging adults and their caregivers often become overwhelmed by the effort and time required for personal care, housekeeping, landscaping, meal preparation and transportation. These tasks can collectively be referred to as daily living responsibilities. Fortunately, there are a variety of companies and organizations that can provide relief in these areas.
Finding and Hiring Help
There are generally three categories of in-home help. The first is skilled care, which is provided by nurses, physicians, therapists and other trained professionals. Health assessments, wound care, physical therapy and medication management are examples of skilled care. The second category of in-home help is personal care, which includes help with eating, bathing, dressing and walking. The last category is help with tasks such as housekeeping, meal preparation and transportation.
Skilled care is typically offered by home health agencies or health systems for their patients. While essential, this level of care is usually not a responsibility of older adults or their informal caregivers. In contrast, the other two categories, personal care and help with tasks, are aspects of daily living that older adults and caregivers must handle. As a result, hiring trained individuals to take on some of these responsibilities can relieve some of the burden on older adults or their caregivers.
Providers of personal care assistance will typically be called aides, assistants or attendants. For simplicity, these helpers will be referred to as aides from here forward. Aides may work for home health agencies, home care agencies or independently. An agency would handle the hiring, screening and scheduling of these aides. There are pros and cons to hiring an aide either through an agency or directly. For example, a direct hire who works independently may be less expensive than an agency hire, but insurance may be less likely to cover their services. It is important to check what services your insurance and benefits may cover.
The first step to take before hiring an aide is to write out a detailed description of what in-home help is being requested. These can be very flexible, so do not be afraid to include certain tasks. This description should spell out:
Care and tasks needed.
How often help is needed.
Skills requested, such as experience with dementia or language competency.
Specific work hours and schedule.
How work activities and information will be shared.
Whose car will be used, if driving is involved.
Expectations for schedule changes, phone use, smoking, etc.
Once this description is written and the search begins for the right person or agency, it is important to ask plenty of questions and maintain communication to ensure the right fit. For example, if meal preparation is involved, food preferences and dietary limitations should be shared. Additionally, personal and cultural preferences may be important to share if they influence daily routines. At any time, concerns about theft, bullying, neglecting or abusing older adults in any way should be reported to local authorities.
What To Consider When Choosing an Agency
There are three main things to consider when evaluating a care agency.
The first is the agency’s credentials:
How long has the agency been in business?
Is the agency licensed by the state?
Does the agency meet federal requirements for safety?
Does the agency offer any guarantees?
Are agency employees licenses and insured?
The second is the agency’s reputation:
Are employees friendly and compassionate?
How does the agency hire employees?
What training do agency employees receive?
Does the agency have a defined process for communicating and handling problems?
The third is your needs and limitations:
What services do you need and does the agency offer them?
How often will you require services?
Will your insurance cover these services?
Does the agency offer any financial assistance?
Help With Tasks
While there is overlap between this section and the personal care section, the focus here will be on tasks that do not involve direct personal care or that are not provided by an aide. Specifically, this section will cover services for housekeeping, landscaping, grocery delivery, meal preparation and transportation.
Cleaning services can be provided by individuals or companies. For a fee, the homes of older adults can be kept organized, free of clutter and safe from fall hazards. Not only can this sort of service help prevent injuries and save caregivers time, but it may also allow the older adult to socialize with someone new. Common services offered for older adults include:
Cleaning the bathroom
Many older adults take pride in how their lawn and gardens are maintained. When mowing the lawn or pulling weeds becomes too burdensome, options are available to ensure the yard is taken care of. Whether it is hiring a local teenager or a trusted company, it can be very helpful to use a landscaping service.
As more and more consumer products have become available with the touch of a button, it is no surprise that groceries from many stores can now be delivered within hours for free or for a small price. Prominent companies offering this service include GoPuff, Instacart, Walmart and Amazon. Having groceries delivered can be a real time-saver for busy caregivers and allow older adults to stay safely in their homes.
Similar to grocery delivery, many companies now offer delivery of fully prepared healthy meals to your doorstep. While these services can be expensive, it can be very helpful for older adults who have trouble shopping or cooking. A few examples of companies offering meal delivery are Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef and Freshly.
Transportation is essential for older adults. Without reliable and affordable transportation, it can be difficult to get to doctor's appointments, the grocery store or social events. In many communities, free or low-cost public transportation is available for older adults. One way to find these is to call your county Area Agency on Aging. Other options include Veyo, which offers non-emergency medical transportation that is covered by some insurers, and GoGoGrandparent, which is a toll-free telephone service connecting older adults with ride-share services like Uber and Lyft. If an older adult has a smartphone, using Uber and Lyft directly is another option.
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