When It’s Time for Help

We’ve all heard the expression “follow your gut.”  When it comes to aging loved ones, it’s a good rule to keep in mind.  Following your “gut” serves to acknowledge when additional help may be needed to keep a senior living safely and independently at home.

Let’s consider this scenario.  You haven’t seen your parents in weeks and you make a surprise visit to spend a few days with them.  You immediately notice that mom isn’t keeping the house as tidy as she once did – there is dust collecting on the furniture, the refrigerator is stocked with outdated leftovers, there is mail stacked on the table and there is a pile of wash on the floor at the bottom of the basement steps.  Dad seems different too.  He’s noticeably thinner and not very social.  He seems a little confused and unsteady on his feet and you wonder to yourself, “How does he still drive?”

Situations like these are happening in the lives of adult children every day.  The truth is parent’s age.  They will not always be the same parent we remember them being when we were young ourselves.  The aging process changes people, sometimes making it more difficult for them to manage their daily routines, their personal care and homemaking tasks.

If your parents want to remain in their home and you want the peace of mind knowing that they are safe, consider professional in-home caregiving services.

Professional in-home caregiving services provide help around the house for companionship, personal care and homemaking tasks.  Everyone’s needs are different.  Some clients might need weekly transportation to the grocery store, help making meals, light housekeeping and laundry services.  Other clients may also require support with oral hygiene, hair and nail care, bathing, dressing and toileting assistance.  A representative from the professional caregiving agency will visit you and your loved one(s) in their home to assess their needs.  Based on their specific care needs, a “Plan of Care” will be developed.  The “Plan of Care” will outline the tasks that the professional caregiver will perform and will note the agreed upon days and times the caregiver will visit.

Because professional caregiving is considered a non-medical service, the services are referred to as “private duty” or “direct pay”, meaning that an invoice will be generated for services rendered.  Medicare and typical health insurance do not generally cover the expense of non-medical, in-home professional caregiving.  For those with long term care insurance, review the policy or contact the agent to discuss if the policy covers the cost of non-medical, in-home care.  The local Area Agency on Aging should also be called to learn if there are any programs for which care may be covered or provided.  These programs are sometimes referred to as “Options” or “Waiver” programs.  In addition, if your parent is/was a veteran, a widow or a spouse of a veteran, call your local Veterans Affairs office to inquire about possible resources that may be available including the “Aid and Attendance” program.

The most important aspect of bringing help into the home is to be certain that you are hiring a reputable, professional caregiver.  Ask for a recommendation from friends, neighbors, and medical staff that may have utilized or experienced the services of a professional caregiving agency.  This is one of those times where you may not want to shop on price.  A lower price may mean that you are the legal employer, making you responsible for paying withholding taxes and possible liability, medical or unemployment claims.  Working with an agency that employs professional caregivers is the surest way to have peace of mind, knowing that the caregiver has been properly trained, passed all background checks and is bonded and insured.

Communication is essential for having a successful relationship with the caregiver and the professional caregiving agency.  Be honest with the agency representative during the initial in-home visit about your loved one’s personality, likes and dislikes.  This will ensure that the best possible match is made between your loved one’s personality and the caregiver’s personality.  If, after a caregiver has begun caring for your loved one, you have questions or concerns, speak up as soon as possible so those issues can be addressed promptly.

Allowing a caregiver to help in the home will be a transition for your loved one.  Assure them that you are concerned about their well-being and truly have their best interests at heart.  Sincerely let them know that getting help for them will also be helpful to you and bring you peace of mind.

By Wendy Kerschner,

Territory Manager, Comfort Keepers of Berks County

For a complete list of questions to ask before hiring a professional caregiver visit the Comfort Keepers Website!

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