If your aging parents live in their own home and you’re concerned about their health and safety, it’s Big Decision time. Can they handle property upkeep? Housework? Daily activities? Chronic health conditions might be catching up with them. Their strength and stamina may fluctuate. They may or may not even want to broach the subject. The question remains, though: what is the best place for Mom and Dad to live in the future?
Your answer will come from among several options: with a family member, in a residential care community… or at home. If the first two options aren’t your parents’ first picks—but you still believe some help is in order in-home senior care can make their first choice possible and affordable. The concept of hiring a professional caregiver is attractive to adult children who can’t be with their parents due to work or location obstacles. And it appeals to seniors who aren’t ready to move to a nursing home or assisted-living facility. But what does it really mean?
Home care means different things to different people. Start your research by learning what the accepted definition is to the majority of professional agencies that provide skilled care. What do they do? What don’t they do? Knowing how senior care agencies operate will let you answer questions based on facts rather than emotions. Only then can you understand all your options and help your parents make the best decision.
Of course, each senior care company has its own style and range of home services. But most share some core values and types of assistance. When you know which elements they have in common and what sets them apart, you can consider whether professional in-home care is right for your parents – and which provider can give them what they need. With those issues settled, Mom and Dad will be on their way to making their Big Decision and looking forward to the future.
What In-Home Senior Care Is and Who Does It
The short description of in-home senior care is: non-medical living assistance provided by one or two individuals who come to the home regularly. These ” professional helpers” are called caregivers, and they either work for themselves as independent contractors or they are employed by an administrative agency. These companies can be privately owned or part of local or national franchise.
Senior care agencies distinguish between nursing care and non-medical assistance in order to hire and train the right kind of caregivers. While many aging adults do need specialized treatment for serious medical conditions, most home care companies leave that type of attention to residential facilities with board-certified medical staff. If your parents require medical supervision, you’ll probably consider moving them to assisted living. Folks who need less-skilled help are better candidates for in-home care.
Agencies offer a wide range of personal services that support health and address all kinds of at-home needs,
- Meal preparation and cleanup
- Light housekeeping
- Help with grooming and bathing
- Medication and therapy reminders
- Getting to appointments
- Running errands
- Basic pet care
A little help with some tasks is all many seniors need in order to remain safely in their homes to follow their comfortable routines and lifestyles. Talk with your parents’ doctors. Are any of Mom’s or Dad’s chronic or developing health issues too complicated to be handled at home without medical staff? For instance, the use of wheelchairs or other walking aids is not a deal breaker. Don’t call the nursing home yet. If your parents are already managing long-term illnesses such as COPD or sleep apnea with breathing therapy or CPAP machines, they may be able to do so with some extra help for quite some time.
Thanks to the competitive market place, you’re likely to find a higher skill level among senior care agency staff than independent contractors. Some states and municipalities regulate care giving, but the majority do not. Some areas require certification and proven training milestones, and more are considering implementing them. Still, this legal gray area makes hiring independent caregivers problematic. Agencies are motivated to attract and retain skilled employees. Self-employed caregivers may have little or no oversight or uniform training.
Unless you are looking to become an employer with all the attached risks and obligations, your family will be better served by an agency that takes over the administrative tasks. Most senior care businesses screen, hire, and train caregivers. Their managers stay up to date on health and elder care laws and practices. They will match your parents with dedicated assistants and monitor the quality of care and client satisfaction they provide.
Another plus of working with a company that employs a number of skilled caregivers is that your parents will have a choice of who comes to their home. They can interview several individuals and choose the best fit. If it turns out that personalities clash, an agency will let them select another assistant. A ready staff of caregivers also ensures that someone will be there to fill in on sick days, or that two helpers can share the duties of around-the-clock care, if necessary.
What In-Home Senior Care Isn’t
In-home senior care is not hospital-level service. One or two caregivers can’t take the place of doctors and nurses when seniors need serious medical care. People who get daily injections or other technical attention may be better off at a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Informal reminders to take pills or help in maintaining medical equipment, however, are well within the scope of home care services. Again, your parents’ doctors will be able to evaluate the level of help they need.
In-home care is not financially out of reach. You may be surprised to learn how affordable it is. Annual assisted living rates are high because residential facilities have high overhead. Having care performed at your own property, though, limits expenses. Many people think that hiring a relative or another independent contractor is the way to save money. Professional senior care agencies erase cost discrepancies by taking care of things that would otherwise cost you and your parents out-of-pocket: payroll and tax services, training program fees, and background checks are just a few things that you might have to pay for.
Hiring through a senior care agency does not create a legal employer relationship with Mom and Dad’s caregiver. You won’t have to deal with related tax, immigration, or discipline issues. You won’t put yourselves at risk for workers’ compensation claims or other liability problems. In most jurisdictions, agency workers can be bonded against theft, as well, whereas individuals cannot.
Perhaps most important to seniors is that home care is not a mandate to leave their houses or sell off their property. Not having to make a traumatic move supports good health. So, look at the positive side of hiring a professional caregiver. Increasing your parents’ safety in their home environment is not a sign that they are losing control of their lives—in fact, it is the opposite! That’s a big plus when it comes to making the right decision for right now, and for the foreseeable future.
What Your Parents’ In-Home Care Can Be
The hallmarks of standard in-home senior care are flexibility and personal service. Mom and Dad won’t have to follow the set agendas that residential facilities have. They’ll be attended to by a person whom they get to know, and one who gets to know and care about them. They’ll be able to request the level and degree of help that they need, which can shift along with their changing conditions.