Elder Care Insights – Choosing a Home Health Care Provider

As America’s “baby boom” generation enters the second half of their lives, we are faced with heartbreaking choices about how best to take care of our aging parents. Many families who take care of their elderly parents while raising their own children, who still live at home, struggle to cope with these problems. Stretched to the limit of their physical and personal resources, these families must realize that it is time to hire a home health care provider. If you don’t know where to start, here are some tips to help you assess your and your loved ones’ needs and make decisions that will put everyone at ease.

First, decide whether you want to hire a caregiver from a government agency or a private agency. Usually, a government agency is funded by the state in which it operates and is considered a government subcontractor. A private agency is what it seems. It is an independently owned and operated entity, and its customers are called private pay customers. Each has advantages and disadvantages. A caregiver from a government agency is subject to standardized hiring practices. Accountability and administrative procedures are taken care of at the agency. Private wage companies are often run by a small group of hourly workers. As with any sole proprietorship, they have their own standards of liability. The option you choose may depend on your financial situation. Private payment service is usually much more expensive.

Get it in writing: Assess the needs of both the family carer and the person to be cared for. Use a worksheet to create a “service contract” so that it is clear exactly what is expected of the care provider.

In general, caregivers offer four categories of services (think HELP): Health Care, Emotional Care, Independent Living, and Personal Care Services. Healthcare can include managing medical appointments, medications, and physical therapy. Emotional care consists of meaningful social activities, hobbies, a creative outlet, or just friendship. Living independently may require the caregiver to do errands, take care of transportation, go shopping, cook, clean, and do other household chores. Personal care services may include bathing, dressing and using the toilet.

Both you and your parent should be actively involved in the hiring process. Your loved one may have strong preferences about the person they want to hire. Make sure these preferences are clearly expressed in writing. For example, your parent might prefer one gender over the other, cultural similarities, a non-smoker, etc. You may also want to note down what kind of cooking, shopping, and cleaning routines you prefer.

Get all the information: Most institutions and private payment companies check the background of their care workers; but get all available information about your loved ones and the person who will have full access to their home. Be as meticulous as possible about childcare.

Check in from time to time. By checking in with your loved ones, you let care providers know they are under surveillance. While you may adore the young lady or gentleman caring for your elderly mother, you may not know who or what was brought into the house during your absence.

Recognize the signs of abuse: Isolation from family and friends is one of the first signs of abuse. If you don’t have unrestricted access to your family member, or if you think excuses have been made over the phone or in person for your parent’s absence or unavailability, be sure to keep a close eye on the situation.

Support call: Find out what options are available for last-minute services if a care provider is unavailable. Have backup options ready. Even caregivers need to call in from time to time.

Re-evaluate regularly: As health needs and personal preferences change, the services provided should change as well. Set a predetermined date for periodic review of the personal service contract. This provides maximum flexibility and gives you the breathing room you need to change or modify the contract if changes are warranted.

Finally, be sure to express your gratitude. You are hiring a caregiver because you are either unable or will not receive this enormous task. The person who meets your parent’s needs is giving the greatest gift he can give. Theirs is a noble profession that requires compassion and endless patience. Make sure you appreciate their efforts and show your appreciation for a job well done.

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