Most people don’t start as caregivers knowing the ropes. To the contrary, most caregivers tend to learn as they go along, with a fair amount of wrong turns and struggles. What helps: knowing where to find reliable help.
The following 6 organizations and professionals can help you meet your responsibilities, make you feel less alone, and cut your stress if you’re helping an elderly loved one who’s receiving care at home.
1. Companion Care Services
What they are: Companion care providers do just what the name says: provide company for older adults, especially those who are shut-ins because of frailty or a dementia illness (such as mild- to moderate-stage Alzheimer’s disease, or who live alone. Sometimes called “elder companions,” these aides keep a watchful eye, dispense daily medications, drive to haircut appointments, safeguard someone unsteady on his or her feet, read aloud, play cards, prepare light meals and snacks, and otherwise function as an extra set of hands, eyes, and feet for your loved one. Companion care is a growing subset of home care options.
How they help: Companion care is ideal for someone who would otherwise have to spend part of the day alone and who requires some light assistance. Family members can work or handle other activities knowing their loved one isn’t left alone. Companion care also provides a valuable social benefit, decreasing isolation and improving mood. Warm relationships are often formed when a consistent companion is on the job.
How to get started: You can find companions on your own in much the same way you’d find a babysitter: by talking to neighbors, friends, or family members, OR reaching out to Generation Solutions’ senior services coordinator at (434)455-6500 or (540)776-3622, a trusted senior care source for over 20 years. Licensed, bonded, insured. Request information on www.generationsolutions.net
2. Personal care assistants
What they are: In addition to providing companion care, personal care assistants offer assistance with all kinds of activities of daily living, from grocery shopping to such non-medical personal care as toileting, dressing, grooming, and bathing. They can also provide temporary respite care for families.
How they help: Many families enlist personal care assistants to solve problems in their home care situation, such as a small woman hiring a strong aide who can lift a spouse for bathing, or a son concerned about privacy hiring a woman to bathe his mother. Personal care assistants can arrange for meal preparation, escorts to doctor visits, and any other type of non-medical assistance your loved one may need in order to live at home longer. If you need to get away for a few hours a week or overnight, in-home care can ease the worry, especially if the in-home caregiver is familiar to your loved one because he or she provides regular services.
How to get started: You can find personal care assistants on your own by asking friends and neighbors for referrals, OR reaching out to Generation Solutions’ senior services coordinator at (434)455-6500 or (540)776-3622, a trusted senior care source for over 20 years. Licensed, bonded, insured.
3. Home Health Agencies
What they are: Home health agencies are the go-to source when your loved one needs a higher level of care, including minor medical care. Certified nursing assistants have more medical training than elder companions or personal care assistants and must pass exams to receive certification; they work under a supervising registered nurse.
How they help: If your loved one is going to be discharged from a hospital stay, having someone around the house who can change bandages or check vital signs can provide peace of mind. Home health agencies are sometimes recommended for certain kinds of in-home rehabilitation, such as physical therapy. You may also welcome these services if your loved one needs personal care or health care that the family is uncomfortable providing or is unable to provide, such as colostomy or wound care, incontinence care, insulin management, or other medical services.
How to get started: Talk to your doctor if you’d prefer to work with a specific home health agency, OR reaching out to Generation Solutions’ senior services coordinator at (434)455-6500 or (540)776-3622, a trusted senior care source for over 20 years. Licensed, bonded, insured.
4. Your local Area Agency on Aging
What it is: Your local Area Agency on Aging is a government-mandated clearinghouse for general information about nearby eldercare services. These agencies offer free referrals to local services that provide transportation, meals, adult day services, in-home caregivers, legal assistance, home-based training programs for caregivers, and other forms of help — all the kinds of services that can help you keep a loved one at home longer. The names of these agencies often vary by community. But the services they refer to are usually free or low-cost, and calling the agency is free.
How it helps: Calls to area agencies on aging are among the best first actions a caregiver can make to learn the local lay of the land on eldercare: what kinds of programs, facilities, and expertise are available in the community. Staffers can answer common questions and refer you to resources that are most likely to match your family’s specific needs — speeding your research process and perhaps making you aware of resources you never knew existed.
How to get started: Contact the staff at your local Area Agency on Aging.
5. Geriatric Care Managers
What they are: Geriatric care managers, or GCMs, assess needs and identify and coordinate resources for older adults. Geriatric care managers can take over nearly all aspects of eldercare in some cases. Some local government agencies and charities offer geriatric care consulting services free or on a sliding scale. If hired privately, expect to pay a GCM around $85 to $200 an hour.
How they help: Geriatric care managers are best at helping you organize care needs when there’s a change in situation, such as when your loved one is moving in or has had a health crisis. They can also manage complicated ongoing care, such as cases in which a number of doctors and therapists are involved. Working caregivers and long-distance caregivers find their support cost-effective.
How to get started: Reach out to Generation Solutions’ senior services coordinator at (434)455-6500 or (540)776-3622, a trusted senior care source for over 20 years. Licensed, bonded, insured. www.generationsolutions.net
6. Elder law attorneys
What they are: Elder law attorneys are lawyers who specialize in legal and financial matters that are especially relevant to older adults — and to their families –including estate planning, trusts, and documents to ensure that medical wishes and financial wishes will be honored.
How they help: Getting documents in order that ensure your ability to communicate with doctors and banks will streamline your ability to be an effective advocate and caregiver. Among the legal documents you need for your loved ones: an advance healthcare directive, a durable power of attorney for healthcare, a revocable living trust, and a will.
How to get started: Use Caring.com’s Senior Living Directory to search for elder law attorneys by city or zip code — and to see ratings and reviews.
7. Senior Home Re-modelers
What they are: Senior home re-modelers are builders and home-repair services that specialize in retrofitting homes to make them safe and accessible; many also create new construction with eldercare needs in mind. As a fairly recent subset of the home building industry, they’re experts at assessing danger spots and inconveniences in existing homes, making safe upgrades (such as installing grab bars, widening access for wheelchairs, building ramps), and designing new living spaces. They apply universal design principles to create a house you can live in forever.
How they help: Whether a loved one is moving in with you or aging in place in his or her own home, getting an assessment from a senior home re-modeler is useful for identifying dated fixtures and designs that put the person at risk for falls and other mishaps. Given that an increasing number of families are becoming multi-generational households, senior home re-modelers can also make suggestions for altering an existing structure to give everyone privacy.
How to get started: Reach out to Generation Solutions’ senior services coordinator at (434)455-6500 or (540)776-3622, a trusted senior care source for over 20 years. Licensed, bonded, insured.