Companion Care for Seniors: Essential Info About Services and Jobs
By Crystal Lee
| Last updated
We all need to engage with other people in order to maintain our well-being, but that gets increasingly challenging as we get older. Companion care enriches the lives of seniors by providing them with regular opportunities to socialize and get assistance with basic household tasks.
Companion care for the elderly is about providing emotional support to older adults who are generally healthy but need a little extra help to remain independent or stay connected with people. Seniors benefit from having someone to talk to and share experiences with on a regular basis. Companions can also offer valuable household help that enables older adults to remain in their own homes as they age.
Did you know that being socially active can be good for an older adult's health? Evidence suggests that there is a strong connection between social interaction and seniors' well-being. In fact, a British program that paired volunteer visitors with elderly people at high risk of being admitted to hospital found that after the program was implemented, local emergency hospital admissions dropped by 30 percent.
This article outlines the multifaceted role of senior companions and explains the typical costs involved in implementing such services. It also includes a detailed step-by-step process for finding and hiring a companion for your loved one. And if you're interested in becoming a senior companion, be sure to check out the section on how to find elderly companion jobs.
What Is a Senior Care Companion?
A companion caregiver is someone who makes a senior's life more manageable by providing household help and social interaction. Some older adults just need someone to hang out with to ease their loneliness, while others require assistance with tasks like cooking or washing clothes. An example of a companion service is when someone stops by a couple times a week to chat, go for a walk, play cards, and clean the kitchen. Some companions provide respite care—temporary help that enables spouses or other family caregivers to get a much-needed break.
Companions can perform a wide range of non-medical services, such as:
- Shopping for groceries
- Preparing meals
- Providing transportation to appointments and social outings
- Reminding seniors to take medications (but not actually administering them)
- Helping seniors write letters or pay bills
- Taking care of pets
- Changing sheets and making beds
- Washing and folding laundry
- Watering plants
- Making small repairs, such as changing lightbulbs
- Planning social activities
- Reading out loud to seniors
- Participating in games and hobbies
- Picking up prescriptions
- Taking out garbage
- Dusting and vacuuming
In some cases, depending on state regulations, companions can also assist with personal care activities such as bathing and grooming.
Essentially, a senior companion is an individual who connects seniors with their community, lifts the burden of everyday household tasks, and improves the quality of life for older adults.
What Do Senior Companion Services Cost?
How much you pay a companion depends on how much assistance a senior requires and how much education the companion has. (Companions generally don't require any formal training, but some are certified nursing assistants, personal care aides, or home health aides.) Going through a home care or companion care agency will generally cost more than hiring a companion privately, but each option has its pros and cons.
According to Genworth's 2017 cost of care survey, as a national median, in-home care costs $21 per hour for homemaker services (which includes companionship as well as assistance with shopping, cooking, transportation, and errands). So, typically, for one week, it costs $126 to hire a caregiver to come in for two three-hour visits. Keep in mind that some caregivers require a minimum number of hours or charge more for shorter visits. For 44 hours of service each week, companion care is about $4,000 a month. For live-in companion jobs, you can expect to pay anywhere between $120 and $250 a day.
Most people pay for companion care out of their own pockets. In some states, Medicaid benefits include homemaker services and companion care. In addition, some long-term care insurance policies cover this type of service, but they may require that the companion be hired through an agency or have specific credentials, such as proof of being a certified nursing assistant.
Keep in mind that companion care doesn't always cost money. Many seniors have family members or neighbors who come over periodically to visit and help with basic household chores. Others receive free services from volunteers in the Senior Corps' Senior Companions program. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what's available where you live.
How to Hire a Companion Caregiver
If an older adult in your life could use a bit of extra support to stay independent in his or her home, it may be time to consider companion care. Here are a few tips on hiring for home care companion jobs:
How to Find Elderly Companion Jobs
Are you eager to provide support and friendship to older adults who need extra attention and a bit of assistance? Many retirees find that part-time home companion jobs are well suited to their schedules and offer a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in their communities.
To find companion caregiver jobs in your area, look in the classified section of your local newspaper or search online job sites. Prepare a resume that illustrates any experience you have that involves supporting elderly adults. It's a good idea to collect a few personal references from people who can vouch for your character.
You may also want to inquire about opportunities with local home care agencies. Many agencies provide all the training you need and do not require you to have any certifications. However, some agencies look for candidates who are certified nursing assistants or home health aides. (You can become a nursing assistant in a relatively short time by taking a one-to-three-month course and passing your state's certification exam.)
Generally speaking, in order to become a companion caregiver, you must:
- Be dependable, trustworthy, and honest
- Have an outgoing and upbeat personality
- Have excellent interpersonal and conversation skills
- Be physically active and able to walk, bend, kneel, and lift up to 25 pounds
- Pass a criminal background check and/or drug screen
Depending on the position, you may also need:
- A clean driving record and access to an insured vehicle
- Experience in working with older adults
- Certification in first aid or CPR
Some companion care jobs are volunteer positions that come with a stipend. The Senior Corps' Senior Companions program matches active older adult volunteers with home-bound seniors in need of support. Volunteer companions must be at least 55 years old, have an income not greater than 200 percent of the poverty line in their state, and be willing to serve between 15 and 40 hours a week. In addition to a small tax-free hourly stipend, volunteers receive training, liability and accident insurance, annual physical exams, and reimbursements for costs related to transportation and meals while on duty. This can be an excellent way to earn a little cash while adding meaning to both your life and the life of a senior in your area.
Consider Your Options
Companion care offers numerous benefits to both the person receiving the care and the person providing assistance. Such symbiotic relationships can enrich the lives of all involved. By following the steps outlined above, you can find a suitable companion for a loved one—or take on this challenging and meaningful role for yourself.