Seniors at Home With Their Home Care Provider

Senior Home Care: Information About Getting Support to Continue Living at Home

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Senior home care is helpful for aging individuals and their families. In-home care helps you or your loved one continue living at home, and it alleviates some of the stress that family caregivers often experience. In-home caregivers work to protect your or your family member's independence, dignity, and quality of life while providing safe, comfortable, and compassionate care. And that's important. After all, 90 percent of people over the age of 65 have reported that they want to stay home as long as possible, according to the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA).

Home care providers can offer everything from basic personal care to hospice support. They can even provide assistance to help manage chronic conditions, illnesses, and diseases. You can get short-term recovery or rehabilitative care or ongoing long-term care. Additionally, home care agencies frequently offer respite services so that family caregivers are able to take breaks once in a while, such as on weekends or holidays. Support can be provided for a few hours a week or up to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It's all based on a client's needs.

Both non-medical and medical home care may be available in your community. So it's important to understand some of the common terminology. For example, home care agencies usually only offer non-medical services. They focus on helping with daily living activities and offering companionship. On the other hand, home healthcare agencies provide medical services in addition to personal care. An entire team of medical professionals may coordinate those services, which can range from basic to skilled nursing care.

In addition to helping seniors stay home longer and providing relief for family caregivers, home care professionals can also help reduce overall healthcare costs. That's because seniors who receive in-home care often have fewer trips to the doctor or hospital. So, as you can see, home care is beneficial in many different ways.

Read through the following sections to uncover more details about senior home care. They can help you decide whether it's the right option for you or your family member.

How Do I Know When In-Home Care Services May Be Needed?

Most people will require assistance at some point during their senior years. In fact, HCAOA says that 40 percent of people over the age of 65 currently need daily assistance, and 70 percent will eventually require it. It's usually quite apparent when assistance is needed. Often, family members are the go-to people who offer support. They may help their senior loved ones with tasks like going to appointments, taking care of home and yard maintenance, and helping out around the house.

Sometimes, those family caregivers begin feeling burned out or become unable to give the level of support that their loved ones need. In those cases, it's frequently obvious that additional help is required. But, at other times, things may not be so clear. However, there are definitely signs that you can watch for. For example, home care might be needed when a senior is:

  • Not showering, brushing his or her teeth, or otherwise taking care of him or herself
  • Having trouble remembering to take medications
  • No longer caring for the house or property like he or she used to
  • Forgetting to pay bills
  • Unable to cook any more or forgetting to turn off the stove or oven after cooking
  • Having accidents around the house
  • Unable to drive any more or having an increase in traffic violations or fender benders

In addition to the list above, many other signs can indicate that support may be necessary. It's important to trust your instincts. Seek outside help for an assessment if you're really unsure.

Who Provides Elderly Home Care, and What Are Their Qualifications?

Most in-home care for seniors is provided by organizations such as home care agencies. But you may also meet individuals who offer private services on an independent contract basis. Some states require providers to be licensed and to meet specific criteria, so it's important to check your state's requirements and make sure that you're hiring a company or person that meets those standards.

The main types of caregivers you may come across include:

  • Home health aides: They often work for government-certified organizations and have strict regulations to follow. Depending on the state and employer, they may have to meet formal training and certification requirements. Home health aides are usually able to assist with a client's basic medical needs, so they often work under the direction of a medical professional such as a nurse.
  • Personal care aides: They offer almost the exact same services as home health aides. However, they generally can't offer any kind of medical services, such as administering medication.
  • Certified nursing assistants (CNAs): They're required to complete a formal training program and must pass a state exam. CNAs offer both personal care and basic medical services.
  • Nurses: Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) work for home healthcare agencies and offer support to clients who require more than basic medical services. That can include assistance like managing IV lines, collecting lab samples, and checking catheters.
  • Social workers: They help seniors and their families understand the various programs that are available to them. Those can include anything from community programs to healthcare services. Social workers can help seniors apply for those programs and services and also resolve any issues that may come up during their delivery. Social workers can also provide counseling to help seniors cope with the changes that result from growing old.

What Is the Cost of In-Home Care for Elderly People?

The cost of senior home care really depends on the level of care that's required. Some seniors only need assistance for a few hours per week, whereas others may require around-the-clock care. It also depends on what type of care is needed. For instance, a home care agency that sends a personal care aide will likely be more affordable, but it probably won't offer any medical care. So if a home healthcare agency is needed for basic medical or nursing care, then you can expect to pay higher rates.

A 2016 survey by Genworth found that the monthly median cost for home healthcare services was as low as $2,908 in Louisiana and as high as $5,331 in North Dakota. The national monthly median was $3,861. Those costs were based on 44 hours of care per week. Those numbers can give you a general idea of the amount that you or your loved one may need to pay for in-home support.

The good news is that, according to a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 98 percent of home health agencies are Medicare-certified, and 79 percent are Medicaid-certified. So you also may have options for financial assistance. Check with your state's Medicare or Medicaid office to find out whether you or your family member can qualify for coverage. Also, speak with your home care agency or a community social worker to find out if other payment-assistance programs are available.

What Kinds of In-Home Care Services May Be Offered?

Elderly woman exercising with dumbbells assisted by a female nurse in a sunny room with curtains and a bed in the background

The goal of in-home care providers is to keep you or your loved one healthy, safe, engaged, and connected. They give you the choice to skip the nursing home and stay where you feel most comfortable. Plus, home care providers can offer more than personal and medical care. They often provide household help, companionship, and even transportation services.

The specific services that are offered vary by state and provider. But here are some of the supports that home care and home healthcare agencies may offer:

  • Activities of daily living (ADL) assistance
  • Meal preparation
  • Medication reminders or administration
  • Emotional support and companionship
  • Appointment planning and assistance
  • Transportation
  • Grocery shopping
  • Prescription drop-offs and pick-ups
  • Laundry
  • Light housekeeping
  • Alzheimer's or dementia care

Many home care professionals also participate in activities that their clients enjoy. For example, they may do activities like:

  • Crafting
  • Scrapbooking
  • Exercising
  • Gardening
  • Looking through photo albums
  • Reading the newspaper or watching the news and discussing current events
  • Going for social outings

Ultimately, you'll want to hire a provider who can tailor his or her services to meet your needs. Plus, remember: Along with daily living and medical care, you can even find at-home hospice care so that your or your family member's last days can be spent comfortably at home. So be sure to look around and find the agency or individual that best suits your situation.

What Should I Ask Private Home Care Providers?

Before interviewing caregivers, take some time to consider the types of services you need. Make a list and develop your interview questions from it. Here are some example questions that you may want to ask:

  • What types of personal care services and activities do you offer? Can you provide basic medical or skilled nursing care? Can you provide dementia or hospice care?
  • What types of caregivers do you have on staff? How are they hired? What requirements do they have to meet? Do you conduct background checks?
  • Are your caregivers bonded and insured?
  • Are your caregivers employees of your company? Do I pay your company or the caregiver directly?
  • What do you do when a caregiver is sick or unable to attend as scheduled?
  • What's the procedure for handing a problem with a caregiver?
  • How are questions, concerns, or other feedback communicated to family members?
  • Is your organization Medicare- or Medicaid-certified? Do you know of any other financial assistance programs that you could refer me to?