Jean is a fiercely independent woman. Even though she recently celebrated her 86th birthday she insists that she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself and her home. That’s not what her family thinks.
When Jean’s husband died three years ago, she made it clear that she wanted to continue living in her own home. Her children, who all have families and full-time jobs, stepped up to the plate and supported her as much as possible. About a year ago they began to notice some worrisome signs — meals uneaten, bills not paid, and their usually immaculate mother in dirty clothes, her hair not combed.
Jean’s family came up with a plan. Those who lived nearby would take turns spending the night and preparing meals. One would pay her bills; another would do the grocery shopping. As their responsibilities increased, so did their anxiety.
When someone suggested they look into home care services, their first reaction was that their mother didn’t need it because she wasn’t sick, she was simply unable to take care of things by herself anymore. Besides, they were sure their mother would be totally against the idea and they didn’t even know how to begin what they knew would be a difficult conversation.
Before they did anything at all, they decided to get a better understanding of what home care was and how it might help with their situation. The first thing they realized is that there is a difference between home health care and home care.
Home health care services are generally provided by nurses, occupational or physical therapists, and home health aides to people who are recovering from an illness or an injury.
Home care services are meant to provide extra support so that people like Jean can stay in their own homes as long as possible. Medical care is not provided, but caregivers are able to help with tasks such as light housecleaning, running errands and preparing meals. Jean’s family compiled a list of home care services they thought would help keep their mother safe and happy and give them peace of mind:
- Personal care Jean was no longer able to take a bath or a shower alone. She frequently wore soiled clothes and didn’t bother to comb her hair or brush her teeth. Home care services include help with bathing, dressing, and grooming. Caregivers also do laundry, including folding things and putting them away, all of which would be a huge help.
- Housekeeping Once proud of her spotless house, Jean found it difficult to even dust mop the floor. Her children couldn’t begin to keep up with the chores. They were astonished to discover that not only do home care services include such things as vacuuming and dusting, changing the bed linens, and taking out the rubbish, but also cleaning out the fridge and watering the plants — their mother’s collection of African violets, for instance.
- Companionship Jean loved being with people. Even though family members spent as much time as possible with her and frequently took her out, she was often alone during the day. It was obvious that she was lonely and possibly depressed. Home care companionship services can run the gamut, from sharing a cup of tea to going for a walk or for an exciting adventure. Arlene DeNutte, one of Advantage Home Care’s caregivers, takes a client to exercise class one day and water aerobics another. She takes another client to the theater. A caregiver like Arlene might make the perfect companion.
- Transportation Jean hasn’t been able to drive her car for several years. Her children juggle their schedules to take her to medical appointments, but trips to the hairdresser, the grocery store, or the garage sales she loves are much trickier. There are a number of transportation resources in their community, but they were happy to see that with home care, caregivers not only provide transportation, but also run errands.
- Meal planning It was obvious that unless someone was right there with her, Jean might not eat at all. It was almost impossible for someone to be with her for every single meal, which was especially distressing for her children. Caregivers can prepare and serve meals, as well as do the clean up. They can help with shopping. They could even take Jean out to eat, which is something she always enjoyed doing with friends.
Simply realizing that home care services existed and could be tailored to their needs gave Jean’s family a great deal of relief. They weren’t looking for someone to completely take over, just to help fill in the gaps so they wouldn’t all feel so overwhelmed anymore and their mother could get the level of care that she deserved — in her own home.
Now that they had figured out what services made the most sense, their next step was to determine who would provide the care. They decided to go with a home care agency, but didn’t know which one to choose. We’ll take a look at important things to consider when choosing a home care agency in our next blog post.
Originally posted October 22, 2012