Families are increasingly deciding to provide in home eldercare for their loved ones. Whether this is due to a desire to keep several generations of a family close or the loved one’s stated wish to avoid a nursing home, caring for an elderly loved one at home can be immensely rewarding.
Unfortunately, caring for someone who is unable to care for themselves is also severely taxing. Caregivers experience alarming rates of depression, anxiety, and even a mirroring of the symptoms they are trying to mitigate in their dependent family member. In fact, according to a 2015 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP Caregiving in America, almost half of all caregivers looking after family members report being “somewhat stressed” and more than one third are “highly stressed.” As a result of these and other complications, many — if not most — caregivers eventually come to the decision that it’s time to seek outside help to support their efforts.
If you’re caring for an elderly family member at home, it’s likely that you’ve struggled to set aside just a few moments here and there to tend to your own life. It can be difficult to manage even simple tasks like grocery shopping and getting your car washed, and accomplishing more complicated tasks, like managing your own mental and physical health, can seem impossible. If this sounds at all familiar, then you, too, may be ready to reach out for help.
First, try to sit down and take a few moments to create a list of your needs. How much time away will you need? How often? Do you need a few hours off three days per week? Twenty-four hours once a week? Six hours every other week? Every situation is different, and only you will know what you need to catch up on your life or recover emotionally and mentally from your long hours caregiving.
Once you have the list of your own needs, create a second list of your loved one’s needs. Do they require constant supervision? Simple companionship and light housekeeping? Medication administration? Assistance with bathing and toileting? Gentle walks? Specific meals at specific times? Try to jot down anything your elderly loved one might require while you’re away.
Once you’ve got your list, you’re ready to consider your options. For most in-home care situations, there are two terms you will hear for care provided by trained workers: eldercare and respite care. Respite workers and in-home eldercare providers offer assistance during the hours you need to be away from your home. Banish guilt or second thoughts: family caregivers absolutely need meaningful time away from their duties. (Take note: meaningful time away. This doesn’t mean only dentist appointments and grocery shopping; try to regularly choose activities that will contribute to your own well-being – emotional as well as physical.)
Respite workers and in-home eldercare providers offer the following types of services:
- Care for those with dementia, cognitive impairment, and cognitive decline of all types
- Medication reminders
- Care for those with incontinence
- Mobility assistance
- Meal preparation
- Light housekeeping
- Pet care
Additionally, they will be happy to accompany your elderly loved one to religious services, movies, plays, weddings, doctor appointments, and trips to the barber shop or beauty salon.
Now that you’ve decided to seek assistance, how do you choose the best in-home eldercare or respite care? How can you be sure the person you choose will really have your loved one’s best interest at heart? Here’s a checklist to guide you through the process.
- Make phone calls.
- Follow up with a face-to-face interview.
- When you choose an agency, research their reputation: look for reviews, ask for letters of reference, and ask what their training or credential requirements are for their staff.
- Ask if the caregiver will be able to administer the care your elderly loved one requires, and that they will be happy to take care of the tasks you have in mind. It’s best if these expectations are fully discussed from the outset.
- Ensure that the caregiver’s personality is a good fit for your loved one. You will want to choose someone you can trust, but the personality compatibility between caregiver and patient is of the utmost importance.
- Ask to see an up-to-date criminal background check or have one conducted.
- Discuss finances. Find out what the rate will be, and make sure these payments will not compromise your financial stability. Going into debt or losing your financial cushion will compound the stress you’re experiencing rather than alleviating it.
- Ask what will happen if the caregiver is unable to provide care at any point in time. Will the agency be able to provide an alternate caregiver?
- Create a contract or make sure the agency provides a written contract that outlines your expectations and the services the caregiver or agency has agreed to offer. Make sure the rates and payment agreement are also included in this contract.