How much daily assistance does your senior need? And what type? 

Two questions can be very emotional when dealing with aging seniors:

  1. Giving up the car keys.
  2. Getting help with daily activities.  

For obvious reasons, many seniors are reluctant to give up the car, and equally reluctant to admit they need help with daily activities. And who came blame them?  For decades, they have taken care of themselves.  It is difficult to admit that they may need some help, especially with the basics of life. You can prevent at least some of the resistance by approaching the subject as objectively and “matter of fact” as possible. But you should still be prepared for the possibility of resistance, denial, and rejection.

An excellent source for analyzing the type and level of daily assistance needed is “Dale Susan Edmonds Talk-Early-Talk-Often.  Use the index on the website to determine what is needed, and the degree of that need.  Be aware that as a child, friend, or relative, you may be overly critical or perhaps too forgiving.  Try to be objective but realistic.  

Going through the checklist helps you decide IF the senior needs outside assistance, and the checklist outcome will help you communicate with agencies that can  provide assistance. Always consider what you,  your siblings, neighbors, or friends can do to help the senior on a volunteer basis, but be aware of the burden this level of help can become.  Promising to help out occasionally is easy, but when “occasionally” becomes every day, the person volunteering their time may become overwhelmed. If the checklist makes it clear that your senior needs daily assistance — or if a medical condition makes it obvious — how do you proceed?

Recognize that this is both a business and an emotional decision. If the senior is interested, make every effort to involve him in the entire process, from getting bids through interviewing aides through making the final decisions.  If paid help is needed, the first decision is to hire an individual aide (or aides)  or a home health care agency. Both ways will work, and both have advantages and disadvantages:

Hiring Individual Aides

  • May be lower in cost.
  • May be more dedicated if they have a personal attachment or previous knowledge of the senior.
  • You are responsible for finding a replacement if they are out.
  • You are responsible for managing the aide.

Hiring a Home Health Agency

  • They handle the management and supervision of the aide; if an aide doesn’t show up, they will find the replacement.
  • They may be more experienced in evaluating clients, and can offer a variety of services.
  • They may be higher in cost.
  • You may be dealing with a bureaucracy, with all the frustration inherent in dealing with any bureaucracy.

In many situations,  unless your senior has well-defined needs that can be fully met by an aide worker that you know and trust, selecting a home health agency may be your best alternative. How do you select a Home Care Agency? The website Home Health Care Agencies.com has an excellent list of items to consider when selecting a agency.  Like a business decision, contact at least two home health agencies for evaluations and bids. Several additional tips are:

  1. Get recommendations from other seniors and friends who have hired or considered home health care agencies.
  2. Contact government and social service agencies for recommendations, and investigate programs that can provide free or reduced cost care.
  3. If there are nursing homes or assisted living facilities in the area, stop by and ask for recommendations.  From their contact with families who have relatives in their facilities, the social workers may hear opinions of home health care agencies.
  4. Check Angie’s List and other consumer friendly sites for recommendations.
  5. Always inquire about financial aid — home health care is expensive.
  6. Insist on a written evaluation of the senior from the agency, and review the evaluation carefully.  Ask questions if you are surprised or disagree with any of the findings.

  Finally, stay involved.  There is no substitute for an involved child, relative, or friend.  And let the aides and agency know you are keeping a watchful eye on your senior.              




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