Types of Home Care Services Available for an Elderly Parent

Given the choice, most seniors want to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving in with a relative, or going to an assisted living facility or nursing home.  In-home care agencies can help extend a senior's time at home.

Some people begin having trouble accomplishing everyday activities like shopping, cooking, and taking care of their home or themselves as they grow older. 

As family members age, some common complaints or concerns that caregivers hear are:

  • "The stairs are getting so hard to climb."
  • "Since my wife died, I just open a can of soup for dinner."
  • "I've lived here for 40 years. No other place will seem like home."

Helping Elders Age in Place

For seniors who have health problems or age-related conditions that make it hard to get around or take care of themselves,  home care might be the ideal solution. A home care agency can send a caregiver to the home to help them get dressed in the morning, fix a meal, or remind them to take medicine. 

Types of Home Care 

You can get almost any type of help you want in your parent's home. The following list includes some common things people need. You can get more information on many of these services from your local Area Agency on Aging, local and state offices on aging, social services or nearby senior centers.

Personal Care

This includes bathing, washing hair and dressing. 

Homemaking

Does your loved one need help with chores like housecleaning, yard work, grocery shopping or laundry? Some grocery stores and drug stores will take orders over the phone and offer delivery services. Cleaning services can help with laundry, and some dry cleaners offer pick up and delivery.

Meals

Many home care agencies provide homemakers who can cook meals. Also, look into programs like Meals on Wheels, which bring hot meals into elderly people's homes. These services are available in most communities. 

Money Management

Paying bills late or not at all can become an issue as parents age. The process can be tiring or hard to keep track of for a person of any age. Are doctors' bills and health insurance claim forms confusing? Financial counselors, or geriatric care managers can help. Just make sure the referral comes from a trustworthy source.

Medication Management

Home care workers who visit the home at a set time each day can provide medication reminders. Medicare might pay for a home health aide to come to the home to actually administer medications.

Mobility 

Getting around at home and in town when an aging parent has trouble walking or getting in and out of chairs can be difficult. Professional caregivers can provide increased supervision and assistance with mobility and transfers. Home care agencies also provide companion services that may include transportation for doctor's appointments, grocery shopping and other errands.

Medical Care

Registered nurses (RNs) provide skilled medical care, including giving medications, monitoring vital signs, dressing wounds, and teaching family caregivers how to use complicated equipment at home. Therapists work with patients to restore or maintain their motor, speech and cognitive skills.

Where to Start Looking for Home Care

A few resources to help you get started are:

Friends and Family

For many older people, family, friends, and neighbors are the biggest source of help. Talk with your loved one about what they think their needs are, consult with other family members who are involved, and ask your friends and neighbors if they have ever hired a caregiver. These steps will help you get a better idea of what specific services could be useful and which agencies in your area are reputable.

Community and Local Government Resources

Learn about the types of services and care found in the local community. Healthcare providers and social workers may have suggestions. The local Area Agency on Aging, local and state offices on aging or social services, and tribal organization have lists of services. Look in the phone book under "government." Check with local church and outreach offices. They might have a senior services program.

Geriatric Care Managers

Specially-trained people known as geriatric care managers can help make daily life easier. They will work with the family to form a long-term care plan and find the right services. They charge for this help, and it probably will not be covered by any insurance plan. If distance is an issue, geriatric care managers can be very helpful. They will check in routinely to make sure all needs are being met and have not changed.

Federal Government Sources

There are many resources from the federal government to start looking for information on help. Some are on the Internet and only available with a computer. Federal government websites are reliable. If a computer is not readily accessible, the local library or senior center usually has one available; or ask the local Area Agency on Aging. The Eldercare Locator has information on many different services for older people: www.eldercare.gov.

How Much Does Home Care Cost?

Thinking about personal resources and other payment options that may apply is an important part of planning. Some things may be private pay, supplemental or based on your income level, while other services may be free. Some things may be covered by Medicare, private "Medigap" policies or other private health insurance, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance. Check the specific terms of any insurance policies. There is a chance that paying for just a few services out of pocket could cost less in the long run than moving into an independent living, assisted living, or long-term care facility. This independence of still living at home is very valuable.

Once you have planned ahead and thought about which services are needed, check into federal, state and local government benefits at www.govbenefits.gov. Another website to search benefits is www.benefitscheckup.org from the National Council on Aging. As with many life choices, it is best to gather as much information as possible to make an informed and confident decision.

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