Most older adults want to continue living in their own homes rather than move in with a relative or relocate to a senior living community. However, many people begin having trouble with everyday activities like shopping, cooking, housekeeping and personal care as they grow older.
Some common complaints or concerns that family members and caregivers might hear include:
- “The stairs are getting so hard to climb.”
- “Since my wife died, I just open a can of soup for dinner.”
- “Doing the laundry wears me out a lot more than it used to.”
- “I don’t feel very comfortable driving to the grocery store anymore.”
While family members and friends may be poised to lend a hand, assisting with even a few simple tasks takes time and effort. For many family caregivers, this initial offer quickly grows into providing hours of help each week as a loved one’s needs increase. Fortunately, there are many different services for the elderly that can minimize caregiver burden, extend a senior’s independence, improve their safety and help them successfully age in place.
Help for Seniors Living at Home
There are various sources of assistance for seniors living alone. The following list includes some common things elders need a helping hand with and suggestions for businesses and organizations that can provide those services. While hiring individual services is great for addressing one or two unrelated needs and tends to keep the overall cost down, keep in mind that in-home care rolls many different services into one point of contact. This option is especially convenient for seniors who require assistance in several areas.
Does your loved one need help with chores like housekeeping and laundry? Hiring a cleaning service can take these tasks off their plate and yours. It may be time to evaluate how much of your time is spent performing housekeeping chores, and if hiring out this task allows for a more valuable use of your time. House cleaning services can be arranged weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. A monthly deep clean can be beneficial so that a senior only needs to focus on lighter daily tasks.
Home care companies can also provide light housekeeping services to ensure a senior is living in a clean, safe and organized environment. Just remember that an aide’s job description is to provide personal support and supervision, not heavy-duty cleaning services like window washing or carpet cleaning.
Running Errands, Shopping Assistance and Transportation
In recent years, many businesses have adopted additional convenience features like delivery service and curbside pick-up. Of course, countless goods can be ordered online, but local grocery stores, drug stores, dry cleaners and many other retail outlets now offer same-day delivery or express pick-up of items that have been purchased. In some cases, these services can facilitate shopping and even make leaving the house entirely unnecessary. This is great for seniors who tire easily, have limited mobility or can no longer drive. If the primary issue with running errands is transportation to and from the store, there are several options for this service as well, including public transportation, taxis, and ridesharing services.
Home care agencies provide companion services that may include transportation to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store and other errands. A hired companion or home health aide not only provides transportation but offers the additional benefit of door through door service while helping with shopping or appointments. They can even take notes at appointments as needed. If a client is homebound or does not wish to leave their home, then the aide can shop for them and bring back needed items on their own.
When a senior is not eating well, it can take a serious toll on their health. Frozen dinners, take-out and meal replacement shakes can serve a purpose in a pinch, but these options aren’t ideal as primary sources of nutrition. Meals on Wheels America is one of the most well-known food delivery services for seniors. Programs vary slightly from place to place, but basic service includes healthy meal delivery to those age 60 and older who have limited mobility and are challenged to provide themselves with adequate nutrition. These meals are usually provided for a sliding scale fee that is based on a senior’s ability to pay.
There are numerous other prepared meal delivery services available across the country, but nothing beats a home-cooked meal. Many home care agencies provide personal care aides who can plan, shop for and cook meals from scratch. Seniors often enjoy exploring recipes and cooking together. The social aspect of sharing meals is especially beneficial for seniors who live alone. Even if an aide doesn’t visit frequently, he or she can prepare large batches of homemade dishes and freeze them for future use.
Managing finances can be tiring and confusing for a person of any age. As a loved one gets older, budgeting and paying bills can become a hassle or even a serious challenge. Debt, excessive spending, and late or unpaid bills can have dire consequences, so it’s crucial to ensure that an aging loved one is comfortable with and capable of managing their money. If not, hiring a financial advisor, geriatric care manager or daily money manager can help keep them in good financial shape. Just make sure the referral comes from a trustworthy source.
Seniors often have chronic medical conditions that must be managed with medication. A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University found that nearly 40 percent of adults aged 65 and older take five or more prescription medications. When a loved one’s regimen becomes too complicated or they begin making medication mistakes, it’s crucial that they get help.
While there are pill boxes, phone call reminders, automatic dispensers and other products that can assist with medication management, these options often require another person to be present to confirm that the senior has taken their medicine as directed. Home care workers who visit at a set time each day can provide medication reminders in person and note that the correct dosages were taken. In some cases, Medicare will pay for a home health aide to come to a senior’s home to administer medications if they require intermittent skilled nursing care.
Getting around with limited mobility can be difficult and even dangerous for seniors. Professional caregivers can provide increased supervision and assistance with mobility and transfers, which can reduce the likelihood of falls and other household accidents. Many seniors are actually more active and less anxious when they know they’re being monitored and that help is close by. In fact, home care aides are happy to take walks with clients and participate in activities and exercises that help maintain and promote mobility.
Personal Care Services
Unfortunately, as a senior’s physical and mental health decline, all too often so does their personal hygiene. Simple tasks like bathing, brushing one’s teeth, putting on clean clothes and shaving become tiresome and fall lower and lower on the priority list. Helping a loved one bathe may be the only solution.
Bathing assistance is usually only available through home care companies or home health agencies. They will send a specially trained bath aide to quickly and discretely help your loved one take a shower, bath or bed bath. Personal hygiene is crucial for good health, and many caregivers turn to bathing services for seniors to help their loved ones with self-care and avoid the discomfort of providing this intimate assistance. Personal care aides can help elders with toileting and continence care as well.
Many stylists and salons have also added house calls to their offerings to cover the more glamorous personal care services, such as haircuts, shaving and nail care, but availability depends upon a senior’s location.
How to Hire In-Home Services for Seniors
Talk with your loved one about what they think their needs are and consult with other members of their care team. Once you have determined which tasks they are struggling with and which services could be useful for them, it’s important to begin researching providers in their area. Try to gather as much information as possible to make an informed and confident decision.
Family, friends, neighbors and coworkers can be great sources for referrals. Ask around to see if anyone you know has previously used one of the services mentioned above. This will help you get a better idea of which ones might be beneficial and which providers are reputable.
Your local Area Agency on Aging is another excellent source of information on federal, state, and local services and benefits that are available for seniors and their caregivers. Healthcare providers, social workers, local churches, charities and outreach offices may also have information on senior services or offer their own programs.
Of course, there are expenses involved in caring for a senior, so it’s important to factor in costs when looking for providers. Many of the services mentioned above are paid for privately, but some may be covered by insurance, priced based on a senior’s income level or provided at no cost. If your loved one is still largely capable of living independently, paying for just a few services out of pocket will likely delay placement in senior living and cost less in the long run.
Sources: Polypharmacy Among Adults Aged 65 Years and Older in the United States: 1988–2010 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4573668/#)