Most people assume that the duties of a professional caregiver hired through a home care company are limited to assisting clients inside their homes with tasks like bathing and grooming, reminding them to take their medications, preparing meals, or doing light housekeeping. These are all useful services, but hired caregivers are playing an increasing role in clients’ lives outside the home as well. Appointment companions, also known as ambulatory escorts, incorporate activities like escorting clients to doctors’ appointments, taking them shopping, or simply strolling around the neighborhood into clients’ care plans.
Serving as appointment companions is a natural extension of what professional caregivers are trained to do. “When I come into a client’s home, they may have an excursion already planned,” says Delacy Henry, a home health aide with Partners in Care, a division of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). “They’ll ask me, ‘Is it OK with you if we go to the store, or go for a walk in the park?’ I am glad to do whatever they like, and I enjoy being out in the community with them. If I was not available to accompany them, they might not get outside at all, since many of my clients are elderly and need someone with them at all times.”
While attending a medical appointment may not seem like a refreshing outing, an appointment companion can help turn it into one. “A client once asked me to accompany her to an eye doctor appointment, and she wanted to walk to the office,” Delacy recalls. “We walked there and back, so we also got some wonderful exercise!” Some clients also opt to turn an outing for an appointment into a fun opportunity to indulge in a meal at their favorite restaurant or grab a treat on the way home. Professional caregivers provide the support necessary for making this happen.
In addition to walking or driving clients to appointments, companions can also go into appointments to take notes. This service can help seniors and their caregivers better understand health changes and more closely follow the doctor’s orders. Some home care companies offer to send a client’s authorized family members these notes as updates regarding their condition and changes to their care plan.
Delacy also helps take a client to church. “My client was sharing with me how much she enjoys the sense of community that comes from attending church, but it was becoming harder and harder for her to find the energy to get up, get dressed and get herself there. When she asked if I might go with her the following weekend, I didn't hesitate for a minute,” says Delacy. “We ended up staying for the full two hours. She really enjoyed the fellowship and my company, and I accompany her now whenever she feels like she needs the extra help.”
For Ruthilla Quamina, another Partners in Care HHA, going out into the community with her clients is an important way of engaging with them. “I’ve been asked by several of my clients to attend their church services,” she recalls. “We sit together through the entire service. They are able to attend church with peace of mind, knowing I am right there if they need me. I am a churchgoer myself, and it is something I am always happy to do.”
Safe Transitions from Hospital to Home
In addition to their regular HHA duties, several times a month Delacy and Ruthilla will provide services for new clients as part of VNSNY’s “Get Home Safe” program. This initiative began two years ago for surgical patients who do not have a family member on hand to escort them home. HHAs in the program meet the patient in the discharge area of the hospital following a procedure or a trip to the ER, bring them home by taxi or ambulette, and get them settled comfortably in their residence. The companion will then go out to purchase any necessary medications and groceries and make sure the client's pantry is well stocked before they leave.
“I’m there to provide whatever the patient needs,” Ruthilla says. “One time, a patient had just been released and insisted on going home by train. So, I bought my ticket, and we rode to his apartment together. The important thing is that I was there by his side, making sure he got home safely.”
Many home care companies and home health agencies provide similar services around the country.
Social Events and Recreational Outings
Ruthilla will often take clients to meet with family and friends as well. “With an HHA, there is no reason for a senior to be homebound,” she explains. Companions can accompany clients to all kinds of events that are important to them, such as weddings, parties, graduations and more.
Active elders who love to feel connected to New York’s rich and varied cultural scene particularly benefit from HHA Lynne Ann Anthony. Lynne Ann frequently accompanies her clients to the movies or other cultural events like plays or museums. “Wheelchairs can make some people feel inhibited about trying to get out," she says, "but my clients can really make an entire day of getting out of the house for a special event. Sometimes we take a small group and I’ll get the popcorn for everyone. It’s a wonderful quality of life boost for homebound seniors, and the smiles and conversation that continue on long after the event are absolutely worth any extra effort it takes on my part.”
Reap the Benefits of Home Care
Professional caregivers allow seniors to not only have a sense of comfort and care, but also provide a trusting and supportive relationship that enables elders to engage in the activities and social events they love. Getting out of their homes is a refreshing change for clients, and an excellent way for them to stay active.
AgingCare can assist you in finding a home care company that offers personal care and one-on-one companionship services. A Care Advisor will arrange three interviews with agencies in your community free of charge.