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, medication reminders, meal preparation, or light housekeeping. These are all useful services, but hired caregivers are playing an increasing role in seniors’ lives outside the home as well.
“When I come into a client’s home, they may have an excursion already planned,” explains Delacy Henry, a home health aide (HHA) 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.”
Appointment companions, also known as ambulatory escorts, often accompany older adults to doctor’s appointments, social functions, and religious services, take them shopping, or simply stroll around the neighborhood together. Professional in-home caregivers can provide these services, called companion care, alone or in conjunction with personal care services.
Applications for Companion Care Outside the Home
While a trip to the doctor may not seem like a refreshing outing, a medical 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,” Henry 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 to make this happen.
In addition to walking or driving clients to medical offices, there is also the option to have home care companions attend appointments to take notes. This service can help older adults and their family caregivers better understand health changes and more closely follow the doctor’s orders. Some home care companies even offer to send a client’s authorized family members (typically those with HIPAA authorization and/or durable medical power of attorney) copies of these notes—a boon for long-distance caregivers.
Attending services at houses of worship, participating in religious education or prayer groups, and contributing to faith-based events and service projects is an important part of many seniors’ routines. These activities provide socialization, promote spiritual and emotional well-being, and foster a sense of purpose. Companion care enables older adults to remain involved in their faith and community. For example, Henry escorts one of her clients to church from time to time.
“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,” says Henry. “When she asked if I might go with her the following weekend, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. 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 HHA with Partners in Care, 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 Henry and Quamina will provide services for new clients as part of VNSNY’s “Get Home Safe” program. This initiative began a few years ago for surgical patients who do not have a family member or friend available 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 leaving.
“I’m there to provide whatever the patient needs,” Quamina 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
Companions can accompany clients to all kinds of events that are important to them, such as weddings, holidays, parties, graduations and more. Quamina often takes clients to visit with family and friends.
“With an HHA, there is no reason for a senior to be homebound,” she explains.
Active elders who love to feel connected to New York’s rich and varied cultural scene particularly benefit from Lynne Ann Anthony’s companionship. Another home health aide with VNSNY, Anthony frequently accompanies her clients to the movies, cultural events like plays and art exhibits, and even museums.
“Wheelchairs can make some people feel inhibited about trying to get out,” she admits, “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 Companion Care for the Elderly
Professional caregivers not only provide older adults with a sense of comfort and care but also a trusting and supportive relationship that enables them to continue engaging in the activities and social events they love. Getting outside is a refreshing change for seniors and an excellent way to promote both physical and mental activity.
AgingCare can assist you in finding a home care company that offers personal care and one-on-one companion care services. A Care Advisor will arrange interviews with senior care agencies in your community free of charge.