Most older adults want to live in their own homes for as long as possible instead of moving in with a relative or relocating to a senior living community. However, many people begin having trouble with everyday activities such as shopping, cooking, housekeeping, and personal care as they age.
Some common complaints or concerns that family members might hear include the following:
- “I don’t feel like cooking a full meal for myself anymore.”
- “I’ve been sleeping on the couch. It’s hard to get upstairs.”
- “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 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. Caring for seniors at home does pose some challenges, but there are many different services that can minimize caregiver burden, extend a senior’s independence, improve their safety, provide home health care, and help them successfully age in place.
Help for seniors living at home
For older adults who need assistance but want to age in place, home care professionals can offer valuable solutions. Aging in place simply means someone plans to live in their own home for as long as they’re able to, even if they’ll need to hire some kind of help.
There are various types of assistance for seniors living alone. The following list includes some common things elders may need help 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 help in several areas.
Does your loved one need assistance with chores such as housekeeping and laundry? Hiring household help for seniors can take these tasks off their plate and yours. Calculating how much of your time is spent performing housekeeping chores will help you decide if hiring out this task allows for a more valuable use of your time. House cleaning services can be arranged weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Even a monthly deep clean can be beneficial so that you or your loved one 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 a home care 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 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 for purchases. 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, are homebound, 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 ride-hailing 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 care 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 doesn’t wish to leave their home, then the aide can shop for them and bring back needed items on their own.
When a senior isn’t 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 best-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’s based on a senior’s ability to pay. There are numerous other prepared meal delivery services, such as Hello Fresh, available across the country that can help take care of seniors in their own homes.
Nothing beats a home-cooked meal, and 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, they can prepare large batches of homemade dishes and freeze them for reheating later.
Managing finances can be tiring and confusing for a person of any age. As a loved one gets older, budgeting and paying bills may become a hassle or even a serious challenge. Debt, excessive spending, and late or unpaid bills can have dire consequences. 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. One study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University found that, of adults aged 65 and older, nearly 40% take five or more prescription medications. When a loved one’s regimen becomes too complicated or they begin making medication mistakes, it’s important that they get help.
Yes, there are pill boxes, phone call reminders, automatic dispensers, and other products that can assist with medication management. But 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 nurse 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 provide increased supervision and assistance with mobility and transfers, which can reduce the likelihood of falls and other household accidents. Many older adults 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 and hygiene services
Unfortunately, when a senior’s physical and/or mental health declines, their personal hygiene often does, too. Simple tasks like bathing, brushing one’s teeth, putting on clean clothes, and shaving may become tiresome or confusing and fall lower and lower on the priority list. Helping a loved one bathe may be the only solution.
However, sometimes an older adult will feel more comfortable receiving bathing assistance from a professionally trained aide than from a family member. It feels less personal and can help preserve their modesty around family members.
Trained aides who provide bathing assistance are usually only available through home care companies or home health agencies. They'll 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 avoid the discomfort of providing this intimate assistance. Personal care aides can help elders with dressing, toileting, and incontinence care as well.
Many stylists and salons have also added house calls to their offerings to cover 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 help for seniors
Talk with your loved one about what they think their needs are in order to age in place and consult with other members of their care team. Once you've determined which tasks they're struggling with and which services could be useful for them, begin researching providers in their area. Try to gather as much information as possible to make an informed and confident decision about your parent’s home care provider.
Family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are 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. Health care providers, social workers, places of worship, charities, and outreach offices may also have information on local senior services or administer 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. Most 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 may delay placement in senior living and cost less in the long run.
For advice, tips, and guidance throughout your search for in-home adult care, consider reaching out to one of AgingCare’s Care Advisors. By joining our caregiver forum, you can also connect with other family caregivers sharing similar experiences with in-home care for their aging parents.
Reviewed by caregiving expert Carol Bradley Bursack.
Home Health Services (https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/home-health-services)
Polypharmacy Among Adults Aged 65 Years and Older in the United States: 1988 – 2010 (https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/70/8/989/2947682)