When to Hire a Caregiver for Seniors Living at Home

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Up to 90% of people over 65 report wanting to stay home as they age.  Interestingly, that answer quickly changes when asking seniors if they would stay at home if it means their family has to take care of them.  This is where hiring a caregiver for home to assist with daily tasks and medical treatment can be a great way to keep seniors at home while keeping the burden of care off family and friends.  It can be a win-win for everyone.  

Signs that it’s time to look for a home caregiver.

Up to 40% of seniors need some form of assistance at home and up to 70% will need assistance at some point.  Not sure if it’s time?  Here’s what to look for:

  • Having trouble keeping up with a good diet.  Being able to prepare healthy meals and stay well-nourished are important for maintaining health and being able to stay home. 
  • Low endurance for keeping up with household chores.  This can lead to a dirty and cluttered home, which will increase risk of falls and general poor hygiene.
  • Poor hygiene practice due to fatigue.  Having trouble getting to the bathroom, showering, and doing laundry can make living at home impractical without proper help. 
  • Memory loss.  Frequently feeling lost, forgetting to take medication on schedule, trouble sequencing tasks or making dangerous judgment errors are all signs of detrimental memory loss that make it unsafe to be home independently. 
  • Poor balance.  Frequent loss of balance, falls, and discomfort with navigating stairs or hallways are all huge safety risks at home. 
  • Unsafe driving habits.  Feeling unsafe and out of control driving to run errands and attend medical appointments puts the whole community at risk.  
  • Feeling isolated.  Whether it’s due to a physical inability to get out or loss of a loved one or friends, feelings of isolation and depression are common in seniors and affects health and quality of life.
  • Increasing burden of care of friends and family that is affecting relationships.  Care from family and friends can feel too personal and cause a strain on the dynamics of a family. 

How to find a home caregiver:

The average cost of home care is steep at $144 per day.  Unfortunately, insurance does not usually cover home care. The only way to qualify with Medicare is a major health crisis that results in hospitalization.  Only when being discharged home “necessary” services can be assigned for a short period of time (14-90 days).  In general, most plans do not cover “homemaking” services either unless you qualify for a Veteran plan or Medicaid.  Home care can range from a few hours a week to 24/7 care depending on needs.  Here are the options:

  • Plan in advance if possible.  Companies like AARP offer long term home care plans that you can purchase in advance when you’re 50 years of age or younger.
  • Look into what programs you may qualify, for such as PACE.  This is a small program that qualifies seniors for home care when they need “nursing home level care.”  It varies by state so you will have to do some research.  
  • Search for a homecare provider you can afford.  There are several different home care companies out there.  There are even people for private hire if you trust the person and can agree on a wage. 

PROs of finding a home caregiver:

  • Being able to stay in the comfort of home even with decreasing strength, mental clarity and endurance.
  • Decreased emotional and physical stress that comes with having assistance for activities of daily living.  
  • Maintaining a feeling of independence.
  • Having peace of mind that proper care and regular “check ins” are available for seniors living alone.  (Additionally consider getting a home alert system. )
  • Decreasing the burden of daily activities to be able to focus on more enjoyable hobbies and activities.  Get help cooking and cleaning to be able relax, exercise, or participate in a hobby. 
  • Decreased burden on family for care. 

CONs of finding a home caregiver: 

  • Living at home can start to feel isolating even with a home caregiver, especially if they are only there a few hours per week.
  • Dissatisfaction with a home caregiver due to personal preference of sequencing for household chores and other activities. 
  • Home care can become expensive and the number of hours that can be afforded may not be enough to feel well taken care of. 

Staying at home is a great option for many seniors that want to stay in a familiar stress free environment.  It is not possible or plausible for everyone but is definitely worth considering as an option.  

Samuel, the author of the piece, is a Physical Therapist living in South Florida. When he is not helping patients recover and return to functional independence at home. He writes for his blog Senior Home Care which has information on aging and living independently at home after recovering from orthopedic and neurological dysfunctions.

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