Do you feel exhausted and completely burnt out from being a caregiver for a family member? Are you struggling to juggle work, being a mother or father, and being a caregiver all at the same time? You are not alone. According to, “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 – AARP Research Report“, “Today, more than 1 in 5 Americans (21.3 percent) are caregivers, having provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months.” Being a caregiver in itself is stressful but other factors are not helping the situation. With the high costs of healthcare, long hours required from home healthcare companies (many home healthcare companies require a minimum booking of 4 hours/day for up to 3 days a week in order to get assistance), time restraints, lack of trust in a company/caregivers (many companies have more than 1 caregiver coming into your home with some having minimal training), and overall fatigue – many caregivers find it impossible to find affordable options for help with the little time they have. There are services out there that can help and you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for them if you know what to look for. Below I offer both suggestions and tips on 1) how to get help while saving money and what services could be helpful for you 2) how to find trusted help. I hope that you will find these suggestions helpful.
Get help. Hire someone to provide respite care or personal care assistance : Respite care is essentially a service that provides you or your loved one a short-term break from caregiving. Respite care services are available through most home healthcare agencies. Respite care may or may not include personal care services such as: assistance getting dressed, bathing, toileting, grooming/hygiene, etc. There may be a separate service that a company offers that includes this type of help (personal care assistance) so make sure to ask what is included in respite care if this is what you’re looking for. I like to think of it like this: if you want to go grocery shopping, out to dinner with family or friends, or just need a break to take a walk outside; I would look for a respite care provider. If you need actual hands-on help provided, such as assistance performing personal hygiene or getting ready for the day; I would go with a personal care assistance. If you just need respite care and not the personal assistance portion – you should be able to find this at a lower cost. As I mentioned before, a lot of agencies have a daily minimum for booking. Some do not. I’m not trying to sell you on my company, Limitless Senior Services, but for sake of giving you an idea of what else is out there, I will mention that my company offers a minimum of only 1 hour for respite care and personal care services and does not require multiple bookings within a week. Now keep in mind that most companies will charge a little bit more per hour if you are only going to book for a shorter period of time but it is still MUCH more cost efficient to pay for 1-2 hours throughout the week versus 4 hours for at least 3 days per week! Search for “senior services”, “respite care”, “personal care assistance” or “home healthcare” in your area. Call each agency to determine if they offer shorter hours, a lower price for respite care versus personal care services, and compare prices. Keep in mind that sometimes you get what you pay for. If an agency has more experience and consistent providers coupled with great reviews, training, and background checks; this may be worth the extra couple of dollars. This brings me to my next point.
How to find trusted help: I totally understand the fear of having a “stranger” or even multiple “strangers” coming into your home or your parents home. My grandfather previously had his favorite watch, that he worked very hard to buy, stolen right out of his home while he was receiving care from a home care agency. I do believe there is a way to limit, if not completely extinguish the risk of anyone taking advantage or mistreating your loved one. Keep in mind – there is always a risk that something will happen to your loved one no matter if you hire a respite care provider or not. I like to think about home care in terms of opportunity cost. The opportunity to receive help and someone being there to keep your loved one safe outweighs the risk of something happening (which will be diminished when asking these questions). This will also give you more of an opportunity to take care of yourself and spend time working and making more money. I recommend asking the following questions about who will be coming into your home in order to give you peace of mind. Rest assured, there are people out there who will take wonderful care of your loved one.
- Will there be only be one provider or multiple providers coming into the home? Consistency is important, especially if your loved one has memory deficits, a mental health disorder, or a behavioral disorder.
- How much training do you provide your employees? Could you please describe the training they go through? If you are concerned about training related to a specific diagnosis your loved one has, I encourage you to ask if providers undergo any training related to that condition. For example, if your loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease you should ask: Are your employees trained on how to work with people who have Alzheimer’s Disease? If so, what type of training do they receive? This is important because if the agency sends someone with no experience working with someone with Alzheimer’s Disease they may not know how to calm them if they become agitated and could escalate them instead. Please don’t think I’m saying this would absolutely happen! All I’m saying is if you ask the right questions you will have a higher chance of being paired with an employee who is more qualified, which will increase the chance of finding a good caregiver-patient match.
- Do your providers have any licenses or certifications (such as a certified nursing assistant, occupational therapist, CPR certification, etc.)? Most home care agencies will employ caregivers that do not have any specialized license or certification. Others hold a higher standard for their employees and are certified nursing assistants. Sometimes you will find a company that employs caregivers that are nurses or therapists (occupational or physical therapists) but this is rare. Know the difference and what you are looking for. You may pay more money to work with an agency that employs CNA’s, nurses, or therapists as caregivers but keep in mind that these individuals hold a license and certification. Certified nursing assistants work under the direct supervision of a nurse. They are able to perform basic nursing related tasks (such as taking vital signs) and have basic training in performing activities of daily living (personal hygiene and self-care tasks) for patients. Occupational therapists and physical therapists go through rigorous training regarding how to transfer patients, assist with self-care tasks, transfers, and mobility. Caregivers do not necessarily have to be trained or certified. They may even have no experience working with people with disabilities. Know the difference and figure out exactly what you are looking for. If your loved one has any issues with chewing or swallowing or history of having a cardiac arrest I would recommend seeking a provider who is CPR certified.
- Do you provide background checks/drug tests or reference checks on your employees? All of these things are important to know. I would definitely pick a company based on if they did all of these things versus one that didn’t! Narrow it down by figuring out which company limits your risk the most.
- Is your business licensed and insured? This one is important to ask for legal reasons. God forbid if something happens to your loved one while an employee is working with them you want to make sure the company is backed by insurance.
Questions you should ask the person coming into your home: Most likely you will get matched with either a caregiver or a certified nursing assistant (CNA). If you are extremely lucky, you will get matched with someone who has a nursing or therapy background but again, this is extremely rare. As in every profession, there are good providers and bad ones. Know the signs of a good one versus a bad one. Ask them to tell you how they would care for your loved one. How many years they have they been a CNA or caregiver? What do they like about being a caregiver? Ask them if they would be okay working in a home with cameras in it? I know this sounds like a strange question but you don’t want someone coming into your loved ones home and being on their phone the whole time while ignoring them. Go with your gut when they answer these questions and look for signs such as poor eye contact, lack of engagement, and most importantly how they act towards your loved one.
I hope these suggestions help put your mind at ease and give you more confidence while searching for assistance. I am confident that you will find the help you deserve. I’m sending much respect and love your way and want to personally thank you for being such a wonderful caregiver to your loved one. They are lucky to have you.
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