Home Care: What It Is and How Your Loved One Can Benefit From It
Home care offers personalized assistance to older adults in need—and surprisingly, these services don’t always have to take place in the home. Here are the ways home care provides much-needed support to your loved one wherever they are.
Several times a week, Jeff Simmons* drives an hour to visit his parents, who are in their late 70s. Last year, he realized those trips had become about errands and repairs. That left little time for meaningful conversations with his parents.
“I was happy to help them, but it felt like we didn’t get to visit as much and have that quality time together to just sit and talk,” Jeff says. “Every visit, there was more and more to do.”
His parents use walkers, so everyday tasks, like preparing meals, doing laundry, and getting dressed had become challenging. Jeff knew they needed help. One option was to find someone to cook and clean house for them. But what Jeff really wanted was a professional who was trained in caring for older adults.
Jeff started exploring options and discovered home care, or personalized, non-medical support provided by a professional caregiver trained to meet the care needs of a person in the comfort of their home. Hiring home care would allow his parents to remain in their house and get the assistance they required. “My parents and I chose home care with TheKey because it checked all the boxes,” says Jeff. “Their professional caregivers understand the importance of a person-centered approach, and how to provide care in a way that optimizes safety and comfort. It was the best option for all of us.” [RELATED: 5 Steps to Take After a Loved One Has a Fall]
His parents now have a home care professional who comes to the house five times a week for four hours. She does the laundry and grocery shopping, and accompanies Jeff’s mother and father on medical appointments in order to take notes. Although his mother requires the most care because of her mobility issues, Jeff appreciates that his father benefits from the caregiver taking over everyday tasks like running errands that used to sap his energy.
“Home care has given me so much comfort,” he says. “I know my mom and dad are in good hands, and now, when I visit, I can truly enjoy my time with them.”
How Does Home Care Work Exactly?
As Jeff and his parents discovered, home care can be tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals, couples, and families. For instance, TheKey takes a person-centered approach: One of their trained professionals goes to your loved one’s home and does an in-depth assessment of their living situation, daily activities, and personal preferences. They then create a thoughtful and detailed care plan that covers the specific care and support recommended for your loved one so they can continue to age safely in their home. From there, your loved one is carefully matched with a professional caregiver who best meets their care needs and is a good fit with their personality.
These professional caregivers get to know everything, from what an older person will and will not eat to how they prefer their magazines arranged on the coffee table, says Jennifer Muskat, Regional Director at TheKey in Chicago. For instance, perhaps your parent always feels cold after getting out of the shower. Muskat says a home care professional would know that, and pop a towel in the dryer so that it’s warm and toasty when your loved one steps out of the shower. “[We focus on] those unique preferences we all have, especially as we age,” Muskat adds. “Home care professionals learn all about each person and provide the things they need so they feel supported in the best possible way.”
Home care professionals also support and bring peace of mind to family members, like Jeff, who would otherwise have to drop everything, perhaps even rushing over from work, to help their loved one throughout the day.
Home care can range from a few hours a week to 24/7 support and may offer such services as:
- Meal preparation with a focus on making sure your loved one is getting adequate nutrition, which is important for managing chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes
- Grocery shopping and other errands
- Medication organization and reminders
- Cognitive engagement through conversation, hobbies, games, and other activities
- Physical activity such as taking walks or doing light exercise, which can help improve gait, balance, and energy
- Light housekeeping, including laundry, dishes, and cleaning
- Personal care and hygiene, such as bathing, dressing, and eating
- Transportation, like bringing loved ones to appointments or taking them on social outings
In addition to all of the care and services listed above, TheKey offers programs that can be customized to your loved one’s individual needs. For instance, their Balanced Care Method, a proprietary approach to care, focuses on your loved one’s overall wellness, including nutrition, physical activity, social connection, and engagement. In addition, TheKey also offers their professional caregivers proprietary dementia training that focuses on a person-centered approach to behavioral and mood expressions in people living with dementia.
Home Care Is Available Wherever Your Loved One Is
Like many families, Jeff and his parents had weighed several care options in addition to home care, including a move to an assisted-living facility. But his mother and father were not yet ready to leave their home. Even if they had been, however, they still could have benefited from home care, notes Muskat.
“People often think their choice is either to do home care in the older adult’s house, or to opt for assisted living, independent living, continuing care, or memory care,” she says. “But, in fact, home care is available wherever your loved one’s home is. Home care is about the person, not the place,” Muskat says.
In fact, many home care professionals work with older adults in memory-care facilities, assisted-living facilities, and nursing homes, Muskat says. They can help minimize an older adult’s fall risk, take care of their personal and hygiene needs, and accompany them to their medical appointments. “Think of home care as adding a concierge or one-to-one level of assistance,” she adds.
Most important, Muskat says, is the compassionate human element that comes with home care. With a professional caregiver, an older adult has someone who knows them on a deep personal level to talk to. “We provide care from that place,” she says. “That’s person-centered care.”
Is Home Care Right for Your Loved One?
Choosing the best possible care option for your older adult can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate these decisions alone, Muskat says. She suggests this four-step process:
Step 1: Find a vetted and well-respected home care agency like TheKey.
Step 2: Schedule an appointment with a team member to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your loved one’s personal situation and condition as well as their living space. This includes observing your loved one’s daily routine, from getting dressed in the morning to preparing meals. The care plan will also include your loved one’s personal preferences, Muskat adds, which are crucial to making older adults feel comfortable.
Step 3: Once the assessment is complete, you’ll get a proposed home care plan that highlights what services are available and recommended. You can compare that plan to what’s offered at an assisted-living or memory-care facility to get a broad view of your options.
Step 4: Decide if home care makes sense for your loved one. Talk it over with your adult siblings and other family members who are involved. But most importantly, ask your loved one what they would like to do; it’s critical to involve them in the process. And remember, should your loved one need to move from their home later on, home care can go with them. [RELATED: How to Get a Parent On Board with Home Care When They Don’t Want Help]
10 Surprising Things Home Care Provides
When it comes to giving your loved one a high level of support, home care offers a wide variety of care and services. These may include:
- Grocery shopping
- Meal preparation
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Coordinating schedules with other care professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists, and social workers
- Keeping track of medications and making sure they’re taken on schedule
- Light housekeeping, such as doing dishes and laundry
- Taking walks with the person along with providing other physical exercise
- Running errands
- Helping with personal care, like showering and getting dressed
- Playing games and providing other cognitive engagement
8 Things Home Care Does Not Offer
There are some services that typically are not covered by home care providers because they fall outside the scope of services legally permitted in that state. However, it’s helpful to know about them so that you can bring in other qualified professionals as needed. (Restricted activities for home care will vary by state. Be sure to research what activities are permitted in the state where the care will be provided.) Here’s what home care doesn’t usually offer:
- Medical services like wound care
- Physical therapy
- Psychological counseling
- Deep housecleaning like rug shampooing or cleaning behind large appliances
- Moving or rearranging furniture
- Certain hygiene tasks like clipping fingernails and toenails because of the potential risk for injury
- Home-maintenance tasks like cleaning gutters or doing repairs
*Name has been changed for privacy.
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