Caring for an aging loved one can be challenging in many ways. As you balance the needs of a senior whose health is declining, your own work and home life can become difficult to maintain. With juggling your obligations, there may come a time when you consider hiring assistance for caregiving. How do you know when the time is right? Here are some important considerations.
Balancing life. As seniors age, physical and mental decline often means mounting needs and responsibilities for caregivers. Assisting loved ones with their basic living needs can mean feeling you are “on duty” day and night, leaving you with little time or energy for your other commitments. Often caregivers neglect their own needs in order to accommodate the concerns of caregiving. Additionally, the Family Caregiver Alliance points out that as mobility wanes, certain forms of assistance can become a physical strain for caregivers. For instance, you may find you are lifting your loved one from a bed to a chair or wheelchair, or on and off a commode. Oftentimes, informal caregivers can suffer back injuries or muscle strains as a result of the work.
Assessing needs. Deciding if and when your senior needs in-home assistance is a challenge. It is not selfish for you to be relieved of some of the caregiving burden, and sometimes hired assistants are better trained for tasks.
In order to make your decision, assess the needs of your loved one. You will need to look at:
- Household needs, including cleaning, food preparation and cooking, laundry, shopping, and other errands.
- Personal needs, including bathing and grooming, dressing, eating, general hygiene, and using the toilet.
- Emotional needs, including general companionship, conversation, and social interaction.
- Health-related needs, including administering and managing medications, physical therapy, and medical appointments.
The mobility factor. Research reflects that reduced mobility is an integral factor in each of the areas you assess in your loved one’s situation. The ability to perform well in all four of those areas (household, personal, emotional, and health needs) hinges on mobility. For seniors with minor accessibility issues, careful monitoring may be all that is required. For those with more advanced decline, it may be time to hire help in the home.
Mobility is a key factor in your loved one’s ability to remain home and in your ability to provide effective assistance. As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “conditions such as chronic diseases and limited vision may limit mobility and create special needs. For example, an older adult who is no longer able to drive but lives in an area with buses, transit, and other transportation options has the ability to stay mobile well beyond the capacity of many in suburban communities.”
Choosing assistance. The National Institute on Aging notes that assistance can come in many forms. Trained aides can assist with basic hygiene, errands, and household needs. Meal-delivery programs can provide nutritious food on a routine basis. Geriatric care managers, volunteers, and financial counselors can assist with money-management issues. Paid remote services involving sensors can help with medicine reminders and other in-home help, or trained health care assistants can step in.
What kind of help? Experts at PBS explain that “two types of care in the home are available: home health care services and in-home care services. If your family member requires regular assistance with health care needs, home health organizations and skilled nursing agencies may be the best choice for you. They can provide a range of medical services, such as medication assistance, nursing services, physical therapy and medical social services to coordinate care among health care providers.”
Another helpful option to consider are mobile doctors. Organizations such as Cholla Medical Group, Inc. provide regular doctor’s visits, lab work, and prescriptions, and coordinate with other doctors and specialists to create a personalized care plan, all in the comfort of your senior loved one’s home. This is also a good option to consider if and when your loved one makes the transition into assisted living or a group home. It is important to note that mobile doctors differ from home health in that they provide different services. Home health often refers to services such as physical therapy, medical social services, and nursing care that are provided at home in addition to regular doctor’s appointments.
Evaluation and balance. With careful assessment of both your own needs and your senior’s declining ability, you can decide if and when you need to hire in-home care. By hiring assistance, you can provide help when you aren’t there, give yourself a respite, and also provide assistance you aren’t qualified to give, such as with certain medical needs. Hiring assistance in order to balance those responsibilities and remain effective in your many roles can mean all the difference for both you and your loved one.