We asked Angella Morris, Franchisee/Owner of Assisting Hands Home Care, 150 First Street, Batavia to share some insights on the practical and emotional elements of caregiving for elders and others in need of home health care. She shares how she experienced her own home health care need that led her to direct the agency she now runs in Batavia. Angella is pictured here with her assistant Francis Janusz (seated).
A few years ago, my dad became suddenly ill and after many months in the hospital and rehab he was released home. My family, like many others, was faced with the dilemma of what to do as we all had to return to work and our livse outside of the hospital where caregivers were a call button away. Like us, so many families are not sure where to turn, what options are available or even if they know the options, how to know the right one for their family or situation. The journey begins with getting answers to some basis questions.
1. What are the categories of caregiving and how does that help people find resources?
There are non-professional caregivers such as a family member, family friend, or neighbor who generally does not get “paid” to provide the care. In some cases, they may receive room and board from the person they are caring for, but they usually do not get paid in the traditional sense. The obvious benefits of this type of caregiving arrangement is that it is most cost effective, and, in most cases, the person being cared for knows the person providing the care and has already established trust with this person.
The caregiver in this situation may not have much if any clinical experience or training.
If the care is for an extended period and if the caregiver is not cautious about taking time for themselves, they may find that they get burned out and in cases where the caregiver is the spouse or another elderly person their health may deteriorate faster than the person they are caring for. It is particularly important for family, friends and other “non-professional” caregivers to take time for themselves even if that means hiring an agency for a few days or hours a week so that they can get some relief. Some caregivers get physically and emotionally burned out without even realizing that it’s happening.
Some families may hire a professional but independent caregiver. This is a person who is an independent contractor. The potential drawback is that you, the family member, essentially becomes the employer.
Then there is the option to hire an agency. In most cases, the Caregivers are employed by the agency, they should be insured and bonded, background checked, have required continuing education training, a process for supervision and oversight should be in place.
Determining which of these options is best for your family or situation beginning with other considerations such as where you want to live, how much you can afford, how much care you need, and so on.
2. What are some of the common questions or challenges people experience when seeking caregiving?
Most people have two major concerns and one has to do with the cost of in-home care and the other has to do with all the questions they have around making sure that their loved one is well taken care of.
As for the cost, in home care is not covered by Medicare so in most cases it is private pay, but there are other options such Long Term Care Insurance for those who have it or for those who qualify the Veterans Administration will provide some benefits to cover some hours of care. There are also programs to convert existing life insurance policies into a benefit account that will also cover in-home care and well as reverse mortgages, etc. Some families combine resources to pay for help. There are options available and some may not be obvious so seek the advice of financial and legal professionals who may be able to help you.
As for making sure your loved one is getting the best care. It is always a good idea to interview at least a few agencies and/or get recommendations from people you trust who have experience with caregivers. Part of our job as a caregiver agency is to educate you so feel free to ask any and all questions from agencies that you are considering. Most hospitals and rehab facilities will have a list of recommended agencies, but you can always choose your own, you are never bound by the in-house option nor are you limited to “the list”. Keep in mind that in the state of IL, beginning in January, healthcare facilities and providers in IL that receive funds from the State, are required to refer only licensed Home Health and Home Services agencies. When you contact an agency, who is referred to you it is a good idea to confirm that they are licensed by the state of IL.
Ask about background checks and specifically if the background check is IL only or National. National is more comprehensive. Ask about training and the matching process. Remember you can always request a change in caregiver if the first one is not a good fit.
3. What legal or financial issues occur when beginning care for someone else?
I would highly recommend seeking the services of an Elder law or similar attorney and/or financial advisor to assist with all the complexities of caring for another person particularly if that person is diagnosed with Dementia or other disease that may impact their ability to make decisions on their own either now or in the future. Navigating the legal, financial and ethical world of elder care is complicated enough for the average person much less someone with diminished capacity and an attorney and/or financial advisor should be able to provide you with the best options for your given situation.
4. Are there short-term care solutions if people just need help for just a day or two?
Most, if not all, agencies can offer respite care which are intermittent, usually short-term care which provides the “regular” caregiver with some relief. This could be just a few hours to a live-in for 1 week while the family flies out of town. Some communities do allow respite, but some require a minimum stay.
- What qualifications do caregivers need to work in the field?
A caring heart is the number one qualification. Just like most nurses and doctors go into their profession to help others, many caregivers are drawn to becoming caregivers for that reason. Many have had personal experience with family members or others close to them who become their inspiration. The caregivers I interview and hire just have a kind soul and spirit for taking care of others. It is helpful but not required that you be a Certified Nurse’s Assistant. Many of our caregivers are currently in nursing school while others have many years of experience caring for others and feel that it is a calling.