Enlisting the help of a home health caregiver can be a life-changing event for many seniors allowing individuals to continue to live on their own terms, in their own home and comfortable in the knowledge that a helping hand is always near.
While the mere presence of a caregiver in the home can provide peace of mind and security, those who thoroughly prepare for a new home caregiver and clearly communicate their needs and expectations almost universally report more positive outcomes than those who arrange their home care passively.
In this article, we will discuss what you can do before a home caregiver ever visits your home to ensure the best possible outcome for you or a loved one.
Choosing Home Care
The first step to successful home care preparation is a matter of managing outlooks and expectations. Many first-time home care recipients worry that bringing assistance into their home will cost a significant amount of independence and privacy, and starting a home health care relationship with this outlook can severely limit the effectiveness of home care.
During these first steps of the home health care process, it is critical that prospective patients understand that they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their care, and that home health caregivers are not coming to upend their routines, but rather to provide support and assistance so the patient can continue to live their life with confidence.
If a loved one expressly states they do not want to bring assistance into their home, it is always best to honor their wishes. Rather than forcing the issue, consider spending a day with your loved one as they go about their normal routine, and later present ways a home caregiver could make things easier.
Home health aides and similarly-licensed caregivers are generally responsible for providing assistance with tasks called “activities of daily living,” which cover things like meal preparation, eating, dressing, personal hygiene tasks and household chores. With that in mind, it is critical to outline what tasks a prospective patient needs assistance with BEFORE any home health care arrangements are finalized.
The best way to ensure the patient’s goals are met is to develop a “home care wish list” which includes any and all tasks the patient struggles to accomplish on their own, has let fall by the wayside, or requires excessive time and energy when performed unassisted.
In addition to practical household needs, the patient should spend an equal amount of time considering their social and emotional needs and develop an idea of the type of person they would enjoy spending time with the most. For example, a homebound individual may seek a home caregiver who is eager to chat about the day’s events, while a patient with a lively social circle might prioritize a caregiver’s technical skills over social engagement.
By presenting the home care agency with a patient’s personal definition of a successful home care relationship, you make it that much easier for the agency to identify your perfect caregiver on the first try.
Find a responsive agency
Home health care agencies differ greatly in staff size, patient load and supervisor-to-caregiver ratios, meaning your experience as a patient can vary significantly depending on what agency you choose.
Because you are putting so much trust your chosen agency, it is critical that you feel confident the supervising staff responds to your concerns will respond to your concerns quickly and professionally. Beyond basic due diligence like reading online reviews, don’t be shy about asking the agency tough questions directly, especially around after-hours emergency responses, back-up options if an aide calls out sick, and whether the patient will have a single caregiver coordinator or expect to work with a team of administrators.
Finally, don’t be afraid to request an in-person visit at the agency’s office, talk to members of the staff or even request an interview with members of the caregiver staff.
If the agency is hesitant to share information or is slow to respond to your requests at the outset of your relationship, you may be best served finding an alternate provider. Trust your gut!
Plan for the future
As we age, our medical needs can change significantly from year to year, so finding an agency that can provide progressively more complex assistance will make transitioning from basic daily living assistance to more involved nursing care significantly easier for many patients. As a result, it is important that prospective patients ask their medical team how their needs and physical abilities might change in the coming years, and seek an agency that can readily meet these changing needs with a staff of caregivers ranging from home health aides to licensed nurse practitioners and registered nurses.
As a patient’s needs expand, additional hours of caregiver service may become necessary over time, so it is key to understand the agency’s fee structure and how your insurance provider will assist in covering the costs of care. By having a realistic outlook of your health and financial future, patients can avoid tough surprises as their needs change.
Sketch out an ideal day
The first step to meeting a client’s expectations in understanding what those expectations actually are. When sketching out your needs before calling an agency, try to envision what an ideal day looks like for the patient. Do they want to spend time outside in the community? What kind of meals would bring them the most joy? Are there civic or social activities the patient wants to continue to pursue?
By outlining a patient’s ideal day and sharing this information with a home care agency, the agency can not only better calibrate the patient’s care to their needs, but might also identify additional services or community organizations that can go the extra mile for patients and ensure they continue to lead a fulfilling life.
Follow up and communication
Patient-agency communication is an ongoing process and home care recipients and their loved ones should never feel discouraged from reaching out to their agency with feedback.
Many agencies and home care recipients alike seek to develop a basic daily routine and can grow wary of changing long standing patterns, however, constant reevaluation of a patient’s needs and the services provided are critical elements of ensuring a healthy, productive home care relationship.
Never be shy about asking questions. If your loved one is receiving in-home care, don’t just ask broad questions about how the day went – try to ask specific questions about your loved one’s quality of care like whether they like the caregiver’s cooking, if they get along socially and if there is anything they feel is missing from their lives.
Remember, home care is not a one-size-fits all solution, but rather an ongoing partnership between patient, caregiver, administrators and family!