Aging at Home, Some Considerations
Aging at Home, Some ConsiderationsT
here was a time in our country when many families worked small farms, living fairly independently of the local economies by raising their own food, making their clothes and household items. Those days may be long gone for most of us but the independent streak those post-World War II “Boomers” have shown most of their lives is still strong, especially here in North Idaho. And that goes for staying at home as they age into their 60s, 70s and beyond, regardless of any medical conditions and increasing frailty that’s developed over time.
Last year, The Demand Institute, a think tank based in Washington D.C., reported they don’t expect this generation to “stick to the script” when it comes to retirement or housing decisions. Canvassing 4,000 boomers, ages 50-69, the survey found very few of them had any intentions of downsizing or moving to warmer climates away from family or friends. Not surprisingly, they value strong family relationships and want to be near their kids and grandkids.
This next decade will see many of these individuals doing everything they can to age in place, even as their health and physical abilities decline. And because they carry much more mortgage debt than earlier generations at this life stage, paying for major modifications to the home to make it easier to get around may not be doable. Climbing stairs to second story bedrooms becomes out of the question and getting a walker through an older bathroom doorway can become a real chore or even create a situation where the senior may fall.
As this happens, their adult children will begin looking for ways to help by taking on caregiving roles in one way or another. These adult children often have full schedules working or raising their own children.
Being available for their parents adds an extra level of stress that eventually takes its toll on the caregiver’s own health and financial assets. As this situation evolves, the healthier parent or the adult child often begins to look for help, considering hiring an outside caregiver to assist Mom or Dad.
Deciding to take on outside help can be a daunting task. Bringing someone new into your home creates a stress of its own, at least until the caregiver becomes well known to the family and a trusted agent. Hiring an unknown individual is not without risk and obligation. The family or parent becomes the employer of that caregiver, required to pay the taxes on the caregiver’s wages, along with that leap of faith that the caregiver is a trustworthy and competent individual. Without a background check on the potential employee or checking references, most families can only hope for the best when hiring a caregiver privately. It may not be the cheapest alternative, given the tax obligations, potential insurance issues and the complications if theft or abuse of the parent occurs at the hands of that individual.
There is another choice to consider—a home care company. Full FBI background and reference checks on new employees are done before hiring. If anything nationwide reveals a felony or misdemeanor, the individual is not hired. Another benefit is the training provided to their new hires, regardless of that person’s work experience. It’s helpful to have a certified nursing assistant (CNA) background but not essential to providing excellent in-home care services to clients. Nothing beats years of actual experience in the home caring for clients, along with a good training program provided by the home care company.
Another item to ask about is the kind of medical background the company management has. This is important because virtually all in-home care clients have medical conditions or diagnoses that could influence the care they receive at home. A company with medically trained management often provides the best oversight both in their training programs and the actual hands-on care the client receives at home.
Once you’re confident the caregiver will come well prepared, the work of matching caregiver skills and personality to the needs and particular personality of the client comes into play. One of the most important things I’ve discovered over the passed 14 years of offering in-home care services to North Idaho residents is that if we don’t get the personality match right, the rest of the items I just mentioned won’t be quite as important to the client. Enjoying one another’s company is one of the most critical aspects of in-home care and any company you’re considering should work hard to ensure this match is successful.
There are many good options to choose from when considering how best to provide assistance for Mom or Dad, or yourself. Everything from certified family homes, to nursing homes or assisted living facilities, to in-home care is available in our area. A good source of objective advice, where to look and what resources are available across all of North Idaho, is the Area Agency on Aging — 800-786-5536.
Getting a second opinion and as much information as possible before making an important decision can save the family and the loved one much stress and avoid possible problems down the road.