Getting professional, in-home help for an aging loved one is one of the most important things you can do to make sure that your family member remains safe, healthy, secure, and independent.
The vast majority of seniors prefer to age in place, in the comfort of their own home. Hiring a non-medical home companion is a great way to honor your loved one’s wishes, while giving them the support and attention they need to live a fulfilling and empowered life.
So, once your family has made the decision to bring in a professional caregiver, what comes next? What can you do to help your aging loved one prepare for their time with their new full- or part-time companion?
Here are five important steps for you and your senior to get ready for in-home care:
1.) Have Important Care Discussions With Your Senior Loved One
One of the most important things you can do to get your loved one ready for care is to talk with them – openly, honestly, and transparently.
Making the transition to in-home care will be much easier if your aging family member feels included in the process. Be sure to have open discussions and be responsive to your loved one’s wants and needs. Talk about what areas of daily life that they could use help with, and be ready to discuss any concerns you may have that a home care provider can help address, from driving to housekeeping.
Be sure to emphasize the positive. It may help to frame these conversations around hiring help for your loved one, rather than hiring care. Emphasize that this is about helping your family member maintain their independence and stay healthy; you’re trying to make life better, not take anything away.
In many cases, it may even help to get your loved one involved in the process of hiring and interviewing companions and home care agencies. They are the person who will spend the most time with the caregiver. It’s important to find someone that your loved one can trust and feel comfortable with. However, remember that every family’s preferences are going to vary, and every situation will be unique. Be prepared to meet some resistance and stubbornness.
2.) Get Everyone on the Same Page
When it comes to providing care for your loved one, it really can take a village. There are many moving pieces and different parties involved in caring for an aging person, and it’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times.
Before starting in-home care, it may be a good idea to take your elderly loved one in for consultations with their doctors, including specialists. A new caregiver coming aboard is a great chance to reevaluate and, perhaps, update your loved one’s care plan. For example, a doctor may decide that your loved one could benefit from new medications, or different dosages of their current prescriptions.
Meanwhile, don’t forget about your aging loved one’s network of friends and family. Everyone who is directly involved in helping your family member needs to be aware of the plan to bring on a caregiver. It’s important to get everyone onboard with new schedules, expectations, and treatment methods.
At the same time that this network comes together to coordinate its new responsibilities, it’s also important to figure out the best way to communicate. That may mean setting up a phone tree, creating a group text or email chain, or setting up a shared digital folder or spreadsheets. Find what works for the people around you. Be sure to determine who will be the main point of contact, and find a way to quickly spread messages to the entire care team, when it’s necessary.
3.) Collect Important Supplies, Paperwork, and Information
Before starting with a professional in-home caregiver, be sure to have everything that you, your relative, and your new caregiver might need on hand and ready to go.
Take a survey of your loved one’s home. Are food, supplies, and medications all accessible and readily available? Will you be able to quickly get the caregiver acquainted with everything they may need to provide for your loved one?
Similarly, check to make sure that you have a contact list – including healthcare providers, family members, and so on – ready to go. Will you need to make a copy of the house keys for the caregiver? Or clear a spot for them to park in the driveway?
It’s also going to be important to gather the information you may need, in order to make decisions or payments on behalf of your senior. That includes their estate planning documents, power of attorney information, healthcare directives, and maybe even bills or bank statements, if you are involved in their finances.
And, speaking of finances, an important step to take before starting with home care is figuring out payments and handling money. In addition to settling the way you’ll pay for your loved one’s care, it may also be important to come up with a strategy for spending money day-to-day. For example, if your caregiver is taking your loved one to shop for groceries, who will pay, and how? Do you need to see receipts or track payments on a card? Take some time to discuss your expectations and ideas with your new caregiver.
4.) Prepare the Home
Is your loved one’s home ready for a full- or part-time caregiver? It may be tempting to clean top to bottom, but don’t worry – your caregiver isn’t going to be focused on walking into a spotless home. Instead, focus on safety and accessibility for your loved one.
Is the house easy to navigate and accessible for your senior loved one? Is the space free of obstructions, obstacles, and hazards? Take some time to go through your loved one’s living environment and make sure that it’s safe. Starting with home care may be a great opportunity to consider making some updates or changes that could help your loved one get around more easily, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom, adding a chair lift to the stairs, putting in a wheelchair ramp outside, and so on.
For your caregiver? Make sure that the home is set up so that they can access what they need to – including important documents, the phone, cooking equipment, your loved one’s medications, etc. Feel free to mark certain rooms as off-limits. You should also create a space for the caregiver to store their belongings, particularly if they’ll be staying overnight. Finally, be ready to show your caregiver around the important areas of the home, including the senior’s bedroom, the laundry room, and the kitchen.
5.) Work Through the “First Day” Jitters
The first day of welcoming a new caregiver into your home can feel a little bit like the first day at a new school. There will be a few questions and last minute details to hammer out, and it’s only natural for you and your loved one to be a little bit anxious. The good news? The right caregiver is going to make getting started as easy as possible.
Be ready to field a few basic, preliminary questions from the new companion, and be ready to give a tour of the house and make sure that the companion knows where everything is located. Consider going over the caregiver’s responsibilities together, particularly if there is an expectation of how or when something should be done – for instance, you could walk them through doing a load of laundry the way your loved one likes it.
In many ways, it may help if you or another family member is present, so that your loved one isn’t left all on their own to meet a relative stranger for the first time. Think of what you can do to make this transition easier on your loved one. For instance, you may need to be the one who helps start up conversations between caregiver and senior, especially if your family member is shy. Try to find commonalities – a shared history, similar hobbies, a favorite sports team or TV show. These are all great starting points for a long and meaningful connection.
In general, you may be there on the first day to supervise if you wish, but you should also be ready to give your loved one and companion some space – don’t “helicopter” over the situation. Don’t forget: hiring a professional caregiver is also about giving you back free time, energy, and peace of mind, too!
Getting Started with Companions for Seniors
Looking for help implementing a care plan for your aging loved ones? Have any more questions about the ins and outs of home care, and how it might work for your family? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line to keep the conversation going. Here at Companions for Seniors, providing exceptional care for the elderly is our passion, and we’re always happy to help guide you in the right direction.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help aging adults live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home, by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
We are locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs. All of our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can assist your loved one in many different ways. From one hour to 24 hours a day, we can be there for your loved one. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s situation changes, so does our plan of care.