Hiring a caregiver to care for your loved one is a big decision. Every person involved has to be a part of the process of deciding when is the right time to hire professional help. There’s a lot to consider including where to look, how your loved one will respond, and how much help you really need.
What Is a Caregiver?
“Caregiver” is the general term given to an unpaid person who provides care to a friend or loved one. There are no special qualifications required to do this job but it is a demanding one. As their loved one’s condition continues to decline, the caregiver’s responsibilities increase. There often comes a point where the person is no longer able to provide the level of care needed to keep their loved one safe, healthy, and happy.
A professional caregiver is someone you hire to provide assistance. They are trained to provide a range of services that make life easier on the client and their loved ones. The caregiver doesn’t provide medical services; there are other professionals for that. Instead, they do things like helping with grooming, taking care of household chores, or running errands. Depending on the individual needs of the client, the caregiver might provide respite care several hours each week or they may provide around the clock care.
Hiring a caregiver is usually the decision of a person’s spouse or their adult child. Caring for a spouse is often too difficult for someone who is also a senior. The demands on their time and energy can have a greater impact on their well-being than the illness has on the one initially requiring care.
Adult children also find caring for a senior parent challenging. Most have to work and take care of their families. Sometimes they live far away. Even those who are available to take on the role of caregiver initially reach the point where they can no longer do enough. How much is too much for someone all comes down to the situation and the needs of both the loved one and the caregiver.
Is Hiring a Caregiver the Right Choice for You?
Answering some questions about your current situation will help you decide if it’s time to hire a professional caregiver.
Does your loved one want to live at home?
Caregivers provide in-home support for seniors who want to stay in their home. An AARP study showed that about 90% of seniors wanted to live in their homes near their family and friends. It’s the place where they feel in control. They still feel a sense of freedom and are able to do what they want on their own schedule.
Some seniors said they didn’t prefer to be at home if it would put a burden on their family. Although they would rather be in their own home, they are afraid of being alone, fearing they might fall or get ill. A caregiver might provide the security they need to feel safe and retain their independence at home.
Does your loved one suffer from impaired mobility?
All of us have a decrease in mobility as we age; some much more than others. Some might need the support of a cane or walker when walking short or long distances. Others might be unable to walk at all. Those in the latter group, or seniors with other health conditions, require 24/7 care. A senior who lives in a single floor home and has little trouble getting around can probably do most things for themselves. Those that must climb stairs or who have difficulty getting in and out of the shower or bathtub are at a greater risk.
The issue of falls is a serious one with seniors. Seniors are more likely to fall than other adults. There is also a greater risk of ending up with broken bones, infections, and other complications when they do fall. If your loved one requires help with the simplest things, they probably need frequent assistance. You need to decide if that’s more time than you have to give yourself.
Does your loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Alzheimer’s is one form of dementia and it is the most common kind. The disease consists of three general stages, with each becoming progressively more severe. Every person with Alzheimer’s or dementia experiences the stages differently. They don’t all have the same symptoms or have them to the same degree. All Alzheimer’s and dementia patients experience increasing memory loss. It is the rate of progression that differs from one person to the next.
During the early stage of disease, the person will experience random memory lapses. They may still go about their normal routines including going to work, driving, and socializing. The middle stage of Alzheimer’s is usually the longest. Once they advance to this stage, they require a greater level of care. Those closest to them begin to see differences in their personality. They may stop bathing, doing their laundry, and become withdrawn. It is usually during this stage that people begin to think about hiring a caregiver. Although their loved one may be able to stay in the home, they aren’t capable of taking care of themselves. Their safety and well-being are at risk.
The late stage of Alzheimer’s is the most severe. The person stops responding to the people around them. They may experience personality changes and require extensive help in performing daily activities. The person requires round-the-clock assistance.
It is impossible to know how quickly your loved one will advance through any of the stages. Hiring a caregiver during the early stages can help them enjoy years in their home before they need to transition to an assisted-living home.
Does your loved one require a greater level of care than you are physically and/or emotionally prepared to provide?
Caregiving is hard. Even when you aren’t taking care of your loved one all day and night, you have to pack a lot into the time you have. It’s often a juggling game, trying to take care of every aspect of their life and still managing yours.
Once they require a higher level of care, your time is no longer your own. Between doing laundry, shopping for groceries, preparing meals, bathing, and dressing your loved one, you don’t have any time for breaks.
Sometimes hiring a caregiver to provide respite care is enough to help you manage. It gives you a chance to do things that are important to you. Caregiver support groups have become popular to help caregivers cope with the stress the job entails.
If your loved one has dementia, it becomes even more difficult. It isn’t just the need to help with tasks around the house. They may have behavior problems. Some dementia patients ‘wander’ and have to be watched or monitored all the time. Your loved one might not understand why they shouldn’t cook their own meals or drive a car. As their mental and physical capabilities diminish, you see the person you knew disappear. If it’s your mother or father, you may have to deal with them yelling at you, calling you names out of anger, or not recognizing who you are. Sometimes the caregiver gets seriously ill due to the stress. Many times, they die before the loved one they are caring for dies.
Never let guilt be the driving force behind your decision to be a caregiver. If you were in their place, what would you want for your child? Hiring a professional caregiver isn’t taking the easy way out. It’s making the decision that is best for your loved one. An experienced caregiver knows what to expect. They have the training to give their clients the best possible care to keep them safe and happy.
Can you afford it?
Many people hesitate at hiring in-home help because of the cost. It’s true, a professional caregiver can be expensive. This is especially true when you need them full-time. But paying for a caregiver by the hour might be more affordable than you think. If it means the difference in your being able to keep working at your job, it might be the more financially sound option by far.
Some types of long-term insurance pay part of the cost. You may also be able to deduct the cost of in-home care from your taxes if it is considered medically necessary. Some states have programs that help pay under certain circumstances. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to other family members to help foot the cost. It can be difficult to get everyone on the same page about a loved one’s care. But there may be some members of the family willing to pitch in and do their part.
Do you have the right to make the decision about your loved one’s care?
You should be able to rely on the rest of your family members for support. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always end up that way. Even in large families, there usually ends up being one child who takes care of their aging parents alone. The best they can hope for is that the rest will be supportive.
Don’t be surprised if your family contradicts every decision you make. They may have differing opinions about what type of care is best. The best way to prevent family squabbles from adding to the stress is to discuss the possibility of hiring a caregiver before one is needed. If your aging parent trusts you to make decisions on their behalf, consider getting a power of attorney. This gives you the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of your loved one when they are no longer able to reasonably do so.
It’s also a good idea to talk with them about their wishes in case they should become disabled or ill. People often say they don’t want to end up in a nursing home when they get older. They prefer to stay at home, even if it means not getting the care they need. Hiring a caregiver is a reasonable solution that lets them have the best of both worlds.
Finding the Right Caregiver
Once you’ve decided hiring a caregiver is the right choice, where do you start? Begin by sitting down and creating a list of services that you need. You need an idea of the schedule your caregiver will need to keep. Include everything from medication reminders to walking the dog. Caregivers provide a broad range of services that include companion care, taking care of household chores, and personal care. Make a list of what you need before you ever start your search.
Safety is always an important issue. You want someone you can trust to care for your loved one and do what is expected of them. Never rely on classified ads and bulletin boards to find a caregiver. You want the option to check the credentials of the person you invite into your loved one’s home.
Working with an agency allows you to choose a caregiver who has been screened and trained to provide safe, compassionate care. Make sure that they provide extensive background checks on all of their caregivers. They should also be insured and bonded. You want to know you can trust them.
Ask the agency what types of schedules they offer. You need some flexibility to fit in with your schedule or to adapt as your loved one requires a higher level of care. Find out if they will offer a custom care plan for you or if their services are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. You and your loved one will get the greatest benefit from a care plan that meets both of your needs.
The right caregiver will not only care for your loved one, they will be a friend and companion to them. Ideally, they will be compatible and share similar interests. This will help them build a bond that both can enjoy.
San Diego Compassionate Caregivers goes the extra mile to provide caregivers that are a perfect match to the client. We maintain contact after they are placed in the home to ensure your loved one gets the best possible care. If you are thinking about hiring a caregiver, contact us today. We will work with you to develop an affordable and customized care plan for your loved one.