The large majority of calls an in-home care agency receives come from family members of the person in question. They want to know what do caregivers do and what can they do to help me? The role of a non-medical caregiver isn’t common knowledge. It isn’t something a lot of people think about until they realize they can’t handle the care for an aging loved one on their own. When the decision of what to do with an aging parent falls on your shoulders, you want to have the knowledge to make the best decision for them and for you.
It’s a complicated fact of life that when our parents become seniors, we are adults with responsibilities of our own. Work and other family obligations take up most of our time and energy. When a parent becomes physically or mentally ill, they often can’t take care of themselves in their home. A lot of adults try to pitch in where they can, preparing meals, running to the grocery store, doing general upkeep around the home. But, there’s only so much you can do. For most adults, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to provide care to an aging parent.
People are living longer and the aging of baby boomers means the need for in-home care will continue to grow. By 2035, the US Census Bureau predicts there will be more people over 65 than the number of residents under the age of 18. Imagine, with many living into their 80’s and 90’s, many of these seniors’ children will be seniors too!
What Do Caregivers Do That I Can’t?
Caregivers don’t provide medical care like home care nurses but they do just about everything else! Every situation and every client is unique. One person might have an eye disease that prevents them from reading or paying their bills. Another might have a joint disease like arthritis that makes it very painful to take their dog for a walk.
Sometimes patients with Alzheimer’s have a greater risk of getting injured. They might forget to turn the stove off or lose their balance and fall. Perhaps they no longer have the dexterity to bathe, change their clothes, or get up and go to the bathroom when needed.
A caregiver provides companion care, homemaker care, or personal care. Each person requires a personal care plan focused on the needs of the individual. The number of hours required and the specific services offered depend on the person’s physical and mental limitations.
Companionship is important to anyone’s well-being but companion care goes beyond keeping the client company. The in-home caregiver also provides services that improve the living environment. For example, the caregiver might:
- Plan recreational activities to keep the client engaged
- Take them on walks or guide them through moderate exercise
- Remind them when medications are due
- Schedule appointments and transport them
- Prepare grocery lists
- Read to them
- Feed and/or walk pets
- Take them to visit neighbors or meet with friends
- Organize/manage mail and bills
The caregiver might provide daily care for the needed number of hours. If you or another family member plays the role of caregiver, a caregiver service can provide respite care while you take care of personal errands or just to give you a break.
Your loved one doesn’t have to live alone to benefit from homemaker care. It isn’t unusual for one spouse to take the role of homemaker for the duration of their marriage. When that spouse is no longer able to perform these tasks, the other spouse often finds the job overwhelming. This is especially true when they have physical limitations of their own. The other spouse might also spend a great deal of time acting as the caregiver in other ways.
The in-home caregiver can reduce the burden on the client and/or the spouse struggling to fill both roles. Some homemaking tasks they provide include:
- Light housekeeping such as dusting and vacuuming
- Washing dishes and keeping the kitchen clean
- Changing and washing linens
- Grocery shopping
- Picking up prescriptions
- Running errands or transporting the client
- Healthy meal preparation
- Keeping bathrooms clean
- Taking out the trash
These services are invaluable to anyone who has spent a lifetime keeping their homes in order. Knowing they have someone to rely on to keep their home clean can actually help lift the client’s spirits. It can give you peace of mind too!
Providing personal care to an aging parent can be a daunting task. The importance seniors give to their privacy and maintaining their dignity makes it essential to receive this care in a calming environment. Often, a compassionate caregiver can provide the structured help in performing a number of personal tasks that you might feel uncomfortable with on your own. In fact, it is difficult to know exactly what your aging parent is experiencing and what extent of care you need to provide. An in-home caregiver has been carefully selected and trained to understand the needs of a wide range of clients. They know how to create an environment that puts seniors at ease and helps them live more comfortably. Some examples include:
- Assisting with bathing or showering
- Helping them get dressed
- Assisting with personal hygiene such as brushing teeth or dentures
- Helping with restroom use
- Personal care clean up
Living a Better Quality of Life
People often tell their children and their spouse they don’t want to end up in a nursing home when they get older. It’s easy to understand that they don’t want to lose their independence. That’s one reason that adults often try to take care of their loved one themselves. They feel obligated to play the role of caregiver, thinking it is the only choice for keeping their loved one at home. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the best solution for anyone involved.
Every person deserves the best quality of life possible for every day that they have. One problem with delivering on this concept is that the ideal lifestyle doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. Some people prefer small intimate settings and time spent with family members. Others are more outgoing and want to take on new challenges in spite of any physical or mental limitations. Getting what they need will help them enjoy a better quality of life.
A good quality of life means living happier but it means living healthier too! Seniors need less to worry about to reduce stress. They need to feel satisfied with their activities and their relationships and the sense of accomplishment that comes from winning a game or working a puzzle.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important things any senior can do to improve their quality of life. Healthy foods provide the nutrition they need to heal and prevent cognitive decline. Caregivers help keep seniors on the healthy diets they need by planning meals and grocery lists, grocery shopping, and preparing their meals. This service is especially important to seniors with loss of memory (dementia), mobility, or balance issues.
Many seniors experience depression due to sad life events or from medical conditions or medications. Those who live alone are also prone to depression due to loneliness or a lack of companionship.
Their inability to care for themselves can keep them from feeling useful. A trained caregiver knows how to interact with seniors. Whether it’s just asking for recipe secrets, going along on errands, or simple chores like folding laundry, the caregiver understands the special needs of seniors.
What Do Caregivers Do to Keep Seniors Physically Active?
Regular physical activity is good for the body and mind. But what if your loved one isn’t able to do jumping jacks or ride a bike?
Even mild exercise helps improve blood flow, keeping the mind sharp and making them feel more energetic. Exercise helps relieve tension and anxiety and it is the best natural treatment for depression.
Low impact exercise also makes a difference in the senior’s physical health. It can lower blood pressure, boost heart health, increase stamina, and boost their immune system. The caregiver doesn’t provide medical care but they know the limitations of each client. They can guide them through low-impact exercise that is safe and effective for them. Following a schedule can give them something to look forward to each day. Mild exercise can go a long way towards improving physical and mental well-being.
What Do Caregivers Do for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients?
Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are not exceptions to this rule. So much of what these diseases do to the mind and body are combated by regular exercise. People with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are often able to stay alone during the initial stages of the disease. Since dementia is progressive, it is important to monitor symptoms and recognize when it is no longer safe to leave them alone.
Dementia affects people differently. Some patients get depressed and begin to avoid even their closest friends and family members. Others become aggressive and act out towards others. The main thing to remember is that any form of dementia starts and ends with memory loss. You must make decisions along the way about whether it is safe to cook, to drive, or just to stay at home unsupervised.
A caregiver provides the non-medical care that dementia patients need on your schedule. You might need a caregiver while you are at work during the day. If your loved one lives far away, you might require round-the-clock care.
For spouses of dementia patients, the degree and duration of care might change as the disease progresses. Medications are available to help slow memory loss. In the beginning, you might need a caregiver to provide respite care or to pick up prescriptions. As the symptoms advance, you may require more extensive services, such as help going to the restroom, bathing, and provide mentally challenging activities to keep them mentally sharp.
Choosing the Right Caregiver
Choosing the right caregiver is important to ensure you get excellent care and find the type of services that work for you and your loved one. Start by listing your needs and the potential changes that might occur in the near future. Look at the caregiver services offered in your area.
The best route is usually a service that specializes in in-home care. Their caregivers should be licensed and bonded to ensure you get the highest quality care for your loved one. Avoid hiring individuals advertising their services without the credentials to prove their training and trustworthiness.
Flexibility is a very important feature for your new caregiver. You want a company that works with you to assess and meet your specific needs. Your situation and your needs are unique from those of any other client. Your care plan should be customized to meet your needs. If a company only offers cookie-cutter solutions, they aren’t the right choice for your needs.
Go online and look for testimonials from the company’s previous clients. You can often gain insight from reviews about issues you didn’t even realize were important to you! Don’t be afraid to take your time looking for a caregiver you know will take some of the burden off your shoulders.
Schedule an Evaluation
You can gain a lot of knowledge about an in-home service from a provider’s website and review sites online. Once you find a company that seems to meet your criteria, make an appointment for an evaluation. A face-to-face meeting will give you the chance to ask any additional questions such as “What do caregivers do if they have a sick child at home and can’t make it to my loved one’s house?” You might also want to know how they work with patients receiving in-home medical care or what your payment options are when paying for care.
A meeting in-person also gives you the chance to learn more about the person running the company and what matters most to them. They need to genuinely care about their clients and helping them get the best outcome.
Contact San Diego Compassionate Caregivers to schedule a complimentary in-home assessment for your needs. We are a licensed, bonded in-home caregiver service that is passionate about providing seniors with the highest quality of care. Let us show you how our services and personalized care plans can help you and your loved one.