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Non-Medical Help at Home for Seniors

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Anne Osmer Reporting

The goal of many aging seniors is to continue living at home for as long as possible.  Non-medical home care can help seniors and their families accomplish that goal by providing basic support in the home.

Non-medical home care differs from home health care in that, as the name suggests, it is not medically oriented.  Some of the services home care encompasses are:

  • Companionship
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Running short errands
  • Light housekeeping
  • Help with bathing, grooming and toileting
  • Assistance with bill paying and
  • Medication reminders.

Bob Domino, owner of Comforting Hands Companion Care in Madison Heights, Mich., started his home care business after helping care for his elderly mother-in-law and then mother.  His family felt torn about how to best care for the women and did not always know where to turn, especially when the situation required making quick decisions. 

Housing issues were especially difficult.  Domino said because of his experience he is sensitive to peoples’ desire to remain at home.  “Our object is to keep the seniors in their homes as long as possible,” he said.  “That’s where they’re most comfortable.”

Ellen Smith, client care coordinator of Home Instead Senior Care in Livonia, Mich., said that as the cost of assisted living, nursing homes and other out-of-home options continues to rise, people are choosing to stay at home.  “Home care is a more affordable solution,” she said.  “Plus, it keeps them in their homes.”

Smith said that some home care agencies, including Home Instead, can also supplement the care a client receives while living at an out-of-home facility such as a nursing home or during a hospital stay.  The professional caregiver can provide additional care for the client, such as companionship or memory care for Alzheimer’s patients.

Home care costs range from $15-$23 an hour, depending on the care provided; round-the-clock care usually costs less per hour.  Medicare will not cover the cost of home care unless it is provided in conjunction with home health care and in specific cases.  Most home care agencies do accept long-term care insurance.

When looking for a home care agency, ask the following questions:

  • Does the agency provide the kind of care you’re seeking?  Be specific with your needs.
  • Availability: Are the caregivers available to come when you need them?  Are they dependable?  If the regular caregiver is unexpectedly unavailable, is the agency prepared to send someone else?
  • Are the caregivers bonded and insured?  Does the agency carry workman’s compensation insurance on its employees?
  • What sort of background checks does the agency conduct on potential employees?  How far-reaching are the checks – do they include out-of-state positions the potential employee may have held?
  • If the caregiver will be driving during care, does the agency conduct a driving background check?

Smith warns against simply going with the least expensive agency, and urges anyone choosing a home care provider to make sure to look at your needs and all aspects of the provider.  One agency may cost slightly more than another but may be a better fit with your family’s situation.

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