Independence is as much about the caregiver as it is the older adult or special needs individual who receives the care.
The principal goal of a Geriatric Care Manager is to optimize independence for seniors or others with special needs as safely as possible, for as long as possible and with the maximum quality of life for the whole family. In an earlier blog on making home a secure and safe place, I briefly discussed some ways to make home safer. And there is a host of other services available to help keep the house in order, food on the table and mom or dad living well. You can look to both light and heavy housekeeping, sidewalk and grounds services or meals delivered. If more personal care is needed, home health or companion care are available.
Yet there is another important need to consider – your own needs as a caregiver. Being a caregiver to an older adult or someone with special needs can be a significant drain physically, financially and emotionally. Keep in mind what you need to relieve these stressors on you as a caregiver as well as take care of mom’s or dad’s needs.
In my experience, I find it is important to make a connection with someone with whom you can talk about the work and stress of caregiving. Then, you need to find help to relieve some of the work duties. The “right” independent or private workers can be hard to find, because you want to make sure they aren’t a scam or that they are indeed certified and bonded.
You want to know that your loved one will actually feel secure and comfortable with the caregiver. In my experience over the past twenty-plus years, agencies offer a number of inherent advantages over freelance individuals. Home-care agencies – versus the independent individual you may find on your own – have the responsibility of bonding the aide, paying the aide’s wages and taxes as well as insurance if they become hurt on the job. They also know what kinds of people are well-suited to this kind of work, so that you have an optimal chance of getting someone who is capable and has staying power. The agency also then is the manager, so you simply have to be attentive to your older parent without the added burden of being a manager as well.
As you look to the agency you should ask a lot of questions, not the least, “Will this added help allow you the time to care of yourself, physically, emotionally?” Additionally, do your own research at your local library, which contains a lot of resources for free. One of the best elder resources in northern Illinois is the Senior Citizens Guide to Chicago, for instance, and other similar publications that you may get from your city hall or even drug stores or grocery stores. In the end, just getting a sense of what is available will help you in identifying what your older/special needs loved one may need … AND what you need.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.