In order to honor our elder’s wishes to age in place, it’s important to make sure they have the proper support. That may include hiring in-home care aides to perform housekeeping and some basic medical tasks. This is especially true for those of us who are long-distance caregivers.
Finding a good fit can be a challenge. Some elders may resent the idea that they need help and sabotage any hopes of securing care services. Those with dementia may become more confused or combative with a stranger in the house. Even those who are willing to accept a care aide in the home may find their routines are disrupted, which may cause short-term distress.
I was fortunate that my mother’s aide, hired through a local home health care agency, was a wonderful woman who clicked with my mother. Not only did she offer my mother a helping hand, she offered her companionship. My mother had a very set way of doing things so I know she probably was a challenge for the aide at times, but I so appreciated the aide’s services. I knew I could trust her and that my mother was receiving the support she needed to stay in her home.
MarketWatch published an article that has helpful tips on what you should look for when choosing an in-home care aide. Beyond the basics like a background check, it’s important to know the aide’s skill set, availability, and career aspirations. Going through a home health agency can offer some peace of mind, but can be more expensive. Word of mouth can be a good way to find a caregiver in your community. When it comes to hiring a care aide, hands-on experience may be more key than formal education.
There are websites and apps that allow one to hire a caregiver remotely, which can be useful for long-distance caregivers but can be a bit more of a gamble without that in-person assessment. Long-distance caregivers should consider a video call before making any hiring decisions. Don’t overlook your gut instinct; if you feel an aide is not the right fit, don’t hesitate to take action. It’s not unusual to cycle through a few care aides before finding a good fit.
One of the only positive things that has come from both of my parents suffering from serious illnesses is that I discovered the importance of home health care workers. Notoriously underpaid and given little respect, home health care workers in multiple states across America are finally raising their voices and demanding better treatment.
It may not take a college degree to help feed a patient or take care of their toileting needs, but it does take a certain amount of compassion, patience and emotional strength that many people seem to lack. Many home care workers are supporting families, and in America, it would be difficult for a single person to survive on the current minimum wage. Current laws in the U.S. allow home health care workers to be paid less than minimum wage. There is already a growing number of workers in the fast-food and other retail industries that are demanding the minimum wage be increased from a paltry $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour.
While I feel $15 per hour is not going to be feasible in our economy, I could support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10. In addition, I would like to see some kind of tax break for home health care workers as an extra incentive to join this profession that is only going to grow in demand as our population rapidly ages.
I remember the kind, yet exhausted home care workers that helped care for my parents in their times of need, and I learned a lot from them. They offered practical, time-saving and thrifty solutions that I never would have considered. They were good-humored but firm when necessary, such as when providing care instructions. They negotiated difficult personalities and never seemed to take a break.
While raising the minimum wage for home care workers will have financial consequences and will require some retooling of already-strained state budgets, it is something that this country needs to understand is a priority. We’ve heard the unfortunate cases of home care workers who physically or mentally abuse their patients, and even steal from them. If these workers continue to be ignored, their resentment will only grow and our loved ones will suffer. Let’s reward those who are providing quality care to our family members and not allow this part of our workforce to remain invisible any longer.
If you are interested in learning more about the cause, Caring Across Generations is a great place to start.
It’s easy to overlook personal mobility when it comes to growing older. Dad was able to ambulate up until the last few months of his life, and while this worried me (as he did suffer multiple falls that sent him to the ER), it also was a comfort that he wasn’t bedridden. Dad loved to walk and even if his last year was spent shuffling up and down the drab nursing home hallway, at least he wasn’t staring at a ceiling that whole time.
I went for a brief, 10-minute walk today to pick up some things from the local convenience store. The short trip is actually quite scenic, as half the way there is a walking path that borders a golf course. I have walked this same path with my parents multiple times before, but now I walk it alone. Dad is gone, and Mom is not strong enough yet for that long of a walk. She lamented that fact today, as she was so used to being independent, as Dad was before he became ill.
Most of us take our ability to walk for granted. The ability to go outside on your own, breathe fresh air and stretch your legs seems so trivial, but for my mom right now, it is not an option without someone by her side.
I don’t like to think how I will be when I get older/become sick. I have such a fierce independent streak. I’m also not a people person. At least Mom thrives on the social interactions of those who assist with her care now. All of her caregivers, from home health aides to doctors just love having Mom as a patient, because she is so easy to deal with.
I apologize in advance for the type of patient I will probably be. 🙂