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In-home care can help elders stay part of family functions

by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief

Caregivers are often torn between wanting their parent, who may live in assisted living, a nursing home or even at home alone, to be a part of family functions, and wondering how they can pull it off. Whether the event is a family wedding or a Christmas celebration, they often think "Grandma would love this." And then? How do we combine taking care of Grandma and attending or creating the function itself? How do we pay attention to the bride and groom, if Grandma needs all of our care? Enter in-home caregivers.

Most in-home care agencies do far more than just care for an elder in the home. They are often hired to help elders who want to stay in assisted living, because they don't feel ready for a nursing home, but need extra health care not provided by the facility.

Even if caregivers are primarily hired for caring in the home, this care generally spills out into errand running and even event care, depending on the type of agency and contract negotiations.

My Uncle Wilkes had a rotation of three caregivers, all from the same agency. They cared for him during the day, as we family members were available but busy with work and kids, and he had a medical alarm he wore at night in case of a fall or other medical emergency. Uncle Wilkes didn't need eight hours of hands-on care - that need was minimal. But he needed people around and other tasks done.

His caregivers would take him to the grocery store, or go to the store for him. They'd take him for his haircuts and any other errands he wanted, though I took him to his doctor appointments. The great thing was, when a family event happened where I was too tied up to handle his special needs and handle the event at the same time, his caregiver could bring him. She could help him if he needed assistance with food. She could take him home early if he got tired.

In-home Care Can Offer Major Flexibility

In-home care was quite new when I began my caregiver journey that eventually was to include seven elders, and last more than two decades. Locally, we had only one choice of an agency when I needed help with my neighbor, Joe, and that agency was associated with our local hospital. By the time my uncle needed care I couldn't provide, we'd graduated to a whopping two choices of agencies. These days, my community offers more than a dozen agencies and quite a few private options.

What Costs are Covered?

While Medicare only covers the cost of in-home nursing care, which some in-home care agencies are licensed to provide, Medicare rarely covers custodial care - the type of care my uncle needed. Medicaid, the government care that kicks in when a person's assets are nearly depleted, does cover some custodial care, however how much depends on the state in which your elder lives, so if you are hiring in-home care, be sure you are clear on who pays the cost. Most often it's the elder.

Don't panic. When we consider what getting some outside care can do for the elder and the caregiver, this cost may not seem so high. A caregiver stretched beyond his or her limits, for long periods, is at an increased risk for physical and mental illness. Many formal studies show that depression is rampant in the caregiver population. Informal surveys, such as one conducted by Eldercare.link.com, indicate that caregiver depression is a topic that many people want to read more about.

While Not a Cure-All, In-home Care Can Offer Significant Caregiver Relief

Medical treatment for caregiver stress, whether it manifests as a physical ailment or a psychological one, is expensive. As with most issues that involve our health, the cost of preventing a disease is generally less than the cost of the medical care needed to cure us, once we are sick.

So, before you balk at the cost of in-home care for your elder, think it through carefully. Could respite care in the form of an in-home caregiver for your elder help you live a better quality of life, and perhaps prevent your own illness? Could respite care offer your elder enough socialization to improve his or her quality of life? Is there a chance that the money paid out for some in-home care for your elder could actually prove to be an investment?

Back at the Wedding

Let's say your daughter is getting married. You've been with her all the way through planning the wedding, and Grandma has been very excited. A couple of months before the wedding, Grandma has a stroke. Mostly recovered but still needing assistance, she now is back at her home. You are running from job to home to Grandma's on a daily basis. If this continues without relief, how on earth will you ever enjoy being the mother of the bride? How will your daughter feel if Grandma's needs override her dream day? How would Grandma feel if she knows her needs are overriding the needs of everyone else, on this special day? The answer to all of the questions above, in my opinion, would be, ""Not very good.""

This, my friends, is one time when an in-home care agency could be a gift from above. The bride has her mom to do the honors as mother of the bride. You, the mom, have the chance to be Mom in a way that you will never have, for this daughter, again. And Grandma? She gets to go to the wedding knowing she is welcome and not a liability to everyone else's good time. To me this is win/win.