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Why I chose in-home care for my loved ones

by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief

In-home care can be a wonderful bridge for an elder between being able to stay in his or her own home and needing assisted living or a nursing home. Some elders are able to live their lives out with just in-home care agencies to help. Some use these agencies for short times, only. The flexibility in-home care offers is one of its strengths.

When I began my caregiving journey, in-home care was a new idea. I had been my neighbor Joe's default caregiver since his wife died, as Joe had only one adult child and he lived half a continent away.

For several years, I was able to provide the daily care Joe needed, but after a bad fall and a dislocated shoulder, the hospital we went to told us about in-home care. We said we'd give it a try. The care was short-term for Joe, as I was soon able to, once again, take over his care. However, it was a new beginning for me as I learned to reach out for help from agencies.

In-Home Care: Uncle Wilkes Needs Help

Shortly after Joe died from complications from a fall, my aunt died from cancer. Her husband, my uncle Wilkes, had survived a second stroke with some disabilities, yet he wanted to stay in his apartment. My parents were aging, but could help Uncle Wilkes with some grocery shopping and visiting. I had small children, but I still was able to help with doctor appointments, errands, and visits. However, he needed more than we could provide.

Some of what he needed was companionship. The company we hired was as good as can be expected, in an imperfect world, about consistency in caregivers. There were three women my uncle liked. He had his favorite among the three, but any of the three could make him smile.

When the agency occasionally had to send another person, he was not happy, but that didn't often happen. These three carers provided companionship, some light housekeeping tasks, help with bathing and other personal care. We, the family, were happy to know someone was with him and he could afford the cost, so it all worked very well. He had in-home care until another major stroke put him in a nursing home.

In-Home Care: My Mother-in-Law Needed a Bath

The third time I used in-home care was for my mother-in-law. By that time I had, under my caregiving wing, my dad in a nursing home two blocks away from my home (he'd had brain surgery and ended up with dementia), my uncle in the same nursing home, my mother who was frail but in her apartment, and my mother-in-law who was borderline ready for the nursing home, but still in her condo.

Each day, I ran between my own home and children, my mother's apartment to help her with daily needs, the nursing home for my uncle and dad, and my mother-in-law's condo. It was a circus, but I kept it up for several years. During this time, one of the biggest issues with my mother-in-law was bathing.

My mother-in-law was, at the time, getting very paranoid from dementia. She'd always been a very modest woman, and while she was delighted that I stopped and brought her lunch, helped with her laundry, and did as many other chores as I could work in, she didn't want me to help her bathe. She didn't want anyone to help her bathe and she couldn't do it herself.

While a daily bath wasn't necessary, there is a point when cleanliness, or lack thereof, can become a health issue. So, we hired in-home care to bathe her.

In-Home Care: Training and Professionalism Save the Day

It worked. My mother-in-law seemed to look at it more like a doctor visit, since the person coming to help she viewed as a nurse. While she didn't like it, she allowed it. It was also better for me, as she outweighed my by a lot, so even with a bath chair and other aids, I didn't feel it was safe for either of us. The caregivers who came from the agency were trained for this duty, and I was happy to turn it over to them.

In-home care, when provided by an agency that puts consistency of caregivers at the top of the list of needs for an elder, can work very well. Scheduling is important. Personalities are important. Training is important. A good care agency provides all of these. The right mix of personalities can provide great relief for the elder and the elder's family, making in-home care a good way for an elder to stay at home longer.