Help for seniors living alone

I have only had one client willingly ask me to help her find another place to live due to her increased need for help in her daily life. Only one has asked, in my last 16 years of providing services to seniors.

Clients usually tell me, “I want to stay in my own home.” Sometimes, that is an option for them and sometimes it is not and they need to move. For those who can live in their own home with a little help, there are different ways to get that assistance.

Family members are the largest providers for help in the home. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates that 44 million Americans provide unpaid help to their family members. Usually, it starts with light housekeeping and transportation help. But it can slowly transition to more personal care, meal preparation and medication monitoring. This can be very rewarding and hard all at the same time, especially if family members are doing this on top of caring for their own family needs, job and social life.

Hiring help in the home is another way to make sure people get essential needs met. Many people post ads looking for individuals to provide help in the home. This means that you, as the person hiring, become the employer. You post the ad, you screen the applicant and have control over what you pay per hour. But, if a problem arises, you the employer must fire the hired help and then go through the process of finding another candidate. Many seniors and their families have been very successful with this process, but others have not wanted to go through the bother.

Another way to hire help in the home is to use professional home-care agencies. There are many of these that will come to the home and can provide the whole spectrum of care, from very light care such as housekeeping and transportation to personal and medical care. They usually charge by the hour and can range from $21 to $25 per hour. When you choose a home care agency you are not the employer, you are the customer. That way, if you ever have a problem you can call the supervisor and ask for another helper. You are also paying an administrative fee for the agency to do the management of their staff. Administrative duties may include screening, training and recruitment of staff.

For people who are eligible for Medicaid, there is a program that provides personal care help in the home called COPES. This is based on the person’s income and level of personal care needs. Personal care can include bathing, feeding, grooming and dressing. Many people are not eligible for this program, because they only need housekeeping and/or meal preparation.

Living safely in the home is very doable for many seniors that live in our community. It can be more successful if seniors have help in the home prior to a crisis. It may take some time to get the right individual or individuals to provide the needed help in the home. Having someone come into the home, usually a stranger, to help you is a very uneasy process for most of my clients. It can be difficult to find someone that fits your personality and lifestyle. But when you do, it can improve the senior’s situation and honor their wishes to stay in the home.

Helpful Resources: Listing of Home Care Agencies Web site for job postings on Joblink

Betsy Zuber, Geriatric Specialist provides social services to people 55+ and their families who live on Mercer Island. Please contact her at (206) 236-3525, e-mail, or mail MIYFS 2040 84th Avenue S.E., Mercer Island, WA 98040.

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