Senior care poses a dilemma for a growing number of families: when to hire outside help? Growing older usually involves a very gradual physical decline. At 80, Mom may be able to do everything on her own but just needs regular visits or phone calls so she can share her day with someone. In a few years, she may need a little more help managing her finances, doing household chores, or running errands. A few years later, she might need help with meals and personal hygiene. She may begin to require specialized health care.

At some point during this process, whether for parents, disabled siblings, or extended family members, most families realize they can’t do it all. There are simply limits to their available time, energy, and abilities. In some cases, they simply can’t provide the type of specialized health care their aging loved one needs, or they may be physically unable to do some required tasks, such as lifting and moving the senior.

In-Home Care Workers

Hiring a home care worker is an excellent solution for many families. It helps fill the gap between independent living and full-time care in a nursing facility. Home care balances experienced caretaking with the senior’s desire for independence and comfort. In-home care can range from a few hours a day to around the clock.

Let’s suppose you have just decided to find in-home care for someone you love. What are the next steps? Making the decision is only the beginning of what can be a difficult process. How do you find the right person? You want to find a health aide or caretaker who will provide the best possible care—someone who has the right mix of capability, experience, dependability, and compassion—but your funds may be limited.

Caregiver Shortages

Adding to the difficulty you face, qualified home care workers are in short supply. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growing need for in-home caregivers as the population ages. In fact, three of the top ten growing occupations projected for 2020 are different types of personal care aides. The short supply of experienced workers tends to drive up wages or simply leave agencies understaffed.

This is not good news for families in your situation. In fact, because of the cost and difficulty of finding the right person, many families simply do without and soldier on to the best of their ability. You don’t need to give up, though; help is available. It is possible to find the care you need within a fixed budget.

Health Advocates Provide Guidance

One of the best ways to navigate the process is turning to a health advocate or patient advocate. Health advocates are individuals who have the experience you lack. They use their expertise in medical issues and senior care to help you get the best care at the best price. A health advocate can help you organize the data, decipher what are wants versus needs, determine what you can really afford, and point you in the right direction. Each family has unique needs that require careful balancing.

For instance, do you want an agency or one individual to provide care? There are benefits and drawbacks to both: you need to consider cost, continuity of care, reliability, and experience. If you decide on an agency, which agency to choose? If you decide to hire an individual, how will you advertise? Will you need to do background checks and ask for references? What if you are not satisfied with the service you receive?

Other questions to consider relate to cost. Will the senior’s insurance cover any of the care? Are there government agencies that can help? What family members can contribute and how can you make sure everyone feels the contributions are fair?

These are among the many important questions to answer. A health advocate has already mastered the learning curve by helping many others through the process. Health advocates can walk you through each step and help make the health care system more transparent.

As you begin the process, you can be confident knowing you are doing what is best for your family and that help is on the way.

Our Patient Advocate Office is ever just an email or phone call away: 703-222-1300 – we’re happy to help! A phone call is free and it could save a life or reduce a large hospital bill.

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Whether you’re going in for a routine checkup or need to keep track of medications: the following documents will help you prepare for your hospital visit, track medications, and keep on top of follow-ups.