By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau
People routinely research vacations, car purchases, and home renovations well before making a decision.
So why not explore care options for your loved one before they’re needed? After all, everyone tends to make wiser decisions when they’re not operating in crisis mode.
If your parent or relative needs short-term care after a hospitalization or an accident, here are some considerations when you’re examining your options.
1. Take a tour. In addition to checking into a center’s licensing and service offerings, vet your local rehab and nursing facilities in person to get a feel for the place. For instance:
- Imagine your relative living in the facility for two weeks or two months and ask yourself whether he or she would be comfortable in that atmosphere.
- Chat up residents and their visiting family member and ask about their experiences.
- Are residents parked in wheelchairs in the halls by themselves or do they seem engaged? Are they interacting with one another?
- Are staff members bright and friendly or are they sullen or rushed?
- How are meals and snacks handled and how is the food?
- Does the facility provide activities, such as outings, lectures, and religious services that your loved one enjoys?
2. In-home care . If your parents just need some short-term, non-medical help with bathing, food preparation, and transportation and you’re looking at an agency for such help, here are some things to consider:
- Training. What training does the caregiver have? Even though you’re hiring someone to deliver non-medical services, you want to be sure caregivers have been vetted and that they understand how to care for someone with your relative’s condition, whether it’s arthritis or a shoulder injury.
- Comfortable relationships. Arrange a meeting between your parent and caregivers, especially if they’re coming in to provide very personal care.
“When you’re getting something as intimate as a bath, you don’t want a stranger showing up at the door,” says Gina Kaurich, a registered nurse, and a professional geriatric care manager who is executive director of client care services at FirstLight HomeCare, Cincinnati. The company provides non-medical home care.
- Personality match. Ask how caregivers are chosen. Kaurich’s staffers, for example, undergo assessment and training to determine their skills and interests and to be certain they’re equipped to deliver services. “We try to ferret out their personality, attitude, and behavior, and how they relate to people, ” she says. The company also does personality matching to ensure that recipients and caregivers have a rapport with one another.
- Consistency. Ask if the same caregiver will come each week. Kaurich says it’s important that the caregiver is familiar to your loved one. FirstLight, for example, has a couple of back-up caregivers for each client. So if a main caregiver is on vacation, the replacement is someone the care recipient has met. According to Kaurich, you don’t want an agency that is just filling work slots and sends out anyone–a stranger–who happens to be working a given shift.
3. Happy routines . “Everyone needs to have a purpose in their life and something to look forward to and accomplish each day,” comments Kaurich. So in addition to addressing physical needs, also incorporate simple, enjoyable activities–craft projects, movie outings, or a daily walk–into your relative’s schedule. Kaurich’s own example: “My 90-year-old mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and on Saturdays she loves to help me fix chicken salad with dill pickles.”
4. Senior scene. Investigate the local senior scene and see what’s available in terms of adult daycare, senior activities, and programs at the local park district or YMCA that will get your relative out of the house.
5. Intentional villages. See if there’s an intentional village (www.vtvnetwork.org and www.house-works.com/about/village-movement ) in your relatives’ area and whetherthey’re eligible to join. Such villages, operating in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, rely on a bevy of local volunteers to bring non-medical services, including transportation, computer help, and home repairs, to seniors’ doorsteps.
Villages typically get started at the grassroots level when people in a neighborhood come together to organize, fund, and manage not-for-profits aimed at connecting seniors to the assistance they need to age in place.
6. Respite care . Look into hiring someone to help your loved one when you need a day off or a vacation or you have a big family event. Caretakers, for instance, can watch over your parents during a wedding and be certain all their needs are addressed.
In addition, they can accompany your parent on vacation and tend to their needs, whether that entails providing medical assistance or wheeling them to meals while they’re on a cruise.
7. Home modifications. Ideally, universal design elements should be in place before a crisis. Even if your relative has resisted making aging-in-place design modifications to their house, have some local contractors in mind who can perform upgrades at the last minute.
Look for contractors who are schooled in universal design. Such a specialist can make suggestions about adapting the home so it fits your relatives’ situation so they can return home and be safe there.
Simple project could include moving the microwave and other appliances to more accessible spots, replacing carpet with slip-resistant flooring, creating step-free shower entrances, and installing shower grab bars.
- Home care basics: www.firstlighthomecare.com/images/stories/documents/allabouthomecare.pdf
- National Council on Aging : www.ncoa.org
- The National Aging in Place Council: www.ageinplace.org/about_us/what_is_naipc.aspx