In-home care for your aging parent: Is it time?

It is a reality that every adult with a living parent finds difficult to face – your mother or father is aging and may no longer be able to care for themselves and their home the way he or she used to. While this is a difficult time for both you and your aging parent, it is best to take action sooner than later, and not wait until your parent’s living situation worsens or they are stricken with an unforeseen injury or crisis.
While having them move into your home or an assisted living facility is an option for those requiring around-the-clock care, in-home care may be considered for a parent who just needs assistance with daily tasks that you for any reason are unable to provide.In-home care as defined by the National Institutes of Health is care that allows a person with special needs to stay in their home. It might be for someone who is getting older, chronically ill, recovering from surgery, or has a disability.Homecare services can include personal care, such as help with bathing or dressing; homemaking such as cleaning, providing meals and yard work; companionship; and personal organization, such as paying bills.For most, in-home care is appropriate when a person prefers to remain living at home but needs ongoing care that cannot be easily provided by his or her loved ones.The good news is that there is a growing trend within the eldercare services community to provide these options in a manner that maximizes the control that your parent can have over who, how and when support is provided.When is time to seek assistance?How do you know if it is time to start thinking about in-home care as an option? According to research conducted at the Mayo Clinic, any person who is no longer sure of his or her parent’s ability to independently care for him or herself should take note of changes in their loved ones appearance, moods and behaviors. Ask yourself the following questions:• Has your parent lost weight?• Has their physical appearance or personal hygiene changed?• Can they keep up with their home?• Are they safe at home?• How is their mood?• Is there a change in your parent’s mobility?If any of these questions raise a red flag, you may want to consider a homecare aide to provide assistance with services that can be tailored to fit your parent’s individual needs.Facing resistanceWhen the time comes to have the discussion with your parent about bringing an outside party in to provide assistance, it is likely you will face some resistance. Your parent has lived on his or her own for many years without anyone’s help, and a change can feel like a loss of independence or privacy.When approaching your parent about the need for additional care, choose a time when both of you are relaxed, and not in a high stress moment. Ask your parent about his or her preferences. Ask other family members or friends to help persuade your loved one to consider and accept help.Don’t assume that your father or mother isn’t capable of discussing his or her options. And most importantly, don’t give up. Your parent may struggle with this decision now, but let some time pass and he or she may likely appreciate the help.Selecting a homecare providerAfter finding homecare providers in your area, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice recommends keeping a checklist for each agency you research.Some things you will want to take into consideration include: finding out how long the provider has been serving in the community, how they select and train their employees, and whether care plans are made with input from the individual and the family.Ask the provider how they will hone your mother’s or father’s desire to self-direct his or her own care.Additional items for your checklist include asking for and calling references, finding out about the financial and billing process, emergency procedures and confidentiality protocols.Also find out if the agency has experienced good on-going communication with the representative that knows your parent and is consistent over time. This will give you insight as to whether or not that agency might be right for all of you.The most important part of selecting an agency is finding a homecare aide you and your loved one like and trust.Roy Gerstenberger is the executive director of Community Bridges in Concord, and author of “In-Home Care for Your Aging Parent: Is it Time?” He can be reached at 603-225-4153