Care at Home

While many elderly or recovering patients may need a nursing home level of care, overwhelmingly, people prefer to remain in their own homes with the assistance of family, friends, community care services and home care agencies. According to a recent AARP report, a majority (55%) of members say they or a family member are likely to need long-term care services in the next five years. And, more than 70% of them want that service delivered through home health care.

Home care services today go well beyond what visiting nurses used to do when they provided skilled nursing in home settings. Now home care means providing a multitude of services — from assistance with daily living activities like grooming, bathing and oral hygiene to end of life care. And services are offered in any increment you may need — from as little as 1 hour of care a day to provide family members a well needed rest, up to round the clock care for total home care support.

If you are one of the 44 million caregivers providing support to a parent or loved one, home care is an affordable option to alleviate the stress and burden caregiving puts on your daily life, both at work and at home.

If you need home care help right now, these 5 tips (from AARP) can help you determine the level of care, a budget and how to seek out the right home care agency.

  1. Begin with a doctor’s assessment for in-home care.
    To help you understand what kind of caregiver to hire (such as someone with a nursing background versus more of a personal assistant) have the person in your care checked by his doctor. A doctor can also help determine whether in-home care is the best route, or whether the patient really needs to move temporarily to a skilled nursing facility.
  2. Determine your in-home care budget.
    Before you can hire someone, you’ll need to know how much money is available to spend for a caregiver. This will help you make important decisions about the number of hours you can afford. Talk with the individuals and other family members to nail down roughly how much money you can pool to pay for in-home care to get started. Then you can start looking at other options for ongoing care. If ongoing care is necessary, you can consider cashing in a life insurance policy or annuity, selling a home, or getting a reverse mortgage — but none of these moves will get you cash in a hurry.
  3. Plan an in-home care schedule.
    Once you know how much money is available for in-home care, and you have a sense of their needs, you can draft a caregiver’s schedule. This is basically an outline of how many hours per day you want (or can afford) to hire someone to work, and what times and days work best for everyone involved. Then it’s a matter of finding a caregiver to fit this schedule.
  4. Start your in-home care search.
    Once you know how much money you have and the hours you hope to fill, you can start looking for a caregiver. The main ways to find in-home caregivers include word of mouth (asking for referrals from people you know, including medical staff, senior organizations, and religious communities) and using an employment agency that specializes in home care agencies. The main difference between hiring independently and going through an agency is that agencies can handle most of the paperwork, such as tax and social security forms. Agencies also screen employees. A good way to find in home care is to go to the Eldercare Locator; a government run service that links people to local senior agencies to provide a range of assistance, including finding home care. For Massachusetts residents, use You can also find agencies through the Internet (use search terms home health care or in-home senior care in your town).
  5. Identify the right in-home caregiver.
    When you’re working fast, a few things can help you make a good caregiver match. First, weed out caregivers or agencies over the phone if they don’t meet your scheduling or financial needs. Trust your instincts, ruling out anyone or any place you don’t feel good about. Narrow down an “interview” list and meet these people in person, with the person in your care if this is appropriate.