Assessing the In-Home Care Needs
of Your Loved One
If you talk with anyone age 65 or older, 98% of them will tell you they want to stay in their homes as they age. People want to stay where they have built memories, where they are comfortable, and where they are familiar with their surroundings and community.
As a society, we have come a long way medically, so there are very few medical issues that would prevent someone from aging in place. Other factors can have more of an impact on someone’s ability to successfully stay at home. Here are the top categories which should be considered by anyone who is planning on aging in place:
1. Availability of Caregivers
Many people count on friends and family to meet their needs as they age. Initially, they might just need a little help around the house with cooking and cleaning. As their needs progress, they may require more personal care including bathing, transferring from one location to another, or help getting on and off the toilet. Every family caregiver needs to ask themselves if they can be there for their loved ones as their needs grow. Are you comfortable helping a parent bathe or dress? If not, do they or you have the finances needed to hire professional caregivers? These are difficult questions that only your family can answer. What is most important is ensuring your loved one has support around them for all of their needs. If this isn’t possible, aging in place may not be a safe option.
It is important that the home be as accessible as possible for someone who is aging. Are doorways wide enough for a wheelchair? Are there grab bars in the bathrooms and are they positioned properly? Are all major living areas on one floor? If the answer is no, the home can be modified to fit your needs. It is important to bring in someone who is familiar with “universal design” so they can help you determine what needs to be changed. Then compare the cost of home modification to the costs of assisted living. This will help you to determine if modifying the home is a realistic option for your family.
There comes a time when it is no longer safe for an aging person to drive. Many people count on their friends and family to drive them where they need to go. What happens when that “ride” isn’t available? Are there transportation services in the area (buses, cabs, etc.) they can use to get to the store or the doctor’s office? If not, can you create a team of individuals who can take turns with the driving? These are important questions to ask yourself. If your loved one cannot get out to do errands or go to doctors, you may need to consider out-of- home care or bring help into the home.
Everyone wants to age in place, but many people don’t realize that it can be a lonely option. If a person is alone most of the time and counts on weekly visits by family for their socialization, then they might become very lonely and depressed. It is important that people have activities and people to share them with. Having friends their own age to speak with is very important. Setting up times for them to get together and making transportation easy, will go a long way to having a successful aging in place experience.
5. Assess your loved one’s physical and mental condition
Ask yourself some tough questions about your loved one’s current condition. How mobile are they? Are they able to keep themselves clean? Are they keeping up with their daily medical needs (taking their pills, etc)? Do they have chronic illnesses that continue to increase in severity? Do they have memory issues that are starting to concern you?
6. Determine your loved one’s ability to pay
Families often use several methods of payment to provide care for their loved ones.
Medicare – This program is a core component of how most families pay for medical services. It does not pay for non-medical services in the home.
Medicaid – This program is targeted at helping seniors living in poverty. You must qualify for this program based on financial need. The Heritage Agency on Aging can answer specific questions about this program and connect
you with a case worker. The Elderly Waiver program through Medicaid will pay for non- medical homemaker services. An agency needs to be Elderly Waiver, CDAC approved to deliver these services.
Private Funds – The majority of non-medical in-home care is paid using private funds. These funds may come from social security benefits, pension benefits, personal savings, or retirement investments.
Long-Term Care Insurance Policies – Individuals who have planned ahead and who hold long-term care insurance policies can often have non-medical in-home care paid for through these policies. The state of Iowa does not offer or require licensure or certification for non-medical companies. This is often a requirement of insurance companies for qualifying agencies, but some agencies can qualify because of the use of a state licensed RN to oversee employee training and client care plans. Each policy is unique, so it’s important to know or ask if your plan will cover in-home care and what is required to qualify.
7. Search for the right in-home care provider and interview the finalists to make the decision
There are many agencies that offer non- medical in-home care in our area. Be sure to do your research and get to know the agencies personally before you make a decision. It’s important you make the right match for your loved one and that you trust the company.