Health & Medical

Guide to Choosing Senior Helpers (Best Options Checklist)

Senior Helpers

It is no secret that as we age, daily tasks become more difficult. Hiring a senior helper is a great way to ease those challenges while still allowing you to maintain independence.

Senior helpers can dramatically improve the quality of life for many. These professionals can offer you a variety of services. Knowing about those specialties and your personal needs will help you find the right senior helper for you.

If you are looking for a senior helper, you may not know where to begin. This article will help you by laying out what kind of help senior helpers can provide and how to find one.

What Do Senior Helpers Do?

Senior helpers aim to improve the day-to-day lifestyle of senior citizens. Based on specific scenarios and individual needs, senior helpers can adapt their services.

These professionals have a broad skill set, allowing them to employ a flexible approach to the services they provide. In doing so, caregivers support older adults’ ability to remain living in the homes they love.

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Individually tailored service is the main component of senior help. But there are two main services that many seniors need.

  1. Companion care
  2. Personal care

The natures of these services are distinct from one another.

Each one comes with a different level of involvement in the senior’s life. But the result remains the same. Through these forms of care, seniors can maintain their independence as they age.

By becoming more familiar with these services, you will better understand which one is best for you.

Read more about these services below.

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Companion Care

Companion care is a form of assistance that takes place in the senior’s home.

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Caregivers are focused on making life easier for the elderly. This means helping with common household tasks, including the following:

  • Running commonplace errands like grocery shopping
  • Picking up medication
  • Preparing meals
  • Completing household chores
  • Accompanying seniors to appointments
  • Engaging in senior’s favorite hobbies

One of the primary benefits of companionship is at an emotional level. Sadly, many seniors experience social isolation.

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Social isolation is a serious concern. Research suggests that this condition affects far more than a senior’s mental health. Social isolation exacerbates other life-threatening conditions common among seniors.

Social isolation has been shown to have the following negative results.

  • Increased likelihood of dementia
  • Higher rates of depression and suicide
  • Increased risk of death among those with heart failure
  • Increased risk of premature death

Clearly, social isolation is nothing to take lightly.

Some studies show that this condition can be as harmful as smoking and obesity. Thankfully, companionship services can reduce these risks.

At times, the conversation alone offered by companion caregivers is enough to boost the mood of seniors. And while this is a major benefit, companion caregivers can’t do it all.

For instance, many companion caregivers are not able to provide direct medical care. They also do not give physical assistance with tasks like bathing and dressing.

If that is what you need, you will need to search for a different form of senior help. To your benefit, there are many other service options available to you.

Personal Care

Personal care shares many similarities with companion care.

Both services offer help with daily life, including the completion of errands and chores. But personal caregivers can provide what companion care lacks.

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These additional services include assisting seniors with the tasks listed below:

  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Toileting
  • Bathing
  • Changing catheter bags
  • Taking medication

Personal care providers can also measure and track a senior’s vital bodily functions including:

  • Pulse
  • Respiratory function
  • Blood pressure
  • Fluid intake

Since personal caregivers perform medical tasks, they need more in-depth training. This is the primary difference between a companion caregiver and a personal caregiver.

Companion Caregiver Qualifications

As someone in need of a senior helper, you should know that the qualifications needed to become a companion caregiver are limited. To do this work, an individual needs little more than a clean driving record and CPR training.

This point is not meant to be dismissive of companion caregivers.

These senior helpers are very impactful in the care they provide. However, it remains necessary to emphasize the distinction between these kinds of senior helpers.

Personal Caregiver Qualifications

In contrast to companion caregivers, personal caregivers must become certified. Personal caregivers can have one of two certifications:

  1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  2. Home Health Aid (HHA)

These formal requirements are what give personal care aids the ability to perform medical services for seniors. They offer these services either in the senior’s home or at a personal care community.

Senior living communities offer a lot, but many seniors are reluctant to join them.

A large portion of the elderly population is interested in aging in place.

To age in place means remaining in your home rather than moving to a smaller home or joining an assisted living community.

Much of the time, aging in place is only possible with round-the-clock professional care.

Full-Time In-Home Care Options

If you or your loved one needs assistance throughout all 24 hours of the day, you need to find caregivers that supply that level of support. Generally, there are three means by which this service is provided to seniors.

The options below operate with different schedules and variations in required personnel:

  • Live-in care
  • 24-hour care
  • On-Call care
  • Overnight care

On the surface, these titles appear to imply the same meaning. However, these forms of care are not redundant. Instead, they all involve individual strategies to provide the care seniors need.

Let’s have a closer look at these differences in care.

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Live-in Care

Live-in care is likely what most people imagine when they think about full-time in-home care. For the sake of clarity, here is a detailed description of how live-in care works.

With this service, there is usually a single caregiver involved.

This caregiver will live in the senior’s home. The senior is responsible for providing a bed for the caregiver.

With this setup, the senior helper can assist the senior at any time of day or night.

The schedule for a live-in senior helper will look something like this:

  • Four to five workdays per week
  • 24-hour care on those workdays
  • Eight hours allotted for sleep at night

Despite having a specific time slot for sleep, this sleep can be interrupted.

On all workdays, the caregiver assists on an as-needed basis.

This means that if the senior needs help in the middle of the night, the caregiver must respond accordingly.

The advantages of this care service are obvious. The older adult remains living in their home with help readily available at any time of day.

Additionally, there are benefits because this system typically calls for one helper to live in the home. This setup allows the senior and the caregiver a chance to develop a strong bond.

A live-in caregiver provides round-the-clock care on their workdays. But they also have days off. These days off are essential to the senior helper’s ability to restore their energy and continue giving much-needed care.

On those days off, another caregiver may fill in.

Alternatively, the senior’s family may take on some of the care responsibilities on those days as well.

That decision is based on the senior’s family’s preference and availability. While difficult, families with elderly relatives must make such decisions.

24-Hour Care

24-hour care offers the same, if not more, attention than live-in care. This high level of attention arises from the fact that 24-hour care involves more than one senior helper.

Most often, two to three caregivers will alternate shifts at the senior’s home.

When on duty, the caregivers usually remain awake, whether it is day or night. This means that the senior is not responsible for providing a sleeping area for the caregivers.

The caregivers’ shifts will vary in length based on how many are in the shift rotation. Most shifts are either eight or 12 hours long.

This care service option is great for seniors with the following conditions and behavior tendencies:

  • Wandering
  • Night-time wakefulness
  • Mental or physical disabilities

24-hour care gives seniors attentive care at all hours. But there may be some drawbacks.

Considering there will be multiple rotating caregivers, the senior will be less likely to develop a close bond with their helper.

Costs for this care are also typically higher compared to live-in care.

Still, 24-hour care is a great option for care. Depending on the condition of the senior, this may be the only viable option.

On-Call Care

When a caregiver works on an on-call basis, they may or may not live in the senior’s home.

In either case, the caregiver likely provides assistance during the day. Nighttime is not considered working hours.

Even if the caregiver lives in the home full time, it does not mean they are working 24-hours each day. Their presence in the home at night is considered more of a safety measure.

If there is an emergency or the senior needs immediate attention at night, the caregiver is on- call.

In those scenarios, they will provide help. Otherwise, there is no expectation that the senior helper will be working at night.

Overnight Care

Overnight care is not a truly full-time form of service, but it is an option worth noting.

In some ways, it is an opposite version of on-call care. Rather than only helping during the day, overnight caregivers work primarily at night.

The typical process works like this:

  • The caregiver arrives in the evening helping the senior prepare for bed
  • The caregiver stays the night ready to attend to the senior as needed
  • In the morning, the caregiver helps the senior with their start-of-day routine then leaves

This form of care is great for seniors who have help from other people, like friends and family, during the day.

If this is your circumstance, an overnight senior helper may be your most cost-effective in-home care option.

How to Know When You Need a Senior Helper

Seniors and their family members should remain aware of signs that it is time to find a senior helper.

Family members should be especially vigilant.

Often, a senior may not realize on their own that they need help. Other seniors may be reluctant to seek help for fear that they will lose their independence.

None of us can resist aging. And a normal part of that process is a decline in our physical skills and cognitive abilities.

So, how can you know when a senior has crossed the line between natural decline and a serious need for help? There are a few signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty performing simple daily tasks
  • Significant memory problems
  • Inability to manage medications and vital aspects of general health

Again, it is a challenge to know when these signs call for professional help. The next sections will cover these signs in further detail to help you decide if a senior helper is right for you or your loved one.

Struggles with Daily Tasks

The ability to perform daily tasks is something most of us take for granted. Completing errands and chores for ourselves is what allows our lives to run smoothly.

When seniors struggle to complete these activities, it is not only frustrating; it can be dangerous as well.

Pay close attention to how seniors in your family carry out the following tasks. If you notice a significant decrease in their ability to complete these, it may be time to hire a caregiver:

  • Driving
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning

This is not an exhaustive list.

But the inability to complete these and other basic tasks is a negative sign.

Many seniors may continue to attempt these tasks despite being unable to do so successfully. This only adds to the danger.

As seniors work on chores beyond their abilities, they risk falling and experiencing other forms of physical harm.

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The danger of this is increased by certain unsafe areas in the home, such as:

  • High shelves
  • Stairs
  • Slippery flooring

Look for signs that a senior in your family struggles with daily tasks. Be sure to find a senior helper before it is too late.

Memory Problems

Cognitive decline is another sign that a senior is ready for an in-home caregiver. As we age, our thinking skills change in many ways, such as these:

  • Reduced processing speed
  • Difficulty remembering recent events
  • Lack of attention
  • Diminished language comprehension and production
  • Decreased problem solving and planning

It is easy to imagine how cognitive decline can decrease the quality of life. It is also clear that poor judgment and memory are threats to seniors’ wellbeing.

Everyone will experience some form of cognitive decline as they age. So, to a degree, this is normal.

But that doesn’t mean that those with poor cognition can still function on their own.

Also, some far more serious cognitive conditions affect seniors. One example of this is Alzheimer’s.

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At times it is hard to tell if someone has this condition.

This is because many of the warning signs are similar to those associated with mild cognitive decline. However, if a senior displays the following symptoms, there is a chance they are developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia:

  • Major personality shifts
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Emotional volatility
  • Depression

If you notice these signs, seek medical attention as soon as you can. Odds are a senior caregiver will be helpful as well.

Poor Medication Management

Another aspect of aging is an increase in daily medications.

These medications are often needed to treat aches and pains and other conditions a senior has developed in their process of aging.

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It is common for seniors to require multiple medications each day. Older adults account for more over the counter medications and prescriptions than any other group.

Many of these seniors take at least three pills per day.

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Here are a few common conditions that lead seniors to have high daily medication requirements:

  • Arthritis pain
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor thyroid function
  • Bacterial infections

In truth, keeping track of multiple medications can be confusing with or without the presence of cognitive decline.

To add to this difficulty, some aspects of aging require seniors to adjust their dosage to ensure their medications achieve the proper effect. These include:

  • Reduced kidney and liver function affecting how medications are absorbed and removed from the body
  • Increased fatty tissue affecting how medications are distributed throughout the body
  • Chronic conditions like diabetes further complicating the medication regimen

Consider the fact that many seniors have multiple doctors providing their prescriptions. With each prescription and its own distinct set of instructions, taking medication becomes increasingly complex.

Failure to follow all prescriptions precisely only leads to increased health problems.

Seniors experiencing the cognitive decline mentioned in the last section are especially likely to make errors when taking their medications.

Often, the optimal way to ensure seniors take their medications the right way is to hire a qualified caregiver.

Scheduling medication and maintaining proper dosage is one of the essential tasks a senior helper can provide.

When left to their own devices, seniors can forget that they have already taken a medication. They will then accidentally take more than the required daily dosage.

It is easy to see how the results of this kind of error can be disastrous. Hiring a helper to manage medications is a great way to avoid that danger.

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How to Pay for a Senior Helper

If you have made the responsible decision to seek in-home care for you or a loved one, you still have more difficult decisions to face. Unfortunately, in-home care is expensive.

On average, the daily rates for full-time in-home care range from $200 to $350. Assuming a 30-day month, the total at the low end of that range equates to a $6,000 monthly fee.

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Prices vary based on your location and the level of care provided. But generally, it is safe to say that senior help is an expensive investment.

The service in-home caregivers provide warrants a high price. But while somewhat justified, that cost is difficult for seniors to meet.

Considering half of the individual seniors have an annual income of around $25,000, paying thousands of dollars for care is a frightening prospect. But if you have accepted that you need that level of care, you must contrive a way to make those ends meet.

Paying for Care

Here are the most common ways to pay for senior helpers:

  • Out-of-pocket payments
  • Third-party assistance
  • Reverse mortgages
  • Annuities
  • Support from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and other well-wishing groups

Take a look at how each of those payment options tends to play out.

Out-Of-Pocket Payment

If you or your family are fortunate enough to have the necessary funds, you can simply pay care fees with no assistance. This is the simplest but most expensive way to pay.

While this option is straightforward, it is unrealistic for many seniors. Read on to learn more about payment options that take less of a toll on your budget.

Third-Party Assistance

Perhaps your most reliable option for reducing care costs is to seek assistance from a government program. The most relevant programs are listed below:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) At-Home Care
  • Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)

Details and eligibility for these programs can vary greatly. If you want to use one of these programs but are unaware of how to do so, there are resources available to guide you.

Start by reaching out to the National Council on Aging or go to benefits.gov.

Reverse Mortgage

Reverse mortgages are intended to help seniors live in their homes through the final years of their lives. When using a reverse mortgage, you exchange the equity of your home for cash.

You have the choice of receiving a lump sum or monthly payment. Also, reverse mortgages are only available to individuals that meet the relevant requirements.

Mainly, you must be over 62, and you must own your home outright.

There are strict rules that come with reverse mortgages that make it easy to default. Seek professional financial advice before signing a reverse mortgage contract.

Annuities

Annuities are another option to help you pay for your senior care.

In the most basic terms, an annuity is essentially an investment you make with an insurance company. The terms will be based on your personal goals.

The returns you receive after the agreed-upon maturation are a great way to cover your senior care expenses.

That is a simplistic explanation of annuities.

Before seeking one, it is very important to find a financial advisor you trust to help you through the process.

Non-Profit Assistance

This final payment strategy is less conventional but remains a viable option. You may be able to find a non-profit organization that is willing to help seniors pay for their in-home care costs.

You can also consider seeking assistance from community groups you are involved with.

For instance, if you are a part of a religious group, try asking other members for financial support. The best-case scenario is that your community will rally together to raise funds to help you pay for your care costs.

Alternative Care Options

If you find you are unable to pay for in-home care, you need to consider other options. Be aware that there are many choices when it comes to caring for the elderly.

We won’t delve into the details of all these options, but here is a list of alternatives for your consideration:

  • Increased support from family and friends
  • Living with family members
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Residential care homes
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Hospice care
  • Senior daycare

There are many options for you to explore.

Each of these options has many pros and cons, as well as pricing variations. But what is most important is making sure that you can achieve the level of care you need.

Though many seniors are reluctant to leave their homes, sometimes that is the only reasonable option.

Often, that means residing in one of the care facilities listed above.

In other scenarios, you may be able to move in with family or a close friend.

If you are still unhappy with the option of leaving your home, you may need to be creative in your approach to getting the care you need.

Family and friends may need to take more time to provide the care you need.

You can also consider making modifications to your home. There are many ways you can alter your living space to make it a safer environment that is easier for you to use. This, too, comes with a cost. But if you want to stay in your home, that investment may be worth it for you.

Conclusion

Finding the proper care in your later years is a difficult prospect to face. But, if you want to enjoy the final years of your life, you need to make informed decisions regarding the care you seek.

The first step is to admit that you need help. After that, you need to balance your desired lifestyle against the cost of achieving it. If you hope to remain in your home, hiring a senior helper may be the best way to get the care you need.


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