Few children grow up thinking; “I look forward to the day when I can put Mom or Dad in a nursing home.” On the contrary, in healthy family situations, you’re more likely to hear the following: “I’ll never put Mom or Dad in a home.” Saying “never” is a bold promise you may or may not be able to keep, but there are options to care for elderly parents at home, yours or their own. Home care services can be divided into three categories: companionship, 24-hour care, and dementia care.
When you hire elderly home care for companionship, you are essentially hiring someone to keep your elderly loved one company. There is no skilled nursing or extensive training. If you were to compare companionship care to a child care situation, it would be more like hiring a babysitter versus paying for day care. The babysitter doesn’t need a degree in child development to keep your kids entertained for a couple of hours. Companionship is similar. This is a great option if your loved one is relatively healthy but doesn’t get out of the house much or expresses feelings of loneliness.
Going back to the childcare analogy, hiring round-the-clock home care would be akin to hiring a live-in nanny. The primary difference is that the home care worker would not be likely to live with the elderly person, but multiple people would take shifts being available in case of an emergency situation. Twenty-four hour care is a level above companionship, and the elderly individual likely needs help with daily living activities like bathing, meal preparation, or medication management.
If dementia care could be compared to any kind of childcare situation, it would be caring for a child with special needs. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses have a unique set of needs to go along with the basic care that goes along with aging. Home care services that offer dementia care should have caregivers who have been trained to work with the unique needs of someone with dementia.
There should be an understanding of phenomenon like sundowning and mood swings. They should work to provide healthy nutrition for the elderly who sometimes forget to eat or forget they’ve already eaten. Wandering is a concern and the whereabouts of the elderly should be monitored at all times. Caring for someone with dementia requires the ability to redirect, to patiently listen to repetition, and to engage the elderly in activities to exercise the mind with minimal frustration.
The primary difference between the levels of home care services discussed here boil down to the amount and type of training the caregiver has successfully completed. In the same way you would be unlikely to hire a neighborhood teen to care for your child with Down Syndrome, you want to ensure that the experience and training of the caregiver in your home matches the needs of your elderly loved one.