Northampton Press

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Living the Vintage Years: In-home care can keep seniors independent

Wednesday, January 2, 2019 by Bonnie Lee Strunk Special to The Press in Opinion

Sometimes, others’ bad experiences scare us so much we become afraid to try similar endeavors ourselves.

Such was the case with me. I had heard so many horror stories over the years from friends, neighbors and relatives about hiring home-care aides. When I recently was faced with that task, I was paralyzed with fear.

Reports of stolen watches and jewelry, cash and other valuable belongings filled my thoughts, making any meaningful action impossible. It seemed every person I talked to gave me dire warnings.

Besides theft and assault, I was told of a caregiver who brought her children along on the job.

Another apparently brought along her personal laundry, using the elderly patient’s washer, detergent and water.

One caregiver reportedly spent all her time on her cellphone, ignoring the patient. Another invited her boyfriend to visit.

And I was supposed to hire such a person and trust this stranger in my home?

How does one begin this arduous process?

Fortunately, back in April, I had attended a senior expo. Numerous vendors were represented, including home-care aides. When I pulled out the stack of brochures I had collected, I realized there must be about 80 such agencies serving the Lehigh Valley. I quickly learned not to trust their advertising.

One agency, based in South Whitehall Township, lists as a benefit, “flexible scheduling ... no hourly minimum requirements.” When I phoned for information, I was told the agency had a four-hour minimum per visit. Beware of deceptive advertising.

I must have interviewed at least 12 agencies on the phone and another six in person, in my home.

Two told me they did not want the job. Many wanted three or four hours at each visit, both morning and evening.

When I figured out the math, the cost for home-care six or eight hours a day would have exceeded our monthly income.

Finally, I thought I had found the perfect fit.

I signed a contract, paid a deposit and told the manager I would notify the office of a start date, since Medicare is still paying for therapy, nurses and home-care aides.

Three days later, a young woman appeared on my doorstep at noon. She said she was from that agency and was at my home “to work.”

I explained I did not yet need to pay for such services because Medicare is supplying an aide. I also told her the manager and I had agreed on the starting time of 8 a.m., so she would have been four hours late for work.

When I called the office I was told it was a “mix-up,” and I would get my deposit back.

Instead, I was mailed a check from one of the agency’s clients, made payable to the agency, for services provided the previous week.

More than a month later, I still have not received my deposit back. Talk about inept!

I was not off to a good start. The search had to continue.

What questions should one ask when seeking a reputable caregiver? Foremost, find out what kind of training, screenings and background checks are performed before the agency hires its caregivers.

Is the agency licensed, bonded and insured?

Will the agency replace a caregiver who is not a good match for the client?

Ask what services the caregiver can provide. This may include transportation, errands, light housework, dressing, bathing, feeding, transferring, toileting, laundry, meal preparation, companionship and more.

Most seniors say they want to remain at home rather than go to a nursing facility. In-home caregivers can enable older adults to age in their homes safely, comfortably and happily.

Choose a caregiver carefully and feel secure knowing your loved one is in capable, compassionate hands.