Mind Your Body Episode 33 with Forrest Hong, Ph.D.
You know that feeling, watching your parents struggle with things they used to “just do.” It’s frightening and embarrassing to them, and it’s emotionally devastating for you. You long for “the way it used to be” knowing that it won’t be, and that this is the inevitable cycle of life. You may already know it’s time to get caregiving help.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, you need to be aware of four key categories when you’re ready to get caregiver help:
- Personal Care: bathing, eating, dressing, toileting
- Household Care: cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping
- Health Care: medication management, physician’s appointments, physical therapy
- Emotional Care: companionship, meaningful activities, conversation
Ask a professional care manager
If it’s possible, start with a plan that includes a conversation with your parents, recommends Forrest Hong, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers. He’s an expert on caregiving and vice president of Your Care Manager. It’s a firm whose mission “provides older adults and their families with expert, at-home, personal care solutions to improve their quality of life and well-being, decrease costly mistakes, eliminate inappropriate institutional care, and prevent overuse of services.”
I recommend first seeking a company like this before you need it. It’s a minefield “out there,” as I learned firsthand, and the potential for expensive, even devastating mistakes is great. After all, this isn’t what you went to school to do and it’s not as easy as “just finding someone.”
Costs of caregiving help
If your loved one has long-term care, that’s great—if the waiting period isn’t too extensive, benefits haven’t been cut and prices greatly increased in recent years. Remember that home care isn’t covered by any government entitlement program.
A professional like Dr. Hong can guide you to reputable agencies, which may be pricey, but if you use them, you won’t be saddled with legal responsibilities as an “employer.” Please believe me, depending upon which state you are in, the line about home health workers and you as the employer can be fuzzy—even between state tax authorities and the IRS. An agency can ensure your help is bonded.
Agency or do-it-yourself?
The Family Caregiver Alliance rates the differences between using an agency and hiring someone yourself:
- Screening, hiring/firing, pay and taxes are handled by the agency. (Note: There are also some agencies that will handle the paperwork (taxes, social security, etc.) if you hire a home care worker on your own.
- If the worker is sick, a substitute can be sent.
- Can provide individuals with a variety of skills to meet varying needs (e.g., skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy etc.).
- May be partially covered by Medicaid or private insurance.
- Often several workers are used which can be confusing or distressing for the person receiving care.
- Less individual choice in workers.
- More expensive than privately hiring an individual.
Privately-Hired Home Care Worker
- A strong one-on-one relationship can develop between the worker and the person receiving care, although this can also happen through an agency when there is a commitment to continuity.
- Usually less expensive than going through an agency.
- You get to choose the person you think will be the best to provide care to your loved one.
- If the home care worker is sick, no substitute is readily available.
- Screening, hiring/firing, pay and taxes must be handled by you.
- May not be covered by Medicaid or private insurance.
This video with Dr. Hong will help clear the air—and help you care.
(Photo courtesy: © Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime.com)