How likely is it that you will remain independent for your entire life? If you live a long life, the odds are decidedly against it. Research shows that if you live to age 65, there’s about a 7 in 10 chance that you will need someone to take care of you at some point in your life. Where the care will take place may be very much up to you.
If you’re like most people, chances are even greater – about 9 in 10 – that when the time comes, you’ll have the chance for the care to take place where you are most comfortable: in your own home.
That’s why home care has become such a popular option. People, in increasing numbers according to studies, say they want to stay in the comfort and familiarity of their homes as long as possible rather than in assisted living care or a nursing home. So, unless you have a family caregiver available to do the “heavy lifting” in caring for you – and in today’s society that’s becoming less and less common for a number of different reasons (distances families live apart, personal and professional obligations on the part of family members, a disappearance to the tradition of bringing elderly family members into the homes of adult children to care for them) – you’ll probably have the need one day for the services provided by a home care agency.
Here in south shore MA home care agencies typically offer non-medical care. Those home health firms that provide skilled care typically offer the services of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN, who is licensed to administer medications and injections to patients). Many agencies will also offer the services of home health aides, who have been trained in providing care in the home.
So what services can a home health aide or non medical caregiver provide? They can remind a patient to take his or her medication and assist with the process (although they can’t administer the medication), perform light housekeeping duties (such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, making a bed), provide support with the activities of daily living (bathing, grooming, feeding, toileting), escort the patient to medical appointments, and assist with meal preparation.
A home health aide can also take and record blood pressure, oral temperature, pulse rate, respirations and body weight, and can assist patients who depend on various types of medical equipment. This may include wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, transfers and electric chair lifts. Home health aides may care for patients in their homes for several hours a day, several days a week. This may include round-the-clock care, with three or more caregivers sharing the responsibility, or a single caregiver who lives in the patient’ home and provides care throughout the day and during the overnight hours.
Many home care agencies do what they can to match home health aide with patient. While it may not be quite like a dating service, getting the right parties together is every bit as critical in maximizing the success of the pairing. This often means making sure the aide speaks the same language as the patient and, for patients who are on restricted diets, can prepare meals that take into account the patient’s special needs.
The beauty of home care is that more and more people today can stay at home for all or much of their lives. This was not the case several generations ago, when family members typically had two choices once loved ones became increasingly fragile and infirm: bring them into their own homes or institutionalize them.