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A Guide to Caregiving for Seniors

senior-man-in-kitchen

Whether you’re looking ahead to retirement or you’re in need of care right now, this guide to caregiving for seniors will prepare you for what’s ahead.

The need for care can take many forms, from in-home well visits to 24/7 medical supervision. In many ways, caregiving for seniors is a customizable service. That means that if you find yourself in need of help or medical assistance, you’ll have choices. That’s why we’ve compiled this, a guide to caregiving for seniors.

With it, you’ll find help deciding if you or a loved one will just need a little help around the house, if it would be best to hire a visiting or live-in nurse or care professional, or if you should opt for admittance into a long-term care facility. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the many options that may be available to you.

The State of Senior Care in America

The senior population of the United States is growing rapidly. It’s estimated that by 2050, senior citizens will make up 22% of the population. Compare that to the current 16.9% (Statista).

That represents an unprecedented increase, and it could lead us to wonder: Will there be enough caregivers to keep up? 

There has been a massive uptick in the recruitment of caregivers, which is an encouraging sign. That means more professionals, and likely more options, than are currently available are on the way.

As of just a few years ago, nearly 66 million informal caregivers (family, friends, neighbors) were providing care for a senior—and that kinship type of care accounted for more than 2/3 of all senior care (Family Caregiver Alliance).

This places an incredible amount of strain on those caregivers, and the scope of the matter becomes clearer when you consider that only 9% of disabled seniors are receiving all-professional care (Family Caregiver Alliance).

There’s nothing wrong with a spouse or family member caring for us (or our loved one) as we age; however, this often becomes the only option due to a shortage of funds or a lack of knowledge about what’s available.

For instance, there are programs offered that ensure the informal caregiver receives a wage. In other cases, retirement savings plan provisions can be made to ensure that professional care is paid for.

Types of Caregiving for Seniors

Before any decisions are made about the type of senior care that’s appropriate, a senior care assessment will be necessary.

This will determine what level of care is needed, but that’s not all. It will also establish what services are covered by insurance and provide a clearer picture about what the future may hold.

This assessment will cover things like bathing, eating and getting dressed. These fall under the category of ADLs, or Activities of Daily Living. 

The next category for assessment is IADLs, or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. This includes things like driving, dialing and talking on the phone, shopping, preparing food, personal finance management, cleaning and medication management.

If a senior is able to carry out ADLs (personal hygiene and eating, for example) without a problem, but driving and cooking are problematic, for instance, then some type of in-home assistance will be necessary.

If, on the other hand, they are unable to do things like brush their teeth or get dressed, then more intervention will be needed.

The levels of care, generally speaking, are:

  • Informal in-home caregiving
  • Professional in-home caregiving
  • An independent-living housing situation
  • An assisted living housing community
  • Assisted living with continuing care
  • Retirement living with continuing care
  • Full-time skilled care facility

If you do decide that your (or a loved one’s) best option is staying at home, you’ll have some research to do.

There are a number of different types of in-home care available in most areas.

grandpa-and-child-looking-out-a-window

A Guide to Caregiving for Seniors in Their Homes

Whether you decide to go with kinship or professional care, there are some facts you should be aware of for both options.

Kinship and Informal Care

This is care provided by family, friends or neighbors.

In most cases, it involves help with tasks around the house, companionship, and basic hygienic and medical assistance.

Nearly 50 million informal caregivers are providing for loved ones in the United States (Family Caregiver Alliance), and they usually receive no payment.

In most states, the Family Medical Leave Act allows for a 12-week unpaid leave to care for a sick family member without the fear of losing one’s job.

In a few states (New York, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, D.C.) that leave may qualify for partial payment of wages and job position preservation. 

Professional In-Home Care

In some situations, a professional nurse (LPN or RN), CNA or home healthcare aide is hired to attend to the needs of a senior. 

If there is a need for professional care, and the patient would rather stay at home than move into an assisted living or skilled care facility, these tips can act as a guide to caregiving:

  • Choose the level of training that meets your needs:  Home healthcare aides are required to complete a minimum number of hours of training. This training covers topics like nutrition, hydration, hygiene, incontinence management and communication. This is the minimum requirement for professional in-home care. CNAs, LPNs and RNs bring more experience and training.
  • Conduct a background check:  No one likes to think about it, but unfortunately, elder abuse and theft are real. And in many cases, perpetrators are repeat offenders. That’s why it’s so important to conduct a background check of any in-home caregiving candidate. Contracting with a professional background check agency is recommended (for accuracy and legality).
  • Only contract with an insured and bonded agency:  This will financially protect you from theft, damage and similar circumstances. 
  • Require vaccinations:  The CDC has put forth a list of vaccinations required of healthcare workers, and it includes shingles, flu, tuberculosis, pneumonia and others. Ask for proof of vaccination before anyone begins to care for you or a senior loved one.

A simple Google search of home care services in your area is likely to result in a number of options. Research each one. Ask for references.

Always make informed choices when it comes to your own care or that of your loved one.

Combination and Respite In-Home Senior Care Services

As we’ve all learned along the way, one-size-fits-all rarely fits well. That’s why we have respite care for seniors. 

This type of care includes services that offer informal caregivers a break.

It could be a professional home healthcare aide who stops by a few times a week. It could be an adult daycare or even just a reading companion for a few hours. 

This is a lower-cost option for those caregivers who have full-time jobs, or who are concerned about burnout.

This is a very real concern since many caregivers suffer mental and physical effects. 14% of informal caregivers report declining health during the first year of caregiving.

That number increases to 20% after five years (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP).

This is why it’s crucial to think not only of the senior in need of care, but of the caregiver.

There is a balance to be struck, and careful thought and some frank discussions will be necessary for coming to the best conclusion regarding care.

Show appreciation for the caregiver(s) in your life with these Caregiver Appreciation Quotes.

A Guide to Caregiving for You

Caregiving for you or an aging loved one is something that should be considered as inevitable.

Even if it’s not necessary, it’s always best to plan ahead and include provisions in your retirement plan. 

Just as we advise to assume you’ll live to be 100 years old, you should also assume that you might need a bit of help along the way.

This is not a sign of weakness. To the contrary, planning for your future is a sign of control, preparedness and strength.

We’re not going to pretend that preparing for retirement is a simple task.

There’s a lot to think about, including financial planning, insurance, investments, mental and physical health, exercise, social needs, security, housing, family, nutrition and even romance.

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