Guest post written by Alex Chamberlain, Executive Director, home care, Aging Wisely

Various surveys of seniors return the same results: seniors say they wish to stay in their own homes as they age.  What this most likely reflects is the desire to stay independent and in control more than simply the attachment to the home (though a home often has great emotional significance as well).  The reality is that many of us will remain healthy and strong well in to our later years, but we will be more prone to chronic conditions and possibly less able to manage a household.

What resources are available to help?  Senior home care covers a wide range of services, delivered a variety of ways.  It can all be quite confusing, so we will help break it down along with some tips and considerations.

Many individuals and families hire someone privately to assist with household tasks or care.  They may use classified ads, recommendations or matching services to find help.  It is important to understand the pros and cons of these methods.  You do expose yourself to potential liability and take on certain employment/tax responsibilities.  You also will typically forego having backup, so you will need to make other arrangements if the individual is ill or has conflicts.  Get good advice before you make a decision and determine how the costs break down when all factors are considered.

[caption id="attachment_28510" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Alex Chamberlain, Executive Director, Easy Living, Inc."]Alex Chamberlain[/caption]

There are also various types of agencies/companies you can hire for home care.  Unfortunately, these entities are regulated by each state, so there is some variation in standards/requirements.  Some states do not regulate companion or non-medical care.  Other states license and regulate both medical home health care (which also may be Medicare certified) and non-medical home care.  Check with your state to find out more about the regulations.  It can help you to “compare apples to apples” and be more educated on your options.

Regardless of the type of provider you hire, have a good understanding of their background and track record in providing care.  Get recommendations and find out how they hire, train and supervise staff.  Ask them about experience with your particular situation, disease or needs.  Ask them how they will match caregivers to your needs, how they plan care specific to you and how they manage backup care.  If you are a family caregiver, especially at a distance or caring for a loved one with dementia, how will they communicate with you?

After determining your home care options and finding some local resources, the next question is usually financial.  Who pays for home care? What does insurance cover? Medicare pays for limited home health care, but not custodial care (the long-term type of care often needed to remain home such as household support, meal preparation, help with hygiene etc.).  Long term care insurance policies typically have a home care option, so if you have purchased long-term care insurance you may be able to submit a claim to have your care covered.  There are some state, federal and other assistance programs available to help, especially for individuals with limited financial resources.  To learn more, you can get a copy of EasyLiving’s Paying for Home Care Fact Sheet.

There are a number of supportive services that can also be beneficial to the senior living alone who begins to need some help.  Senior nutrition services, ranging from Meals on Wheels to senior dining programs or hiring someone to prepare meals, can aide in good health.  There are a number of technologies that can help too, from personal emergency response systems (“fall buttons”) to monitoring systems and electronic medication dispensers.

About the author:  Alex Chamberlain is Executive Director at EasyLiving, Inc., a fully licensed, private duty home health care company serving individuals and families in Pinellas and Pasco counties in Florida.  EasyLiving was named a 2011 “Top Small Business in the South” by Business Leader Magazine and the 4th fastest growing company in Tampa Bay Business Journal’s “Fast 50” of 2010.