Articles Posted in Non-Medical Home Care

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The child of an elderly loved one will undoubtedly face terrible stress when trying to care for him/her.  My respected colleague, Kurt Hjelle, owner of Safe At Home Health Care, a non-medical home care agency specializing in live in caregivers,  does a wonderful job of describing the realities of caring for an elderly loved one:

Every single week, I am contacted by a family member — typically the son or daughter of a senior citizen — who is looking for help.

Their parent (or parents) are starting to have some struggles, and it’s taking its toll on the entire family.

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A client who heard me speak a number of years ago decided to hire me for an interesting project. He and his wife live in a large beautiful older home (estimated over 5,000 square feet with three floors). The couple was wondering what the potential future costs of staying in the home would be if one or both of them became ill. I generated a report for them based upon three case examples. Although I didn’t know what the current costs of maintaining their home are, I included places in the report to “fill in the blanks.” I gave the couple some general ideas of what they might need to consider in the future. Many of the future costs would vary by the dimensions of their home and the models of safety equipment chosen (e.g., stair lifts, as they had three floors). The report was meant only to give them ideas of what the costs might be, and what they might need to think about for future safety. I ended the report with a ball park comparison of what it might cost to move to one of the higher end senior living communities. Here are the results:

Case Examples

Client M had been healthy until recently when s/he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition. The client was ambulatory, but now needs a walker. Because the disease has left the client very weak, s/he needs help with meal preparation, bathing, dressing, and standby assistance with toileting. In addition, the caregiver must run errands, provide medication reminders, do laundry, and light housekeeping. All of the necessary help can be obtained through a private caregiver from a licensed non-medical home care agency. The current cost for care of the individual would be $22 per hour. The non-medical home care agency estimated that the client would need at least 8 hours of care per day, 7 days a week so as not to exhaust the spouse. Therefore, the cost of the care would be $176 per day, and $1,232 per week. The total annual cost for the caregivers would be $64,064. In addition, the bedroom was on the second floor, so the stairs would need to be modified in order to accommodate a lift, the cost of which would start at $1,600. The bathroom needed to be outfitted with grab bars, and the shower needed to be modified to a walk-in model, with the addition of a raised toilet seat. A ramp needed to be fitted to the back door, with access to the driveway. Additional support had to be hired to keep the ramp and other areas free from snow and ice. The house needed to be canvassed for tripping hazards and slippery floors.

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Elder abuse is a crime. It can occur whether your loved one is at home, attending adult day care, or living in a senior living community. And like any other crime, you have an obligation to report it. This month, I have asked one of my trusted partners, Mike and Mary Doepke of Home Helpers Home Care of Hinsdale, to share some information on Elder Abuse:

From all outside appearances, 80-year-old Shirley seemed well cared for by the niece who had moved in with her a few months earlier. She even told her friends how she was enjoying the company and the help around the house.

Shirley had always been frugal with her credit cards, using them only when needed. So when the bank called to ask her about some recent, unusual charges on her account, she was alarmed. She was even more surprised to find out that the purchases were made by the niece she had welcomed into her home.

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There are approximately 44 million Americans who are caring for an elderly loved one.   Between one and two million people over the age of 65 have been abused by someone who cares for them.  During the eleven years that I have owned my senior living consulting business, I have one story involving elder abuse that really stands out in my mind.  Here it is:

A respected colleague called me and said that a couple in their 80’s were in a very tenuous position, and asked if I would assess their situation with regard to recommending some senior living communities.  When I called and spoke to one member of the couple, I was told that he and his wife were not interested in senior living communities, but would rather speak to someone who could help them integrate back into society via participation in activities at a senior center.  He also expressed interest in having a personal trainer come into the home and exercise with them.    I told him I would get back to him in several days.

When I contacted him a few days days later with potential resources, his conversation with me went in several drastically different directions.  I felt that an onsite visit was in order, so I made an appointment with him for  visit.

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Many seniors have a tendency to keep private their financial realities. However, if your senior loved one purchased long-term care insurance to cover the costs of a stay in a community or to hire non-medical home care, you will want to ask if you can look at it. I say this based on the experience I had with my mother, and I share our story lest you should have the same experience.

My mother purchased a long-term care policy 25 years ago. I was amazed that the insurance carriers were able to underwrite her at age 70. Thankfully, she was well enough to pass the underwriting since she had no serious medical issues at the time. However, the agent who sold the policy to her (and who had bragged that she was the number one producer at her company) was not exactly prudent when designing the structure of the plan for a claim that could occur in the far future. The plan that was sold to my mother included a 90-day waiting period before any benefit would be paid. Such waiting periods are common. The plan maximum paid up to $100 per day. That, too, was all right for a plan that was purchased 25 years ago. However, the agent neglected to sell my mother her an inflation guard benefit which would increase her plan’s benefit by 3-4% per year. If an inflation guard benefit had been included, the benefit she would receive would be much more in line with the currents costs charged by her senior living community. The bottom line is, based on the plan purchased 25 years ago, my mother will receive a benefit that will cover $3,000 of her $6,000 monthly cost.

While I am thankful she had the policy, it would have been more valuable if the inflation coverage had been included at its inception. If you know or suspect your aging loved one has purchased a long-term care policy, ask if you can sneak a peek at it!

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If you are considering non-medical home care for your loved one, you should be aware of some changes in this segment of the senior living industry.

When I started in the senior living industry over 15 years ago, things were very simple. “Assisted living” meant nothing more than “stand by,” assistance with activities of daily living. Now, the industry has changed. “Hands on” care is available at the assisted living level, which allows the senior to remain in his/her assisted living apartment so much longer. In the same way, the licensed, non-medical home care agencies have undergone many changes. I have asked Mike O’Brien, owner of Independence-4-Seniors, and Legislative Chairperson, Illinois Chapter of the Home Care Association of America to tell you about them.

Illinois Legislation and Regulatory Changes in Private Duty Homecare

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My clients are a couple ages 78 and 80. The couple’s daughter had called me and tearfully related the story of how her parents were looking at senior living options, most of which would not fill their long-term needs. Like many of my clients, they had lost a significant amount of money in the most recent economic crisis, and they were living in a condominium where they could not afford to stay. The daughter feared that they would run out of money and be forced to move to a Medicaid community in the future. She pleaded with me to call her mother and set up an appointment to talk to them.

When I called, her mother curtly told me that they were still driving, had their faculties, and were able to evaluate the senior living communities on their own. Furthermore, they couldn’t afford services like mine. I assured her that I have lots of flexibility with the way my services are structured, and I could design a consultation that fit their budget. She said “no thanks,” and hung up.

When I relayed the situation to the daughter, she said that she would convince her parents to set up an appointment with me. To this day, I don’t know what the daughter said to her parents, but within a few days, I had an appointment set.

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During the past several months, several of my clients considered taking their loved one home rather than placing him/her in a long-term care community. After reviewing the costs of stair lifts ($2,500 to $16,000) and refurbished bathrooms, all of them opted to place the loved one in a community. That is because the loved ones would have required a 24-hour caregiver at a cost of at least $250 per day.

In contrast to these scenarios, my father-in-law had a stroke at age 85. After a stint in a nursing home, first with rehabilitation, then a short period as a nursing home resident, the family decided to renovate their father’s house for Disability access. I am going to share my sister-in-law’s thoughts as she recalls the situation:

As we saw in the months and year-or-more after Dad’s stroke, senior care giving is a continual learning process. My brother and I still sort of laugh (although it’s not really a laugh) about how Donovans put 50K into renovating the house for Disability access, but no one thought of certain details until those details hit us in the face.

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My client whom I will call “Marie” for the purposes of this story, was a 71 year old woman who had serious respiratory issues. Until recently, Marie lived at home with her mother. They had spent their entire lives together. A sudden illness caused Marie’s mother to be hospitalized and subsequently sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation. When it became apparent that my client’s mother was not going to recover, Marie brought her home and arranged for hospice services. There, my client Marie, a 70-something senior, continued to help tend to her mom, who eventually passed away.

As I had been hired by Marie previously, I was recently contacted by her trust officer, and was informed that Marie had been ill. It was requested that I act as her geriatric care manager. I went to the hospital in order to assess her situation. At that point in time, the trust officer knew very little about Marie’s physical condition.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was very surprised at how much Marie had deteriorated. She had been a feisty, quick witted woman. Despite her breathing issues, she had always been a fighter as evidenced by her devotion to her mother. At first, Marie didn’t recognize me because she was taking medications. Then in a matter of a few minutes, she confessed to me that the combination of taking care of her mother and the breathing issues landed her in the hospital, then in a rehab. community for respiratory therapy, then back in the hospital again. She said, “Andrea, I am convinced that taking care of my mother worsened my health. But, I loved her, and I would never change what I did. But, now that she is gone, I really have nothing to live for.” The hospital’s plan was to send Marie home with hospice care. She told me she was impressed with the hospice team that had taken care of her mom, and wanted the same people to take care of her.

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A friend and I were having a casual conversation regarding the costs of hiring a 24 hour caregiver. Her sister was having difficulty caring for a spouse with dementia. I told her that in the western suburbs of Chicago Illinois, the figure I was quoted was somewhere in the area of $230-$240 per day. Someone overheard me and said, “Oh no, you can get a live in for much cheaper than that. When I hired a caregiver for my parents, they only paid $120 per day.” My response was, “The arrangement you made for them was not through a licensed agency. Trust me, you probably talked to a staffing agency who found you the person that fit your needs. There is a big difference.”

If you are considering home health care for a loved one, the agency should be a member of the Home Care Association of America (formerly the National Private Duty Association). Without going into a lot of detail, the agencies who are members of the association In Illinois hold a license. They adhere to a code of ethics. A licensed agency, in opposition to an independent contractor or staffing agency (as the person I referenced was talking about), is responsible for the screening, training, and back round checks of the staff among other things. Some choose to test test for drug and alcohol use. If you choose to hire an unlicensed caregiver you will be assuming all the responsibilities of an employer, and may have no recourse if something goes wrong. What may appear as savings in the short- term may have long term repercussions as exemplified in the following Real Life Story.

Real Life Story
The client was a woman in her late 60’s. She had a diagnosis of a debilitating disease that left her bound to a wheelchair, and needed assistance with all of her activities of daily living (ADL). That is, eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, and walking. She needed total assistance from a sit to stand position, a feat that was well-accomplished by one caregiver. She lived in her own home with two full-time caregivers. One caregiver assisted her from the late afternoon into the evening, and supposedly held a nursing degree at one point in time. Yet, she was no longer licensed. The other was an unlicensed caregiver who assisted her from mid-morning until late afternoon. Thus, there was a gap in care from the late evening to the next morning. The caregiver who had the nursing credentials was being paid three times the amount of the unlicensed caregiver. Both caregivers were employed by her for over ten years.

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