Finding the Right Care for Your Loved One

One of the most rewarding parts of caring for a loved one is giving them the basic help they need to do everyday activities. Supporting a loved one in the ability to enjoy an independent lifestyle is important for both your lives. But there may come a time when extra help isn’t available from family and friends, and maintaining one's quality of life may depend on finding additional help. Choosing the right caregiver is essential in order for your loved one to live a happy and carefree life.

Don’t let arthritis, immobility, incontinence, and other common ailments stop your loved one from living life to the fullest. Resources are available to help your loved one continue to live confidently. You don’t have to struggle alone. Learn about the following caregiver resources to help you and your loved one achieve the quality of life she wants and deserves.

What are the ADLs and IADLs of happy living?

Each of us has a long list of activities of daily living (or ADLs) that we accomplish each day without a second thought. Care professionals and doctors use a specific list of ADLs to describe simple daily tasks needed to maintain a healthy and happy life. ADLs are especially important as we age, because they are the key component to keeping our independence and maintaining our quality of life. Not to fear! If your loved one does struggle with some of the following ADLs, there are many products and resources available to help continue a healthy lifestyle.

ADLs include:
  • grooming (brushing our teeth, combing hair, shaving)
  • walking and simple movements
  • using the restroom
  • showering and bathing

Care professionals use the term instrumental activities of daily living (or IADLs) to refer to activities adults do that are more complex. These skills are more challenging than simple ADLs but are also very important to those trying to maintain independent living. If the person you are helping does toil with IADLs, you do not have to give up hope. Maintaining independence can continue.

    IADLs include:
  • paying household bills and banking
  • managing medication
  • using the telephone
  • grocery shopping
  • maintaining the home
  • preparing meals

It is important to remember the terms ADLs and IADLs. Doctors, health care facilities, and insurance companies use ADLs and IADLs to determine a person's level of independence as a means to qualify for certain care. If you are caring for a loved one on your own, monitoring their ability to perform ADLs and IADLs can help determine the right time to seek extra care to help them live life to its fullest potential. Remember, reaching out for help does not have to be negative or worrisome. Gaining qualified advice and tools helps both you and the one you are helping cultivate that comfortable life you desire. There are many products available to help with ADLs and IADLs, particularly for those related to incontinence. The worry of being unprepared does not have to hinder you or your loved one. No matter the age of the person in need, there are resources to help navigate a better way of life.

Having a conversation with your loved one about getting assistance with any of the activities mentioned above, but particularly regarding issues related to incontinence, might feel overwhelming. You might be wondering, how do I approach my loved one about something so personal? How can I get her to use incontinence products? Here are some tips to help you start the conversation:

  • Remind her that she is not alone. Many people struggle with incontinence at various times throughout life, and it has many causes. Make sure she feels that you are listening to her concerns, and emphasize that you want her to be comfortable and maintain her independence.
  • If your loved one is having difficulty acknowledging or accepting the issue, offer the perspective that wearing an absorbent product that can be changed as needed will ensure a clean and fresh feeling.
  • Word choices matter. The words you choose can shape your loved one’s perception and ensure dignity. Emphasize that today’s incontinence products are far more discreet, comfortable, and convenient than ever before.
  • Frame up the need for assistance positively. Tell your loved one that any assistance from you or from a paid caregiver is intended to support her. She may worry about losing her ability to care for herself. Remind her that receiving some help with activities can ensure that she maintains her overall independence in the longer term.

What do you do when you know your loved one needs a little extra help – and you may not be able to provide care directly? You can find different types of in-home help to fit the level of care your loved one needs. There are three different titles often given to in-home caregivers: certified nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal care attendants. Here's a look at each and their qualifications.

Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA
  • medically trained and have to pass a certification test
  • are often under the direct supervision of a certified nurse
  • can check vital signs, help administer medications, and care for wounds
  • help with ADLs and IADLs

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Attendants (also called “Care Companions”)
  • usually assist with cooking, cleaning, bathing (ADLs and IADLs)
  • help with companionship
  • not a certified medical professional

How do you find the help you need?

There are several ways to hire an in-home care provider. Personal recommendations and in-home care agencies are among the most frequent methods of finding extra help. Additionally, recommendations, word-of-mouth referrals, and classified ads are the most cost-friendly ways to hire in-home care. Online senior care directories also offer information, ratings, and reviews of local senior care operators. You have options when searching for a caregiver – it just takes a little research. Independent caregivers, not associated with an agency, often have hourly rates that are less than those provided by in-home care agencies. This can be a great way to hire help, as long as you trust and are completely satisfied with the care your loved one is getting.

Hiring an independent caregiver

If you do hire an independent contractor, there are several things of which to be aware. Make sure you thoroughly screen the individual and double-check that they have personal liability insurance. If someone you have hired gets hurt inside your home or your loved one’s home, you may be liable for their injuries, medical bills, and all future disability payments. While this is the least expensive option for hiring the kind of care you need, it can be risky. Make sure to always do your homework when hiring on your own!

What to expect when hiring from an agency

Agencies properly screen and train their caregivers. If you are not satisfied with your caregiver, agencies should have several to choose from. While they are generally a more expensive option, agencies are also properly licensed and bonded. If a caregiver gets hurt inside your home, the agency will be liable for expenses, not you. Agencies are insured, pay taxes, and take care of all the nitty gritty details for you, so that you and your loved one can focus on what truly matters in life.

What do you do if you live far away and cannot be physically present to oversee care? Don't worry, hiring from an agency is also a great option when trying to care for a loved one from far away. When you cannot always physically be there with your loved one, an agency can inform you on the situation inside the home and can advocate for your loved one. Whichever route you take in hiring care for your loved one, make sure to stay informed and communicate regularly with the health worker, whether that person is an independent contractor or works through an agency.

What questions should you ask of a potential care provider?

You need to be completely comfortable with your hired in-home care provider as you are inviting this person into your or your loved one's home. They will be tending to duties such as bathing, care for accidents, and managing medicine protocols, which are all very personal tasks. Make sure to thoroughly interview and ask appropriate questions of the care provider before inviting them into your home. Here are some things to remember when interviewing a caregiver.

  1. Make sure your loved one is there to meet the caregiver before actually hiring. You need to make sure the caregiver and the person receiving the care have compatible personalities as they will be spending lots of time together!
  2. Be certain the caregiver has received the proper training and ask specific questions. Are they CPR certified? Have they had any professional medical training?
  3. Ask questions about the caregiver’s previous clients or jobs, even if the caregiver is from an agency.
  4. Ask personal questions. Why did they choose to become a caregiver? Do they find caregiving fulfilling?
  5. Ask what they would do in certain situations, such as what they would do if your loved one fell or if your loved one had an accident.
  6. Remember to review your caregiver’s expectations while they care for your loved one. You do not want the caregiver being told to wash the windows or mow the lawn if that is not in their job description. Make sure they know to contact you if they are being asked by your loved one to do more than they are assigned to do. This will help to avoid any unpleasant situations.
  7. Finally, make sure they clearly know what steps to take in case of an emergency. Who do you want them to call first, and how should they best stay in contact with family members? Explicitly state that you want to be kept up-to-date with everything happening at home.

Alternative ways to arrange breaks from caregiving

When money is tight or something comes up and you need to find respite care at a moment’s notice, here are a few alternatives to hiring a traditional caregiver:

  • Ask for help from family and friends
    If you haven’t done so already, it’s always a great idea to ask family and friends nearby if you can put them on your short list of caregivers for times when you need to organize care, either ahead of time or for an emergency.

  • Adult day services
    When your loved one needs some health monitoring, mind and body exercise, social activities, meals, transportation, and other support services, consider searching for adult day services, also known as adult daycare. Licensed providers range from $25 to $150 per day and many accept Medicaid or some sort of insurance.

  • Assisted living respite care
    If you’re going on vacation and need to plan for a place for your elder loved one to stay other than home, you may have the option of finding assisted living communities that offer short-term stays, called respite care. Communities offer hourly, half-day, full-day, overnight, or extended respite stays from $100-$200 per day on average. A place to start searching for assisted living communities near you would be through an online senior care directory.

  • Seek out a caregiver co-op
    This organized and affordable option can help you find care on a regular basis. Caregiver members of co-ops take turns managing the group’s care responsibilities in exchange for some time off, giving caregivers more time for themselves, while fostering a sense of community among both those who give and receive care. Check with local community centers or adult day service providers to learn about existing co-ops near you.

Trouble with daily activities doesn’t mean your loved one needs to stop living a quality life. Remembering the important steps above can help you stay confident in your experience, while searching for the right caregiver to help your loved one live life fearlessly.


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