If you have an elderly loved one in your life, you’ve likely begun to think about their future care. Maybe you’re planning to bring them home to live with you, or perhaps you’re considering a nearby assisted living facility. However, there’s another option worth considering: in-home care. Today, more and more seniors are choosing to “age in place” by living out their later years in the comfort of their own homes.
While aging in place with in-home care offers many benefits, it also requires some preparatory steps—namely, creating a safe living environment and hiring a quality caregiver. To learn more, we’ve asked four Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to weigh in with their professional advice on preparing for in-home care.
Creating a Safe Living Environment
One of the cornerstones of in-home care is creating a safe and accessible living environment that minimizes the risk of injury. While this pertains to the entire home, it’s particularly crucial in the bathroom, which statistics show is the room where injuries are most likely to occur. According to Debbie Allen of Marin Convalescent & Rehabilitation Hospital, bathroom safety starts with simple steps like removing tripping hazards (rugs, mats) and purchasing an adjustable toilet seat riser to accommodate accessibility needs. Probably the most important measure is installing grab bars in the shower and alongside the bathtub and toilet—these give a person a way to steady themselves while transferring, which greatly reduces the chances for falls.
In addition to these basic bathroom safety staples, Kimeri Opacic of ReBath by Schicker recommends remodeling the bathing area to maximize accessibility. One option she suggests is a walk-in bathtub, which has a door on the side that provides easy access for bathers with limited mobility. Another good choice is a zero threshold shower: with an entryway that’s level with the floor, it allows easy access for walkers and wheelchairs.
After the bathroom, the next biggest concern in terms of in-home safety is nighttime visibility, as one of the most common instances of falls is while going to the bathroom at night. To prevent this, Vivian Huddleston of Huddleston Care, In-Home & Around Town Service recommends having a lamp or light switch within easy reach of the person’s bed and keeping hallways illuminated with a nightlight. She says it’s also important to keep the floor clear of unnecessary clutter and remove tripping hazards like decorative rugs.
For those who require assistance for nighttime bathroom visits, Debbie Allen suggests monitoring movement with a clip alarm, which attaches to the pajamas and alerts the caregiver when the person gets out of bed. Similar nighttime monitoring options include a sensor pad placed beneath the person’s bedding and a floor sensor alarm.
Choosing an In-Home Care Assistant
The other important aspect of aging in place (particularly in one’s later years) is the assistance of an in-home caregiver. Due to the intimate nature of in-home assistance, it’s crucial to find a caregiver you can trust, which is why Ryan Colligan of Safe At Home Senior Care recommends working with a professional home care agency. “Professional agencies are required to bond, insure, background check and reference check all of their employees before hiring them, which provides a lot of assurances for their clients,” he explains. “You don’t get those same assurances when working with an independently contracted care provider. For example, if a care provider gets hurt in your home and they aren’t covered by liability insurance, you’re at risk of being sued. Additionally, if items come up missing in your home and your care provider isn’t bonded, you have no recourse for getting those items (or their equivalent value) back.”
Vivian Huddleston adds that, thanks to recent government regulation, the assurances provided by professional home care agencies are now stronger than ever. “On January 1, 2016, California’s Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act went into effect, which puts home care agencies under state jurisdiction,” she says. “Not only must all agencies be licensed with the state, any home care aides they employ must be entered into a state registry. Agencies are also required to give their employees five hours of training each year.”
Since the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act pertains only to organizations deemed “home care agencies,” there are several exceptions, including independent contractors hired directly by a client (though they may participate in the registry if they choose). So, if you’re looking for quality, trustworthy care, your best option is a licensed, professional agency.