Up until now, the family was under the impression that Dad was doing OK. He’s been living alone for a long time and he always seems like he’s doing well. At Christmas dinner, however, his distraction and forgetfulness was almost alarming. He went frequently to the restroom, and often seemed to not quite understand what we were saying to him.
He spilled his food. His face was unevenly shaven. His clothes had dandruff and stains on them.
This is not normal for him. We became concerned.
I began to do research into elder care. There are a variety of situations that could be engaged to help. When I went to talk to my brothers and sisters - the range of opinion was upsetting. “Maybe it’s time for a care home” was one opinion. “Maybe we should have someone live with him” was another.
Research verified that when the goal is for him to be happy and live as long as possible, he needed to be able to stay where he is. Moving him now - at the age of 88 was too late. He would experience the move as a trauma and a rejection of his dignity - and research shows this causes decline both physically and cognitively. Decline always hastens death.
We were clear we all wanted the best for our Dad. And this meant keeping him safe and at home.
A spectrum of options
Money seemed to be at the core of the other sibling’s concerns. We knew Dad owned his house outright, but we also knew his social security barely covered all his daily needs. He had already burned through his retirement money while Mom was still alive and he was down to only the ownership of his home and his social security income. The family of kids have been pooling together to cover his property taxes for several years now, over his embarrassed objections.
We had a family meeting. I presented my research. The kindest, most life-affirming and cost-effective approach was to keep him home with a support person going in to help him several days a week. This way his environment doesn’t change, which is a major cause of stress for seniors. Stress causes decline and illness. Even when a senior is deep into a form of dementia - I read that moving the senior is so disorienting it causes a decline in both health and behaviors.
Even in supported independent living programs - unless the senior chooses to go into one while they are still fully cognizant of their ability to make sound choice - the change in environment and faces around them causes too much stress for the body to maintain health. Seniors are vulnerable and frail.
I learned that hiring a live-in person can be tricky. As an independent contractor - a live-in aide is supposed to carry their own workman compensation insurance and pay their own taxes. If they don’t - then we would be seen as their employer - and out of compliance with labor laws. When interviewing people in this field it was discovered that MOST live-in aid workers are out of compliance with these laws, which place the hiring families at great financial and legal risk.
Dad didn’t qualify for state funded in home care due to the fact that he had equity in his house and a so-called “adequate” social security award. To qualify he would have to have state-sponsored medical insurance in place with no co-pay needed and he had a small co-pay in place with his insurance. But his insurance had no “long-term” care rider on it, which is what he would also have needed to qualify for help with in home support.
We interviewed in home care companies. We had heard too many stories of questionable care through low paid workers. We wanted safety and security - and we needed not to have to financially strain our family systems and all of us have children and families of our own.
We interviewed a handful of companies and finally went with a franchise who was large enough to provide a healthy choice of care-givers, while offering financial options for the hourly cost of the in home care. We had no resources to tap into for our Dad’s care.
We found a company that was both international and with local owners in our area who had been providing care to our community for 20 years. The intake care manager showed us where to go to get a reverse mortgage on our Dads’ home, which made it possible for him to access the funds needed to see him through until his death. Then, we would sell his house and pay off the loan. Because it was a well-known company - they had a strong local reputation of providing quality in home care, over-site of the individuals aging process and a wide range of suggestions and options for ongoing cost management. The size of the franchise meant that they could keep local care companies in check by keeping wage wars from erupting, due to the fact that this big franchise kept their prices fixed in the middle of the care-provision market - which helped keep the hourly costs stable in our area.
Now Dad has a companion who comes in and helps him accomplish his daily goals. He has a friend to do things with, who comes often enough to over-see his personal care as well as his emotional stability. Our family didn’t have to bear the brunt of his success - and all of us now rest well at night.
IF you would like more information on this option for your family, call my office we can send you a booklet on how to let your family too rest at night knowing mom or dad is well cared for in their own home.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.