Defining Home Care For Seniors

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As the new way of aging becomes more and more popular, some people are wondering just what is home care. The term home care refers to health and social services provided by trained caregivers at the homes of seniors who may need part-time or full-time care. Home care becomes an option when a senior chooses to remain in his own place but needs regular care, which his relatives and friends can no longer provide. These seniors may not be sick, but they need help with some activities of daily living. This type of senior includes those who are slowly losing the ability to care for themselves. Those who are disabled, terminally ill, recovering, and in need of medical assistance or treatment may also require in-home care.

There are at least five general categories of home care service. Some rest home care agencies may provide just a few or all of these services and a caregiver may offer more than one of these services:

Homemaker Services refer to the assistance provided in managing a senior's home such as light housekeeping, grocery shopping, changing beds and laundry. Personal Care Services refer to the assistance provided to seniors in doing some activities of daily living such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, toileting, and getting around. Meal Services refer to the provision of meals to seniors in their homes or in senior centers, schools, churches and other community areas. Home Health Care Services is a term used to refer to services provided to seniors who have medical problems that need to be treated at home. Home health aides provide seniors help with basic health care such as changing bandages and dressings, taking vital signs and assisting with medications. Skilled Health Care Services such as rehabilitative therapies and skilled nursing care are those provided by licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, physical, occupational, and speech therapists. When is Home Care Needed?

Knowing what is home care is only part of the equation. Knowing the right time to hire home care services is equally important. A care assessment may be needed to help determine the right time. By themselves, caregivers can assess the type of senior care needed or they can get help from a geriatric care manager.

A geriatric care manager can help assess your senior's condition by carefully examining his ability to manage activities of daily living, as well as his physical and mental health. The activities of daily living refer to the everyday jobs necessary for your senior's personal care and the proper management of his house.

The following is a checklist to help you determine the memory problems and physical limitations that affect your senior's ability to:

  • Do housework, shopping, laundry, and cooking
  • Perform personal care, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting
  • Manage medications and medical appointments
  • Deal with legal issues and personal finances

Developing an effective home care plan also requires that your senior's physical and mental health condition be carefully assessed. Getting advice from a geriatric specialist or the senior's primary care physician may be necessary to evaluate these physical and mental capacities. Some of the issues that must be considered are:

  • Mobility: As a person advances in age, moving around his own house and community becomes more and more difficult for him.
  • Vision: Many seniors have problems with their vision, which often leads to injuries from fall, less social interaction, depression, and lower quality of life. Since elders usually do not inform their health care providers about their vision problems, a vision screening might be necessary.
  • Hearing: Many older adults also have hearing problems and this can have an effect on their quality of life. The use of assistive technology may be necessary to help them cope with this health issue. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are recommended in treating basic hearing loss, while a more specialized medical treatment may be needed for those suffering from a more serious hearing problem.
  • Mental health: This is one aspect of your senior's health that is very difficult to assess. There is a thin line separating the memory problems that naturally come with growing older and those that transpire in the initial stages of dementia. Seniors with cognitive problems often show such signs as having trouble performing or completing daily tasks, being more disoriented than usual, and having difficulty remembering things which he has just recently done.
  • Depression: This is another health problem that is difficult to figure out. Loss of appetite, low energy and having no interest in others can be due to a number of causes. A geriatric mental health assessment may be needed to give you a better picture of your senior's mental health and to know whether or not there is a need for home care.

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