Great Expectations in Home Care

Posted on August 29, 2013

Home Care is a very flexible and cost-effective way to provide a safety net for senior member of the family to continue living in their own home and communities. Even though home care requires less adjustment than a placement in a group home or assisted living facility, it tends to have strong undercurrents of emotion and expectations for the entire family.

Home care is a life transition. Having a virtual stranger coming into your home to help manage the most basic aspects of daily living can trigger deep emotional responses. For the senior in need of care, loss of autonomy, independence and privacy are very real. This may be piled on top of other recent losses in health and relationships. No one, in my experience, has EVER welcomed the need for home care as it is typically follows some sort of loss or series of losses.

For the family, guilt, fear and inadequacy are feelings that are very relevant and real as well. Many, if not most, adult children wish that they had the time or lived close enough to provide the care they feel their parents deserve. Fear enters in, with the control and direction they lose when hiring someone to provide the care. Feelings of inadequacy can surface, especially if they had attempted to provide the care themselves and it became overwhelming. These emotions are all very natural it is best to acknowledge them as they come to the surface. Often, the act of hiring outside help brings these feelings to the forefront. If left unaddressed, they can have detrimental effects on the success of home care assistance.

Often when people are not aware of or do not want to acknowledge these intense emotions, there is a tendency to place unrealistic expectations on the caregiver. No matter how hard the caregiver works, they will never be a replacement for the adult child. The caregiver is an individual with their own history and personality. They will not immediately understand every nuance and preference of each client.

Clearly defining tasks and reviewing skill is vital to beginning this professional relationship, which most reputable home care agencies will do with an in-home assessment and a plan of care. Once the expectations are established, they should remain constant as the caregiver establishes a rapport with the family and can be adjusted if the condition of the client changes.

At the outset, the focus of the caregiver should always be on the safety and well-being of their client. Housekeeping duties can be included, but shouldn’t be at the expense of quality care.  Obvious adjustments can be made as the caregiver settles in to their routine. Clearly, if a caregiver is just NOT the right personality, that should be addressed as soon as possible. However, if the caregiver is competent and professional, it may help to wait a little while rather than rush into a change. Learning the temperament and rhythms of a new client takes a little time. After a while, the caregiver will develop a regular routine based on these daily rhythms and will increasingly be able to anticipate situations and changes and how best to deal with them.

In short, no one can care for your parents like you can. However, if your situation requires outside assistance, do your best to understand the limits of the professional home care relationship and guard against placing unrealistic expectations. If the home care professional provided is caring and competent, provide space and flexibility for the relationship to develop. This should help everyone ease into this life transition with minimal discomfort and allow this new relationship to flourish.

– Gabriela Brown, CSA

Constant Companions Home Care

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