When parents reach a certain age, or level of need, perhaps you want to find someone to help them as they lose independence. Advertising abounds about how wonderful a home care agency is or how enticing life in assisted living can be. Maybe you know someone who took care of another relative or friend and you heard they did a good job. How does the family make a smart choice? And who can be trusted to do the caregiving for your aging parents?
From AgingParents.com where we see a wide range of families with elders in need of care, there are life lessons to be learned from the mistakes others make. Cases of neglect, malpractice, theft, and inappropriate relationships in elder care do happen at times. If you want to help keep your aging parents as safe as possible, learn from the cases we have seen where regrets were voiced by adult children who said they should have done it differently.
Here are our top five tips for being smart in choosing caregiving for your aging parents.
- Never put a caregiver in your loved ones’ home without doing a multi-state background check. No matter where the person comes from or who recommends them, get the full story. Situations change and past crimes can influence what a caregiver sees as opportunity. Licensed caregiver agencies normally do this. Be sure to find out if they do, when using an agency. That’s basic.
- Do keep tabs on your parents’ situation on your own. One can never give up all responsibility to a caregiver, no matter where your parent is. Ask questions, require records of what’s happening, and monitor. A mounted camera (“granny cam”) can be helpful to keep watch on all activity. Hiring a caregiver is not a “set it and forget it” thing. That’s dangerous.
- Drop in unannounced if your aging parent is receiving home care. Perhaps everything is fine but if not, you’ll soon see what needs to change. Aging parents are not always capable of good supervision of hired helpers.
- Assisted living can be great if your aging parent likes to socialize, can adapt to a completely different lifestyle and is free of serious medical conditions. Remember that no skilled nursing is available from assisted living facility staff. Assisted living is not licensed to deliver nursing care. Rather, it is an enriched social environment. If nursing is needed, it must come from outside the facility, or in some communities, from a different “wing” that is a licensed nursing home. Keep realistic expectations of what assisted living can and cannot do.
- From a nurse-attorney’s point of view, I can say that no caregiving choice is going to be perfect or without risks. Nursing homes make mistakes, as do assisted living communities, and elders are harmed by the mistakes. Unsupervised home care workers, even from licensed and bonded agencies still manage to commit elder abuse in some rather rare instances. The best protection you have for your aging parent in need of care is to vet any possibilities carefully. Pay attention to what is going on. Don’t take the sales person’s word for anything. Trust your own instincts. And as the saying goes, “trust but verify”.
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