With more than 90 percent of Americans saying they'd like to age at home, individuals and businesses that deliver goods and services to your door are booming. "Home delivery" of key services is a very attraction possibility that makes aging in place more viable and comfortable than ever.
There are options for everything from hiring someone who can perform companion services -- such as meal preparation or light housekeeping -- to more comprehensive personal care services -- such as assistance with bathing or medication prompting. But before selecting any type of service, you need to figure out your needs and find care options that are a good match.
"There's a range of options to make life a lot easier," says Jill Martinelli, LCSW and senior care advisor at Care.com. You can hire an agency that will coordinate a variety of services or find and manage private providers yourself. "It depends a lot on what a family can afford and the time they can devote to managing services," she says.
Understand Your Delivery Possibilities
If aging in place is realistic, there is a vast array of services that can make a senior's life easier and more comfortable. Here are just a few services that may be available in your area:
- Concierge services: These all-around providers can handle a range of tasks that may be taxing or altogether impossible for a home-bound senior. They'll run errands like grocery shopping, picking up dry cleaning, filling prescriptions and a number of other chores.
- Meals: Options include Meals on Wheels, comparable local programs through senior centers, government agencies or religious institutions, mail order meal services or hiring a cook. Available for a range of budgets, these services offer convenience, a home-cooked meal and balanced nutrition, even for those with dietary restrictions.
- Pet care: These days, pet sitters can handle any pet care needs -- from simply walking the dog or pet-sitting while you're away to taking the cat to the vet for you. A loving pet can be a great companion for a loved one and using a pet service makes care hassle-free.
- Housekeeping: While housekeeping services abound, Martinelli reminds clients to look for individuals that work with seniors regularly, who can be especially sensitive to the senior's specific needs. For instance, a senior-savvy housekeeper may be extra-conscientious about the placement of treasured items, particularly important for individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia.
- Lawn care: Regular mowing and even light gardening can quickly become too much for a fragile loved one. You can choose a formal lawn service, a gardener or someone to simply cut the grass on a schedule.
- Transportation: Mobility is vital to everyday life but driving can be a problem for some seniors. Local government agencies or senior centers often offer senior discounts, low cost or free rides to doctor appointments or shopping.
But how do you go about setting up these types of home delivery?
Use Resources Already in Place
First, look at the people around you. Maybe friends or relatives can help out with these responsibilities.
"A personal aide or companion can often help with these tasks," Martinelli notes. If you've already hired a caregiver for your senior, they may be able to complete some of these chores. "But clarify your expectations up front, including fees."
If you don't have these systems in place, hire a provider to assist with various care needs.
Go a La Carte
Many people prefer to hire a home care provider directly, which offers more flexibility and often -- but not always -- more affordability. You can order the services you need 'a la carte' at your convenience or you can find a personal aide or companion who will handle multiple needs for you.
"You negotiate services directly with the care provider and you often have more flexibility determining rates and hours than if you work with an agency," Martinelli explains. "For example, home care agencies that provide companion services and personal care services typically require a four-hour minimum of care each time the care provider goes to the home. If you or a loved one only needs minimal assistance, a private provider might offer more flexibility and options."
If you go the DIY route, you'll need to check references, hire caregivers, manage payroll and tax reporting and coordinate coverage in the event of absences.
Screening is very important. Care.com conducts basic screenings and background checks of database providers, but clients are encouraged to check references and interview candidates to ensure they're the right fit for your loved one.
When you're looking for a senior caregiver, be sure that the provider has actual experience working with seniors. Often seniors have unique sensitivities and needs -- like being extra particular about how or when chores are done -- and you want the care provider to respond appropriately to such requests. Some seniors are also resistant to the idea of having someone come into their home and help in the first place. A caregiver should know how to address this resistance and still be able to provide the needed care.
Hire an Agency
If your budget permits, using an agency or care management services (like those offered by Care.com), may be the most hassle-free way to secure and coordinate even basic services. Agencies specialize in working with seniors, and can help assess and reassess your loved one's needs as they change.
Home care agencies offer trained, supervised staff, along with the convenience of finding, qualifying and managing services for you. But then they charge a premium for that convenience. According to data from Genworth Financial, home care agency rates can vary from $16 to $24 hourly state to state, while private providers may charge as much as 30 percent lower fees, depending on what families can negotiate.
When selecting a home care agency, ask people you know for recommendations, find agency options through Care.com, talk to a Care.com senior care advisor or reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging for suggestions.
"From your first introductory phone call and the staff's concern for you, to the caregivers' certifications, screening process, credentials and home visit, you should feel confident with the care agency you have selected," she says.
Whether you shop for services a la carte, use a home care agency or hire providers privately through sites like Care.com, aging in place is a more realistic, safe and comfortable than ever before.
Longtime caregiver to her elderly mom, Isabella Yosuico has two young boys of her own, including one with Down syndrome. Formerly in communications management with a Fortune 1000 company, Isabella is now a freelance writer, specializing in health and wellness, and is completing her master's degree in PR. She resides in an arts colony in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.