HomeMedicine By SpecialtyGeriatrics and AgingLots of support needs, lots of choices: what’s best to do?

Lots of support needs, lots of choices: what’s best to do?

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Families across Canada are more and more facing a dilemma: how to ensure aging parents and other loved ones have the kind of personal care support they need now or will soon.

And that’s precisely why we see an increasing number of the kinds of ads and billboards and posters like this one I saw last month:

The fact is, the need grows at a rapid pace and family members who genuinely want to be helpful strive to do all they can. But the fact also is that those family members often are squeezed at both ends: by meeting the needs of aging parents, and also meeting the new or renewed needs of growing children.

Whether in the health care field and thus generally more knowledgeable, or families outside health services, we’re all actually facing the same issues and challenges. And a growingly overriding one is how to get help.

While the health care system provides some relief, generally speaking it’s not nearly enough.

Many choices in the marketplace

That means looking for the kind of service pictured above.

There are now dozens of national and hundreds of regional and local such services. Some cater to the wider demographic, and some are very targeted to specific cultural swaths of our Canadian mosaic. Some offer every possible kind of service, while others focus on some specific kinds of needs like support for those suffering from some form of dementia.

Interestingly, virtually all have found the right phrases to use, the right emotional buttons to push with potential clients. These include: safe… reliable… professional… trained… dependable… experienced… caring… gentle… compassionate… licensed… understanding… meeting all your loved one’s needs… providing relief… bonded… and the list often goes on.

Most offer at least two levels of actual in-home support. One level is the personal support worker, who has taken special training usually in a community college and who has passed some testing and demonstrated a level of reliability. The other is the Registered Nurse or Registered Nursing Assistant, either of whom have much more extensive professional training and testing.

There are other personal helpers as well: drivers to take aging parents for medical, hair or other appointments; meal preparation support as needed, and others.

Support for aging family members is getting to be a serious and big business.

What to look for

And precisely because it’s all getting to be a big business, whether being delivered by a small local company or a large national company, if you’re in the market for this kind of support service now or in the future, there are some key guidelines you might want to consider in your selection process.

Here are twelve key questions to ask yourself and the management of the potential service you are considering hiring:

  1. How do you identify and define what my love one really needs?
  2. How do you  determine and recommend how much time is required?
  3. What’s the time on a daily and weekly basis; what’s the cumulative amount of time being recommended and what’s that going to cost me?
  4. What specifically will be done during the course of each visit?
  5. Who will come?
  6. Do I have the  right to first meet and approve of the person or those who will be helping my aging parent?
  7. Can you guarantee that I get the same person or people all the time?
  8. When and how do you provide regular updates on what the care team finds is happening or not with my parent?
  9. How often do we have a formal review of how the relationship is going?
  10. What process and procedures do you have in place to manage any sudden critical situations that might occur with my parent?
  11. What past clients can I talk with to check on your work?
  12. If my loved  one or I aren’t pleased with the quality of service, what recourse do we have?

The bottom line

Obviously, the press of work, personal space, the needs our grown children may well have, plus the very real needs our aging loved ones will have, combine to make trying to do it all pretty well an impossibility.

Thus, the attraction of an outside specialized service. There are many choices. Lots do a good job, some do not as well; those that do poorly as a rule don’t survive.

But always take the time to probe and prod the nature and scope and record of any independent support service you may want to engage for a loved one. In other words, avoid surprises at the far side by doing solid research at the near side of decision making.


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