How to Make the Most out of Home Care


Caring for the Elderly in Wheelchair

For many seniors, the first suggestion they receive about getting home care raises resistance and apprehension. Letting a stranger in my house? What if I don’t like them? What kind of skills and experience will the caregiver have? I don’t need any help!

Sound familiar? The decision to accept home care takes time but with the right kind of help, it can go a long way in helping someone age in place at home and avoid having to go into a care facility. However, as most people have a limited budget and a limited appetite for having someone inside their home at all hours of the day, a common question arises as to how one can make the most out of the home care? What should you focus on to make the biggest impact while staying within your budget? Here are some tips to get you started.

Decide whether you want to access publicly available home care

The health authority (e.g. Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, etc.) provides subsidized home care to those living at home. See if you’re eligible by contacting your health authority and request an assessment. A case manager will come to your home and discuss with you what your main challenges are regarding your daily living activities and tasks. After the assessment, the case worker will determine what specific home help you could benefit from and set up a schedule for the home care workers to visit. Home care through the public health authority is limited to certain tasks relating to personal care, and does not include thing such as housekeeping, companionship or transportation to appointments. There are tradeoff’s between publicly available home care and private home care, and many people supplement the limited public home care with extra private help.

Choose the right care agency

Let’s say you decide to hire a private care agency to either add on to the care that you receive from the health authority, or you’ve decided you’re going to just going to go fully with private home care. The sheer number of care agencies out there can be overwhelming. How do you know how to choose the right one? If possible, it would be worthwhile to get a referral from someone you trust – either someone you know who has had home care support themselves or from a trusted professional. For those who aren’t able to get a trusted referral, or even if you do get a referral, it would be a good idea to Interview at least two agencies so that you can get a feel for some of the differences you may find between the options. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Where do you find your caregivers and have they all received background checks?
  • What additional training do you provide your caregivers after they have been hired?
  • What are your hourly rates and do you have minimums?
  • What happens if I don’t like the caregiver you have chosen for me?
  • What happens if my caregiver calls in sick or goes on vacation?

After you have interviewed two or three agencies, you should be able to get a natural feel for which one best suits you based on your impression of their commitment to customer service and satisfaction.

Reflect on what you want the most help with

After you have decided on which care agency to hire, the next step is to focus on what exactly you need help with and how many hours a week you can afford within your budget. The high priority tasks that one should seek help with are those tasks which have gotten more difficult and which present a hazard or fall risk. For example – is carrying a hamper of laundry up or down the stairs difficult for you? Are you unstable on your feet and having trouble showering? Being proactive about preventing falls should be top priority. It is also important to focus on tasks that impact your overall well-being such as preparation of nutritious meals and reminders to take medications. Upon some self-reflection and perhaps with help from family, you should be able to come up with a few tasks that you could accept help with.

What time of the day would you like to have help?

With a private agency, you can dictate the days and times that you’d like a caregiver to come (which is not always the case with publicly subsidized home care. With your budget in mind, figure out how many hours a week you’d like to have help, review your list of high priority tasks, and determine the tasks you’ll accept help for. Once you’ve decided on the tasks then you can consider what time of day makes the most sense for the caregiver to come help you. For example, if meal preparation is the highest priority task you’d like help with, and you can afford 2 hours every other day, perhaps the caregiver can come in the late morning on a particular day and cook 2 days’ worth of meals, and portion the meals out and refridgerate them for you. If help with a shower is your highest priority, have the caregiver come whenever it is that you normally like to have showers.

Could you benefit from respite care?

Another common situation where it is wise to have home help is where there is a primary caregiver who is a spouse, and the care agency comes in to provide respite care. In this case, the primary caregiver should think about when they would most enjoy having a break in their day so that they can get some rest and do something for themselves. Perhaps they would like to go out with friends for lunch, or take part in a hobby activity. Once the spousal caregiver decides on what they would like to do on their break, that will naturally determine what time makes the most sense for the agency’s caregiver to come.

Respite care doesn’t have to be expensive and in fact could be one of the cheapest forms of home care. Just even having the spousal caregiver getting a 3 hour break, a couple times a week, can go a long way in maintaining balance and preventing caregiver burnout.

If you are hesitant or unsure about whether home care is right for you, these tips above should get your mind thinking in the right direction. Contact us anytime for a complimentary consultation to evaluate your options further, to see if home care, or another option such as a retirement residence, is right for you!