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Finding a Home Care Aide for Your Loved One

Types of Home Care Aides and Where to Find Them

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Updated July 29, 2008

Photo © Administration on Aging

Home care aides provide a variety of services.

Photo © Administration on Aging
If you're caring for a relative with Alzheimer's disease, a home care aide can help your loved one while giving you a much needed break. If you're interested in finding a home care aide, you have several choices. Here are some tips for finding volunteer, private, and agency home care aides.

Volunteer Home Care Aides

Volunteer aides provide companionship, supervision, and usually some light meal preparation. They normally cannot provide personal care such as grooming or help going to the bathroom. The advantage of using volunteer aides is that the service is free; also, because the aides are volunteering their time, this usually speaks to their high level of dedication. The downside is that they provide limited kinds of services and are not required to meet attendance expectations like employees.

One excellent nationwide volunteer program is the Senior Companion Program. Other places to look for volunteers include community organizations and religious or spiritual groups, such as church congregations.

Private Home Care Aides

Private aides are self-employed and aren't associated with any agency. One advantage of hiring a private aide is that you have more control over who you hire and the services he or she provides as opposed to aides that are sent by an agency. Private aides are generally willing to provide any kind of care you need (including personal care such as bathing), but it's important to make sure that the person is qualified to perform these tasks. In fact, a potential downside to hiring a private aide is that it's your responsibility to check references and employment history to ensure that the person is experienced and has no history of negligence or abuse.

Also, private home care is not covered by insurance. You'll be paying for private services out-of-pocket and will be responsible for keeping financial records of your arrangement (or hiring a CPA to do this for you). Private aides are most often found by placing an ad in the local paper or through word of mouth.

Agency Home Care Aides

Home care agencies are popping up everywhere because of the rising number of older people in our society. Home care agencies offer major advantages such as trained home care aides who have already passed stringent background and reference checks, as well as bookkeeping that's handled on their end. Agency aides provide a wide range of services, including certain medical procedures (blood pressure checks, etc.) if they come specifically from an agency that provides health/medical care in addition to supervision and personal care.

There are also a couple of downsides to home care agencies. You have less control over who is sent to your home and when services are provided. Also, if you're paying out-of-pocket, agency aides normally cost 2-3 times more than private home care aides. However, home care agencies sometimes accept health insurance or government assistance, making this choice very desirable to some families. To find home care agencies, look in your local phone book under home health services or senior citizens services.

Your local Area Agency on Aging (try your local phone book or www.eldercare.gov) and nearest Alzheimer's Association can also refer you to home care aides from volunteer, private, and agency sources.

Sources:

DeGraff, A. H. (May 28, 2008). Paid aides: An agency's or your own? Caregiver.com Weekly Newsletter (Issue #381). http://www.caregiver.com/articles/general/paid_aides.htm

Mitchell, T. (April 11-13, 2008). Hiring a caregiver to help at home? USA Weekend, p. 10.

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