One constant about home care is that it’s usually not something New Jersey families prepare for. All too often, the crisis is already waiting at the door. And while there may have long been an understanding that an elderly loved one may eventually require home care, it’s always been viewed as something that could be dealt with in the future.
Yes, you may eventually need to get that clanking sound in your car’s motor fixed, or have a handyman come into your home to check your not-so-hot heating unit, but it’s something you figured you could put off for another day. As Scarlett O’Hara would say, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”
In the case of home care here in New Jersey, typically there is an incident – perhaps a hospitalization, a surgery, a sudden illness, or an accident – that makes the need for a caregiver immediate. Or, maybe, the individual caring for an elderly and infirm loved one for whatever reason is no longer able to continue in that capacity. Very often patients suffering from mild dementia may do something – whether it’s leaving the stove on, or getting lost in the neighborhood, or not eating properly or showering for days – that shows that you can no longer wait any longer.
What is known is that you now have your wake up call. You know that someone you care for can no longer be left alone and the clock is ticking for you to find someone to help.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, family members are no longer readily available. The days of having mom or dad move into an adult child’s home, or expecting a loved one to find the time to spend hours each day getting a parent washed and dressed and fed and kept safe are no longer a given. Families no longer live down the street from each other or have lives that can quickly be adapted to staying home to care for others.
As such, this forces the family to scramble in order to find answers quickly. Mom is coming home from the hospital or from rehab next Monday and can’t be left alone, or dad fell yesterday and your brother who lives the closest to him can only take off so many days from work before a more permanent solution must be found.
So, what do you do? You can ask your neighbors, friends and family if they know of someone who can care for your elderly loved one, but that’s often a long shot. Even if your neighbor’s friend’s daughter-in-law’s cousin heard of someone who they went to school with whose mother had a caregiver, what guarantee do you have that person is capable or will be right for your loved one? And if things look good, are you prepared to do a background check? Are you insured if they get hurt in your home? And what do you do on those days this person may not be available?
That’s why a New Jersey home care agency is often the best option. Ideally, planning ahead for such a contingency is always the better way to go. Identifying home care agencies in your area, interviewing them, personally vetting them by getting references, perhaps having your relative meet possible home health aides before the need is immediate, is always the best course of action. Unfortunately, this is not human nature. It’s not what most people do.
Still, even if the need for a caregiver is hours rather than weeks away, it’s never too late to take a deep breath and start doing your homework. There is still time to find the home care agency that works for you.