Most home health companies have a minimum number of hours per day or week required for service to commence.
For many home care agencies, it’s usually 4 hours a shift at least 3 times a week. This scheduling is most useful for insuring the same home health aide remains with the client. It is also practical from a scheduling point of view and results in building a relationship between the client and home health aide. As this is the aide’s source of income, a minimum number of hours to comprise a shift gives the aide assurance of income and a schedule with which he/she can build around.
What If Your Scheduling Needs Differ?
Clients with few needs may feel this is a waste of time and money. True, if a person only needs help with bathing, then a minimum of hours is not needed. However, most clients, whether recuperating from a fracture or surgery or who have longer term problems such as dementia or heart disease can more easily fill a 12 hour a week schedule.
Home health aides perform many tasks for and with a client. Primarily they are there to assist, keep the client safe, keep company or provide respite time for the primary caregiver. An aide will help a client with personal care (ADLs) such as; bathing, transferring, eating, toileting and dressing. Additionally they will assist with running of the household tasks (IADLs) such as; meal preparation, laundry, light housekeeping, companionship, driving to appointments, and shopping.
Creating a Schedule for Your Home Health Aide
The key to making the best use of the aide’s time and services is to have a routine or schedule. For example, one day can be for laundry, clothes and or bedding/linen; another day can be for shopping or other outdoor errands. Doctor appointments should be clustered to when the aide is with the client. Two meals can be prepared during a shift. Lunch, to be eaten when aide is there and then a dinner left to be heated up later. Thereby the client receives at least 6 meals prepared. Nutrition is very important and sometimes elderly clients do not shop often enough or prepare meals for themselves.
Safety & the Home Health Aide
As safety is a major concern, having an aide assist the client with getting a drink, the mail, getting to the bathroom and the like helps prevents falls. One in three people over the age of 65 in the U.S. suffer a fall. Most often this is in the house.
Injuries can range from a bump or cut to a fracture. The latter can be life altering, let alone the pain, hospitalization and rehab which is the usual course of treatment following a broken bone.
Companionship & the Home Health Aide
Companionship helps to stave off depression which can be part of an illness and recuperation. Having someone there who you get to know can help motivate you with exercises and getting out of the house.
Respite time for the spouse or primary caregiver is critical to their well being, either to take a nap, go out to socialize or to keep their own doctor appointments. We often say, we’ll take a 6 hour shift and you can take the 18 hour shift.
Caregiver burnout is real and the results are harmful to the caregiver, the patient and consequently the entire family. Let’s face it; the primary caregiver keeps everything in order. Perhaps the identified client doesn’t need a lot of care, but the spouse or children caring for their aging parents, definitely need some time off to recharge.
Making It All Work
A common refrain is: “I don’t want to pay for someone to sit around”. Well, of course not. That is why having a routine is important. Then both the aide and the client know what to expect and the shift is better spent. It is also important to understand some “sitting around” is more than it seems. It is being on standby should the client need assistance, providing safety and service. Or, it is providing company to someone who would likely be alone otherwise or providing respite time to the primary caregiver.
When a good match is made, 12 hours a week will seem too little. Certainly if a home health aide is spending time on a cell phone or in another room, this should be brought to the aide’s attention or to the company.
Making a good “match” between people is part science and part art. Like in most relationships, communication is very important. When both parties are aware of the expectations and both people become acquainted, the magic of a good match becomes apparent.