The occasional news report of elder abuse on TV or in the papers is enough to frighten many people away from seeking outside help for loved ones in their homes. It’s understandable. But the truth is that these incidences are relatively rare, particularly when a reputable company is engaged to provide the person in need of care with a caregiver suited to his or her particular needs. In the next article, I address the questions that one should ask when hiring a Home Health Care Agency. Asking the right questions is a great first step toward gaining a level of comfort with the idea of having an outsider in your home.

Sometimes, however, the reason that elders don’t want or won’t accept outside help has little or nothing to do with the honesty, sincerity or pure motive of the caregivers that might be selected. Sometimes it is the elder’s insecurities stemming from the facts of their own situation that is causing the difficulty. In other words, if the caregiver were Mother Theresa reincarnated, these fears would not be entirely alleviated. Let me explain.

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Consider that to many elders, the presence or need for an outside caregiver represents the first step of a downhill slide toward complete dependence on others. It is, in many ways, the same reason that some people shun the idea of retirement–fear that changing the daily routine somehow accelerates a decline.

In other cases, it may be that the idea of an outside caregiver is somehow a statement that their own family doesn’t love them enough to take on this responsibility. I feel compelled to dispel this myth immediately—the precious time with family members should be spent doing activities that are both positive and enjoyable for all concerned. Placing the burden of the activities of daily living on family members is not a long term strategy for a successful relationship. Caregiving on this level is a job–relatives are best utilized to bring other types of positive experiences to the table.

Often, elders feel that seeking help makes them feel more vulnerable and that their “deficits” are somehow magnified. While this is a fear that seems very real to the elder, the reality is that their self-esteem and confidence rises immeasurably when they discover how much better they feel with a little intervention. Elders have lots of free time and unfortunately, they have more free time to stew on their problems. When an outside caregiver is given a chance to be the solution to that problem, these fears often evaporate like ether into thin air.

There is a certain amount of distrust of outsiders that all of us have. This isn’t irrational—we have always been taught to be wary of strangers and letting a stranger into our home is a little bit scary. But think about it— most of our dearest friends in life were strangers when they first entered our homes. Somewhere between “stranger” and “best friend” we bridged the gap. We accomplished this by learning about that person, their interests, their hobbies—we made an acquaintance first and a friendship grew from there.

Of course, we all know people that are a little “cantankerous.” Maybe your loved one is on edge, frustrated–or perhaps a bit “crotchety.”
Believe me, people in the caregiving professions are used to dealing with elders that can be a little difficult at times. Humor is a great tool that we often employ to disarm and befriend folks that are having a bad day…or year. And, let’s not forget that there are a number of quite excellent anti-anxiety medications out there that, when used properly and pursuant to a physician’s order, can be very beneficial.

The bottom line is this: While there can be a whole lot of anxiety in the buildup to getting some help, those concerns literally melt away once home care hits its stride. Outside caregivers–whether they are a part of a Medicare-Certified Home Health Agency or are employed by a “private-duty, companion care, non-skilled” company— can be very effective in breaking down barriers and establishing acceptance…even with the most wary and skeptical elders!

Lars C. Stamp is a former Assistant District Attorney and has more than a dozen years of experience in the medical and home care fields. He is the President and Chief Executive of Serenity Health Management, LLC based in Wichita, Kansas. Serenity Home Health, LLC is a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency based in east Wichita. Serenity Senior Care, LLC, a sister company, is a “private duty” in-home services company also based in east Wichita. Mr. Stamp can be reached for questions or comments at 316-866-2929 or via email at LarsStamp@SerenityHomeHealth.com.

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