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How to make peace with having help in the house
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How to make peace with having help in the house

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MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities with support from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey; CARES brings together professionals and lay leaders from MetroWest agencies that provide services to older adults. This month’s article on the benefits of hiring a caregiver to provide help in the home is presented by JVS.

It’s hard asking for help. We cherish our independence and we value our ability to take care of ourselves. Day in and day out we work, cook our own meals, clean the house, do the laundry, and pay the bills — until something changes. Maybe you fell and require short-term help with daily activities. Or perhaps your loved one needs long-term therapy, and you have to hire a driver. Or maybe you’re just slowing down and you need some support a bit more often.

Hiring a professional caregiver to come to your house can be a daunting decision. Finding the right aide is a time-consuming process. There is a cost to consider. Do you need live-in or live-out? How many days? How many hours? Do you require a driver?

In fact, there are plenty of reasons to hire a professional caregiver. An aide can do certain tasks that have become too risky — carrying bundles or laundry up and down the stairs, stacking and storing heavy objects, preparing and serving meals, picking up medication, or dashing out for groceries in inclement weather. An aide is someone to talk to on a regular basis, someone to take you to social engagements, accompany you to a movie, or the diner. She can sort your mail, take phone calls, and make appointments.

Yet hiring an aide is a tough call for some people. Fears may be based on the occasional but sometimes true stories you hear about a caregiver who annexed the living room sofa or hijacked the family computer. Concerns also may stem from not fully understanding how having an aide can boost the quality of your life and save on wear-and-tear for you and your family.

Check out the myths below — see if they’re keeping you from hiring a professional caregiver who can make life easier. Learn the reality behind the myths. You may be inspired to make some smart moves that will ease your current situation.

Myth One: You will lose your independence

The truth is that when you hire trained help you gain independence. Rather than be beholden to a son, daughter, or neighbor who works full time and has a family to care for, when you hire an aide you are free to come and go as you please with someone whose job it is to work around your preferences. You can continue to run your home the way you like and go where you want at almost any hour, without the emotional baggage and without the resentment.

Myth Two: You will lose your privacy

A trained professional who has verifiable references and comes from a reputable agency will be mindful of the fact that she works in your home and will be more likely to recognize your need for space and respect your need for privacy. A trained caregiver will have a set schedule to do her chores and will come and go at agreed-upon times, unlike friends or family who may show up without notice or whenever they find it convenient.

Myth Three: A professional caregiver will interfere with your schedule

In fact, you have a better chance of getting out and about — visiting friends, hitting the mall, slipping into a daytime movie — when there’s someone at home to help you do what you want to do when you want to do it. No more waiting around for your daughter or son to squeeze you in, in between a carpool run and a trip to the orthodontist. The aide is there to assist — not impede —you.

Myth Four: You will lose control of your household

If you fear being powerless at home as the caregiver seizes control of the household, establish your rules early. Write them down if necessary. Make sure the agency and the aide clearly understand your needs and priorities. You get to decide if you want her to turn off the lights when she leaves a room or take off her shoes when she comes to work in the morning. Say what you want, mean what you say, but say it nicely.

Myth Five: It’s too expensive

Fees vary from agency to agency, but working with a reputable firm will help you identify your needs and keep you from spending money unnecessarily. Tightening up on hours and focusing on the most important services will help control costs and keep you within your budget. Are you worried that spending on your own needs now will mean there’s that much less to pass along to your children? Consider this: You are giving your children a wonderful gift — the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are maintaining your health and prolonging your independence.

JVS At Home Services offers two programs that can assist seniors to live more comfortably and safely in their own homes. Caregiving Companions provides non-medical aides who provide a wide range of responsibilities, including companionship, light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, medication reminders, and incidental transportation. Home Maintenance Solutions provides free home safety assessments and performs basic home maintenance and repairs. Both programs are staffed by trained personnel who are insured and bonded and the programs are supervised by an experienced social worker. At Home Services staffers work closely with family members and other service providers to ensure that clients’ needs are being met. Services are available to residents of Essex, Morris, and Union Counties. For additional information, contact Rachel Cohen at 973-674-6330, ext. 293, or rcohen@jvsnj.org.

Families and caregivers needing answers to eldercare questions and help with community resources can contact Elderlink, a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050 or at elderlink@jfsmetrowest.org.

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