During the past three decades, Marion Somers, PhD, aka "Dr. Marion," provided care for more than 2,000 elderly clients while she owned and operated a thriving geriatric care management practice. It is now Dr. Marion's goal to help caregivers everywhere by providing valuable insights and information in her book, Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One, and on her Web sites, DrMarion.com and DrMarion.org.
Many of us have to ask ourselves this question in the face of our elder care duties: Can I do it all myself?
Chances are, the answer is no.
The first thing you must do is figure out exactly what kind of help you need. Often, your elder’s needs (as well as your own) can be met by tapping into your network of family and friends. Look into this before you hire anyone. Ask who’s available to help in your network. Don’t be afraid to ask. Some family and friends can offer financial help, transportation, food, cooking skills, or legal expertise.
Get as much free help as you can, but be clear about your elder’s needs when asking friends and family for their assistance. How long will your elder require their help—a few weeks, months, a year? People are more likely to lend a hand if the role and time commitment are both clearly defined. They like to know where the finish line is. Some will contribute to a short sprint, while others will be in it for the long haul. You have to know how to ask for help from all types. The most common tasks include house cleaning, handyman work (fixing broken items, loose wires, windows, rotted wood, etc.), and trash disposal.
Potentially, a wide variety of help is available in your local community, so be resourceful about where and how you find assistance. You can hire help on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, all determined by your needs, financial ability, and your elder’s wishes.
It’s often quite difficult, if not impossible, for your elder to find a trustworthy, affordable housekeeper, handyperson, or aide. Seniors often don’t know where to find the contacts or what the going rate is for necessary services. Make your elder’s life easier and safer by taking on this responsibility. Do research, ask your friends and your elder’s friends for references, interview candidates, and then hire someone.
If you find that your needs go beyond your network of family and friends, you may want to look into hiring an aide to assist you with some of the day-to-day tasks and make your life a little bit easier. Once you start thinking about hiring someone else to help with your elder care challenges, you must first determine the answers to the following questions:
Hiring an aide really comes down to a matter of time and financial resources. If you and your elder have the financial resources to free up some of your time, I highly recommend hiring help. Even if it’s for just 10 hours a week, you’ll be amazed at the difference a well-organized, competent aide can make in your life and the life of your elder.
Next week, I’ll go over some specifics to discuss with your potential aide during the interview process.
By Dr. Marion
Elder Care Made Easier Blog
[A version of this blog originally appeared on Dr. Marion’s Web site.]