Companion Home Care: More Than Keeping Up the House

affordable home care assisted home care at home caregivers care for older people companion home care elder care in Minnesota eldercare at home elderly home care service help for senior caregiversWhat could be more important than having a tidy home?  For our clients “Kathy” and “Bill,” it was having their dignity and pride.  As a company providing home care services for seniors, families often bring us in to help with everyday living tasks.  What elderly people often need, however, is something much deeper.

About nine months ago, I met Kathy, who had been laid off from her job because of a shoulder injury.  In addition to that, she had a long history of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.  Her concentration and motivation were poor.  She lived with Bill, her significant other of over 25 years.

When I first came into their apartment, I was a bit overwhelmed. There were empty pop cans everywhere, dirty dishes piled up on the kitchen counters and in the sink, mounds of junk mail, and generalized clutter everywhere.  In addition, there was a urine smell in the apartment coming from the bedroom and from the living room sofa.   I knew that I was in for a challenge if we were to succeed in providing general homemaking services for them.  I also knew it would take a very special at-home caregiver to step into this situation.

Kathy was talkative, open, and anxious to have someone help out around the apartment.  She was also very generous and hospitable, offering me soda and chocolate (which I refused).  While I was there, Bill just sat on a chair and said nothing.

Together, we made a plan.  Kathy prioritized the living room area as a main concern.  We contracted to have Bill pick up the pop cans and take the garbage out on a daily basis.  Kathy agreed to do the dishes every day as well.  In return, I agreed to find a homemaker who could work with them on an ongoing basis to get the apartment in shape.  I also promised that when the apartment looked good to their satisfaction, I would return to look at it and treat them both to a Dairy Queen outing if it were also satisfactory to me.

Fast forward several months.  Kathy called, ready to have me come look at the apartment and reminded me that I had promised a Dairy Queen outing.  When I arrived at their apartment, Bill met me at the building’s entrance dressed and ready to go!  He was excited to show me how much they had accomplished and how proud they were of their living space.

The change in their environment, though not perfect, was remarkable!  I gladly kept my promise, and we, along with their caregiver, went out for Dairy Queen treats.  Both Kathy and Bill were ecstatic and kept asking if they could order whatever they wanted!

home care services for seniors home help for the elderly in home care Minneapolis in home help for the seniors in home senior care providers non medical senior care private pay home care respite for caregivers senior citizen careDuring the course of our conversation, Kathy told me how her friends have been noticing a change in her.  They said to her, “Whoever that person is that’s working with you, she is good for you!”  Not only was Kathy keeping up her apartment, but she was also keeping up her personal appearance, and her friends were noticing.  They also said she had a better attitude and was easier to be around.  Kathy said to me and to the caregiver, “How did I get so lucky to have you guys in my life?”  She also expressed that she feels like we care about her.  That means the world to a person like Kathy who struggles with mental illness—not always a “socially acceptable disease.”  There are times when both she and Bill are victims of bullying in the complex where they live.

The weekly homemaking visits will continue because, in my opinion, Kathy needs the motivation the caregiver provides to enable her to continue to keep up her living space.  But more than that, the caregiver has found a way to bring dignity and pride back into Kathy’s life, things she hadn’t had for a long while.  Along with the physical support, the emotional support, encouragement, and friendship are important elements of meeting the needs of our clients.  Kathy is one example of that.

Home care truly is about more than keeping up the house.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

February 19, 2014

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