Helping Older People Stay at Home
May 8, 2000 -- Geriatric care managers, members of a relatively new specialty, coordinate services that can help older people stay in their homes for as long as possible. For families considering such help, though, finding the right help and weighing the options can be daunting. Here are some tips:
If you are about to hire a geriatric care manager, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers suggests you ask a prospective caregiver these questions:
Paying the Bill
The job of coordinating services can be done by a family member or friend, but it requires researching what is available, then overseeing the care -- no small task, particularly if done long-distance. A GCM who evaluates what is needed, puts it in place, and keeps it running at a price the family can afford may be well worth the fee, which can be $180 or more for an evaluation visit, then about $60 an hour for follow-up, monitoring, and communicating with the family.
Hired homemakers/caregivers, transportation services, house modifications, and other services add to the bill. The total monthly cost of "aging in place" varies. An elderly woman who needs only light housekeeping or companionship for three hours twice a week might spend around $240 a month, much less than someone who needs help 24 hours a day. That can run $5,000 or more -- much more if a health aide is needed.
There is some financial aid for senior citizens who meet the Medicare or Medicaid qualifications. Less expensive home health care is also available through some state and city social service agencies as well as through the Red Cross, Visiting Nurses Association, and other concerned groups. State agencies on aging, hospital discharge offices, and Medicare offices may also have information about services offered by various private home care agencies.
Where to Go for Help:
Jeanie Puleston Fleming has written for The New York Times and other publications. She is based in Santa Fe, N.M.
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