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Hiring A Home Health Aide: Before An Emergency

If you worry about your parents being alone at home, Marki Flannery of Partners In Care has some answers.

Marki Flannery
Marki Flannery, President of Partners In Care in New York City

If your aging parent suddenly had a medical emergency and needed help at home, would you know what to do? These problems arise suddenly, and decisions must be made fast. Considering options ahead of time can make sudden emergencies far less stressful than trying to deal with decisions about hiring home care aides on the spur of the moment when you're in crisis mode.

According to Marki Flannery, President of Partners In Care in New York City, broaching the idea of having someone help them is probably the most difficult conversation you'll have with your parents. "Generally, the seniors are afraid they'll lose their independence. Their concern is that first you'll get them help, then you'll put them in a nursing home."

But if you tell your elderly parent that getting help at home actually prevents them from going to a nursing home, they may be more amenable to the idea.

Making The Case For An Aide

A home health aide can help your parents in many ways that will relieve you of worries, such as:

  • Making sure they eat properly
  • Ensuring that they take medications on time and consistently
  • Getting the parent out of the house to keep them active

Flannery recommends introducing the idea of home care slowly, maybe having someone come in once or twice a week for 4 hours, and then adjusting the time. Hiring a nurse to meet with your loved one to have this discussion can be better than trying to handle it yourself, she adds.

Using An Agency Versus A Friend's Recommendation

Once the hurdle of getting your parents to accept they need home care help has been overcome, the next step is deciding who to choose: someone recommended by a friend or going through an home care agency.

Flannery said home care agencies have certain advantages. If the aide is sick, an agency can send another person to fill the slot. Agencies such as Partners in Care train the aides and have ongoing continuing education on topics such as dealing with terminal illnesses, dementia, Alzheimer's, diabetes and post rehabilitation needs. Some insurance covers in-home care.

Keep The Relationship Professional

Even though you may want the aide to care for and develop a bond with your mom or dad, you probably don't want to come home and find them sleeping on the couch or bringing their child to work. Flannery suggests setting clear boundaries from the outset. These could include policies about absence or lateness, who feeds the aide (most aides take care of their own food) and other issues.

Making A Personal Connection

Partners in Care has a lot in common with eHarmony when it comes to matching client and aide. "We try to find out as much as possible about the client," Flannery said. "Would Mom want someone chatty? Does Dad like sports? Crossword puzzles? Playing cards?"

Checking Out The Candidates

Agencies are often regulated by the state, says Flannery. (Her agency is regulated the New York State Department of Health.) Look for agencies that hire trained aides (some hire untrained personnel, Flannery notes). Agencies also screen for communicable diseases, criminal background and seek for aides with good references. It also may be a bonus if the agency is a not-for-profit. "Sometimes they are more mission-driven than those who are profit-generated," she says.

A happy employee is generally a better employee. Partners in Care offers its staff health insurance, pension plan, continuing education and vacation time. "We have a terrific retention rate," Flannery said. She ought to know—she's been there for 25 years herself, since its inception.