When is it time to hire an in-home caregiver?

Many people have a loved one who needs in-home health care — or may in the future. Getting informed about in-home caregiving options can help you navigate the responsibilities and rewards of this work whether you might be doing it yourself or hiring someone else.

What does an in-home caregiver do?

Anyone who cares for an ill or injured loved one at their home could be considered an in-home caregiver. But what are the benefits of a professional who’s paid to provide care in the home? Let’s take a look to see how an in-home caregiver may help maintain the patient’s health and well-being.

Caregivers — paid or not — can help a person manage things like activities of daily living (ADLs). These are activities someone typically does for themselves, like showering, getting dressed or eating. A person’s physical and mental health may affect their ability to do these tasks on their own. For example, someone living with dementia may need more support with their ADLs than an older person with simple mobility limitations.

Regardless of the level of support needed, in-home caregivers can help with many different ADLs and other needs, including:

  • Dressing, bathing and keeping up with hygiene
  • Grocery shopping and meal prep and/or cooking
  • Managing medication and helping with medical equipment
  • Coordinating doctor appointments
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation

Home health care vs. personal care and companionship

If you’re providing in-home health care to a loved one, you may end up wearing many different hats to offer the full spectrum of care that’s needed (physical, mental, social and emotional). Certified in-home caregivers are people who have taken special courses to be trained in caregiving. They’re educated on things like patient rights, record keeping, vital signs, nutrition, risk management and more. They can help lighten the load and take on many daily tasks, like those ADLs.

It’s important to be honest with yourself when you may need a little extra help to avoid caregiver burnout. If you decide it’s time to consider hiring caregiving help, ask your loved one’s doctor for a recommendation on where to find certified in-home caregivers.

What are the benefits and challenges of in-home health care?

When in-home care works well, there can be many benefits. People who are cared for in their own home can feel more independent. By staying in an environment that feels comfortable, safe and peaceful, they may feel less lonely or isolated. There also may be an upside for you, too. If you’re able to bring in a certified in-home caregiver, you may have more time to spend with your loved one doing shared activities like reading aloud or listening to music. And, you may learn more about health care in general and new, specific things you can do for your loved one.

While it may not be pleasant to think about the potential downsides of being a caregiver, awareness is an important way to be empowered. When you’re aware of the challenges you might face, you can better prepare for the future by communicating your needs, establishing your boundaries, and taking advantage of the many resources available to you and your loved one.

Caring for a friend or family member can be fulfilling, but it can also be stressful and emotionally draining. It can take a toll on relationships. It might also feel like you do an unfair share of work if you have other close family members who you expected to help, but don’t step in when you need support. At times, you may feel unappreciated if the person you’re caring for is unable to say thank you or communicate well. And other people in your life might not understand or support your commitment to caregiving.

Caregivers may also struggle with financial hardship if they start spending their own money on groceries, medical equipment or other items required for care. This is especially true if your caregiving role requires you to cut back on work hours. 

Who pays for in-home health care?

Government programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans’ Administration (VA) benefits may cover some or all medically-necessary in-home health care for patients who meet certain requirements. It’s important to understand which services are covered and which services may come with out-of-pocket costs.

Private insurance, like an individual or family health plan you may get through an employer or through a Marketplace Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan, may provide some coverage for skilled medical care, but typically these plans do not cover personal care. It’s best to check your plan details or call your insurance company to make sure you understand your benefits around in-home health care.

If your insurance doesn’t cover in-home health care, you could look into hiring an in-home care provider and pay for services out of pocket. Be sure to shop around and compare costs because these services can get expensive. Or, reach out your local social services agency or your local offices on aging to see if your loved one qualifies for financial support.1

Where can I find caregiver resources?

There are many resources available to help caregivers. Here are a few:

  • Public/government resources. Search your county and state websites (try a term like “senior services”). You can find resources about helping seniors live as independently as possible. These might include information on support planning and community-based programs.
  • Respite care. You’ll likely need breaks from caregiving. If you don’t have a network of friends or family willing to help, you can visit archrespite.org to find respite providers and programs in your area.
  • Delivery services. Whether it’s medications, household supplies or food delivery services, you might be surprised at what you can have delivered right to your door. 

Is in-home care right for you?

The decision to provide in-home care to a friend or family member is personal and depends on your specific situation. If the person needing care can remain stable, safe and secure at home — and if you have the time and resources to provide that care — it could be a worthwhile option.

Before committing to being a caregiver, talk with friends and family members. Talk about preferences and expectations with the person you’d be caring for. Get the input of their medical team, and move forward in the way that works best given your circumstances.

If you decide to become an in-home caregiver, remember that there will be highs and lows, twists and turns, and unexpected bumps in the road. Take things day by day. Accept help when it’s offered, and take care of yourself so you have the fuel to navigate the road ahead.