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    4 guiding principles for where seniors hang their hat

    This month, we sat down with Home Care Assistance Montreal founders and father-son team Tim Thomas, and Timothy Thomas, to tackle the classic question: should we keep mom at home, or move her to a seniors’ residence?
    By Home Care Assistance - November 30, 2020

    Home Care Assistance is Changing the Way the World Ages. This is the latest installment of our “How To” series, where we lay out smart and easy-to-understand advice on navigating the aging process.

    In a year that’s been anything but typical, more and more clients are weighing the pros and cons of life at home or life in a residence. As you consider the options, Tim and Timothy recommend putting these four core tenets at the heart of your decision: 

    1. There’s no one right answer – just what’s right for the individual. 

      Tim: “There are pros and cons to any living situation. The key to making the best choice for your loved one is to zero in on them as a person. What are their specific health needs? What social activities can they participate in? How much support do they need around tasks like preparing meals, bathing, hygiene? We tend to look outward at the options available to us but I prefer to flip the paradigm, and look inward first. Listing out your loved one’s specific needs, determining how many hours of daily support they require (and the kind of support that entails) is a great starting point. From there, you can weigh the options available to you and see which ones align best to the individual’s unique needs. Some can be met at home with support from a caregiver who comes into the house. Others might do very well in a seniors’ residence setting. The decision should start and end with the person at the heart of the matter, always.”
    2. Dive deep to understand what a seniors’ residence does, and doesn’t, provide. 

      Timothy: “Even within the residence setting, there’s a sliding scale of options for how much support someone can access, and what that support looks like. Many of our clients are surprised to hear that 50% of our caregivers are working with clients who already live in a residence. That’s because not all options are created equal, and sometimes getting the right balance requires a hybrid approach to senior care. As you compare staying at home with moving into a residence, be sure to ask how many hours a day a caregiver will be with your loved one. Qualify that further by asking what the caregiver will be doing during that set number of hours. Is it mostly transactional? Medication and meal drop-off, for example? Or do caregivers provide more of a relationship and connection through activities, walks, hobbies, and other activities? When you know what’s included, you can assess whether that works with your parent’s routine – especially around meaningful connections, one of the most important factors in caregiving success.”
    3. Never underestimate the importance of caregiver fit. 

      Tim: “Finding the right fit between a caregiver and a client is essential. Even now, we’ve implemented a host of COVID-19 precautions to ensure we can get to know a family, and the senior, fully before we match them to the right caregiver. Knowing there’s a reliable caregiver on-hand to take care of the big things, while still doing little things, can make all the difference in someone’s quality of life. Maybe that means building on a senior’s interest in the arts by the occasional trip to a museum, or recognizing someone’s love for music by finding new ways to bring that into the house. If you’ve got the right caregiver fit, you can create a fulfilling environment at home even before moving to a residence. That can also mean fewer moves, which can become more difficult for seniors as they age or navigate cognitive challenges.”
    4. Consider the benefits of one-to-few vs. one-to-many care.

      Timothy: “Building out a one-to-one approach can create a very special caregiver/client relationship. It’s important for families to assess what ratio they’re looking for in a caregiving setting. When a caregiver works with a client over the long term, they can deepen relationships, build rapport, and find purpose in their time together. That one-to-one ratio also allows our caregivers clear line of sight into exactly how someone is doing and feeling. When a caregiver is navigating 10 or even 20 different clients over the course of a week – which can often be the case in a senior facility – you may lose that personalized approach. Maintaining that one-to-one ratio has become even more important to the families we work with this year, as they try to minimize the chance of a loved one being exposed to COVID-19. Asking the right questions about ratios is crucial when deciding what living situation will help a senior access precisely what they need to thrive.” 

    Closing thoughts

    Seeking care for the senior in your life is an intimately personal decision that looks different for every family. By focusing on individual needs, getting the full picture of what’s included, carefully assessing caregiver fit, and putting ratios at the core of your decision, you can’t go wrong.

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