When a Loved One Is Living with Chronic Illness, Home Care Can Help

Young nurse and female senior in nursing home

Carl worries about his mother, 82, who was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Mom's condition is complicated by diabetes and osteoporosis. She doesn't always remember which medications to take, or when to take them. And she says it's more trouble than it's worth to prepare a nutritious meal. Mom just doesn't seem to be taking care of herself these days.

Richard, 64, has early-stage Alzheimer's disease. His wife Sharon, 55, wants to enable him to stay home as long as possible, but lately he has been calling her at the office multiple times a day. And last week she came home to find two stove burners on and the refrigerator left open. Her employers are sympathetic, but the phone calls are disruptive to all…and Sharon knows her distraction is obvious. "If only I didn't have to worry about Richard while I'm at the office," she thinks.

When a loved one has a chronic illness, living independently can be a challenge. Many seniors are dealing with health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart failure or other heart condition
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disuse (COPD) or other lung disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia
  • Visual impairment
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Hypertension.

In some cases, when a person's condition is medically complex, moving to a nursing home or other care facility is the best choice. But most people who are facing health challenges would rather stay in the familiar comfort of their own home. If your loved one is in this situation, home care can help.

Of course, the first step is to ensure that your loved one's medical needs are met, and that he or she complies with the healthcare provider's instructions. You might be surprised to learn how many services can be provided right in the home. Depending on a patient's care needs, registered nurses, nursing aides and home health aides can provide specialized medical services in the home. Home medical equipment and home modifications adapt the home to accommodate health needs. A personal alarm system and other technologies add an extra measure of security.  

Less costly in-home companion care also helps many seniors stay at home. These older adults may not need intensive, technical health services, but are still challenged because the activities of daily living have become too difficult.  Some of these tasks may have even been declared off limits by the healthcare provider. Patients may now need help with personal care, making meals, keeping up with the house and yard, getting to doctor's appointments, or remembering to take medications. They may be coping with pain, mobility limitation, incontinence, fatigue or memory problems—and above all, they may feel lonely and isolated while home alone.

Family members and friends often try to provide the support their loved one needs. But many are juggling caregiving with jobs, children and other responsibilities. Caregiver stress sets in as family find their time resources stretched to the limit—and no matter how much they do, they still worry about whether their loved one is safe and well cared for. In addition, many family caregivers today are at the age when they may have care needs of their own!

Home Care Can Help

Home care can be the perfect solution when you can't always be there to help your loved one. You can arrange for a qualified home caregiver to come every day of the week, or occasionally as needed. Your home care worker can:

  • Help with housekeeping, laundry and other household chores
  • Assist with personal care, such as bathing, grooming, dressing and going to the toilet
  • Prepare meals, including special diets
  • Transport client to the market, doctor's appointments, and other trips into the community
  • Provide medication reminders
  • Provide companionship and a sense of security
  • Ensure peace of mind for family caregivers
  • Enable the senior to feel a sense of greater dignity.

For seniors, personal well-being is tied to remaining active, engaged, and as independent as possible. When the home caregiver takes over those tasks that are "just too much," this allows loved ones to spend their energy on things they truly enjoy—playing a game, going for a walk, a attending social events…the kinds of activities that promote an enhanced quality of life.

A professional home caregiver can be a vital part of the care team…the "missing link" to help the senior, family and the health care team best manage health challenges.

Carl came to visit Mom on Sunday. He found a vase of fresh-cut flowers on the table. Mom's dress was ironed and her hair styled just the way she likes it. And the refrigerator was full of nutritious snacks, just as the doctor recommended. Mom enthusiastically described the activities she and Joy, the new home caregiver, had done during the week. Carl sighed with relief to see Mom so well cared for.

Sharon's two-hour presentation to clients at the meeting this morning went great! Afterwards, she realized that she had been totally focused on the proposal—secure in the knowledge that Richard was safe and supervised by the trained caregiver the agency provided.

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2014