What Is Personal Assistance?
by Terri Robbins
Although most in-home care is generally provided by family, friends, or volunteers, personal care agencies can provide the elderly with an option which helps them maintain their independence. Since average life expectancy is continually on the rise, there is a growing need for traditional family caregivers to hire non-medical, in-home care. Often the need to hire outside help stems from caregivers being employed full-time, or perhaps living too far away to care for their family members on their own.
When considering outside help, the first step is to consider whether medical help is needed, or if simply in home assistance can fulfill the job at hand. Personal assistance service (PAS) agencies differ from traditional home health agencies in several ways. The most significant difference is obviously that PAS agencies do not provide medical services and therefore, are not covered by Medicare. Examples of medical assistance include injections, intravenous therapy, and administration of medication. PAS agencies can provide a variety of services including, but not limited to, light housekeeping, bathing, walking assistance, meal planning and preparation, as well as companionship. The second major difference is cost. A respite nurse can cost between $32 and $52 per hour. Conversely, non-medical home care ranges from $14 to $28 per hour depending on the range of services provided. The challenge is not only knowing what you need, but knowing how to ask for it.
The number of personal assistance service agencies is growing at an unbelievable rate. The good news is the State of Texas requires personal assistance agencIes to meet the same stringent rules under which traditional home health agencies operate including hiring trained and bonded employees, the use of care plans, and periodic inspections by the state health department. An additional benefit is that many agencies are part of a national franchise system, giving an added benefit of corporate oversight and structure for the agencies.
Even with added security of an established agency, one must still do their due diligence jn researching who they will have care of their loved one. When inquiring about an agency, ask whether it is a personal assistance or home health agency. Also, as a guide, the following are some basic questions to ask:
- What are hiring requirements for your caregivers and how are they trained?
- Can your caregivers take the client on errands, i.e., doctor visits, beauty salon, grocery shopping?
- Is there a charge for initial consultation?
- Are there a minimum number of hours for service?
- Can we choose/interview the caregiver?
- Do we need to sign a long term contract for services?
- What area do you service and what services do you provide?
TIPS: If you are not comfortable with the caregiver the agency sent, speak with the supervisor/manager about your discomfort. Also, you may go to the Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities Services (DADS) website to find out how an agency did on its last inspection.
The search for an agency to provide help can be an emotionally taxing and stressful journey. Remember to take your time, make decisions based on thorough investigation, and be sure to accept help and support from friends and family in caring for your loved one while you establish a solid routine with that agency.