Do you have an elderly loved one in your family who has chosen to remain at home and age in place, instead of an assisted living facility? Maybe they want to stay connected to their community, or they have privacy and security concerns about living in a senior living center.
If so, then one of the services that might benefit your loved one is elderly companion care.
Companion care focuses on providing the elderly with emotional support and friendship, as well as assisting with various activities of daily living, depending on the older adult’s mobility limitations.
Or, perhaps, you’re thinking of becoming a companion care provider because you’re passionate about helping the elderly live a better life, or because you’re interested in a career as a care provider.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about companion care.
We’ll talk about why the elderly need their services, and what companions do. We’ll also talk about how to select the right person and access funding in NY if you feel like companion care might be right for your family member.
What is companion care for the elderly?
Companion care is a type of long-term care designed to provide friendship and emotional support to the elderly. Care providers may also help with daily living activities if necessary. Companion care helps seniors spend their elderly years in their own homes and stay connected to their communities.
What are the benefits of companion care?
The primary benefit of a companion care provider is that they provide emotional wellbeing to the person they’re caring for.
One of the biggest challenges facing our seniors is that they often feel isolated from their friends, family, and communities, as they get older.
According to the AARP, around 25% of American adults between the age of 50 and 80 report feeling isolated from others at least some of the time, and approximately 33% report not having regular companionship.
For some seniors, it might be that their physical disabilities prevent them from going out and spending time with their friends like they used to. For others, it could be the case that their neighbors and friends might have moved away to live with their families or to an assisted living center.
Cognitive decline could also play a role when it comes to reduced social connections for the elderly.
Increased risk of depression among seniors
Prolonged periods of feeling isolated and disconnected from friends and loved ones can contribute to mental health issues for seniors, and significantly impact their quality of life.
Loneliness can be very stressful and even lead to anxiety and depression. It can also have a cascading effect on other aspects of their health and their lives. It can cause them to give up on a healthy lifestyle, become more apathetic towards things they once enjoyed, and it can even increase their risk of cardiovascular diseases.
On the other hand, seniors who maintain a healthy social life are more likely to have higher self-esteem, a stronger zest for life, and better physical, as well as, mental health. It also keeps them more cognitively sharp as they age.
If you have an elderly loved one, and you’re concerned that they might be starting to feel disconnected and isolated, it might be a good idea to look into a companion care provider.
Let’s take a look at what sort of tasks and responsibilities you can expect from an elderly companion.
What does a companion for the elderly do?
Elderly companions provide emotional support, and they help the elderly remain socially active to improve the quality of their lives. They become the person that your elderly loved one can rely upon for all their day to day needs.
Beyond the daily activities, ideally, a companion also becomes a friend. They can share meals, play games, go out for a walk, run errands, and essentially hang out together throughout the day.
And that is why it is vital that you pick a companion that would be the right fit for your family member, as we’ll discuss in further detail below.
Here are some of the tasks and responsibilities that you can expect from a companion care provider.
The primary task of a companion is to provide company and emotional support. So, that means you can expect them to visit your family member on a regular basis, and to simply spend time with them.
They can talk to each other, watch TV, go to the local senior center for activities, go to the mall, or do anything else that they feel like.
Activities of daily living (ADL)
If your family member has limitations with mobility or cognitive issues that prevent them from being able to perform daily living activities, a companion can provide assistance. They can help with daily chores like cleaning, or with personal hygiene tasks like bathing and grooming.
Shopping and meal preparation
Maintaining a nutritious diet is an essential part of healthy aging. But that requires going to the grocery store and preparing meals at home, for the most part. Or, the ingredients can be ordered online, but the meal preparation still takes place at home.
A companion can help an elderly person with shopping trips to the store (or with ordering online) and the meal preparation. Then they can even enjoy the meal together and make a fun day out of the experience.
Depending on where your family member lives, transportation might be a requirement for essential services like grocery shopping, going to the back, or to attend religious services.
A companion can help drive your loved one to where they need to be. It would work best if the companion has an idea of your loved one’s outings schedule so they can make sure they are available. This is something you can discuss during the onboarding process.
Health and wellness
While it’s not a companion’s to administer medication (and they aren’t usually qualified), they can still provide support and make sure that the necessary medication is taken at the right time.
They can also promote a positive outlook about life, which makes your loved one more enthusiastic about following a healthy lifestyle. For example, the companion can take your family member on a walk, or to the local senior center to attend exercise/yoga classes that are intended for the elderly.
Organization and paperwork
It’s not just housework that your loved one might need help with. They could also have official documents, whether it’s legal, financial, or just mail from friends, that need to be organized, sorted and responded to.
A companion can help with all aspects of organizing paperwork, mail, and help keep up to date on anything that needs attention. They can also help with anything that needs to be mailed out.
24-hour home companion care
If you think it might be better that your loved one receives attention around the clock, instead of the regular visitations from a companion, many companion service providers offer live-in services.
If this is something you’re interested in, be sure to inquire about 24-hour live-in services when you’re speaking with a provider.
How do I know if my family member needs companion care?
You, and other close family members, will be able to best judge if your loved ones may benefit from a companion. You know them best, and when you start noticing significant changes in their behavior, to the point where you become worried about their safety and wellness, it might be time to consider companion care.
You may notice that one of your parents is becoming more forgetful, or that they get exhausted quicker than they used to. Some of these changes are a natural part of the aging process for all of us, but if it is significant, it could impact our wellbeing.
Another time to take a closer look at companion care is if one of your parents passed away, and your other parent was usually reliant on them for many of the daily activities like cleaning, shopping, meal prep, or others.
Here are some of the signs that you may want to keep an eye out for, especially if it is out of the ordinary for your family member.
Trouble with driving
If you notice that your senior family member is beginning to feel less secure about driving, then it might be good to have a discussion with them about a companion. Seniors who lose the confidence or the ability to drive often lose their sense of independence, which can contribute to loneliness related stress.
Missing medical appointments or medications
If you notice that your family member is becoming increasingly forgetful with medications, or that they’re starting to not stick to all of their medical appointments, that could be another sign as well.
On average, the number of medications increases as people age, so it might be easier to forget some of them.
Not sticking to scheduled medications and appointments could be a side effect of forgetfulness, but could have severe consequences. If you don’t find that the situation is improving, then it might be a good time to talk to your loved one about a companion.
Lack of attention to personal grooming
Feelings of isolation and disconnection can also lead to apathy when it comes to personal grooming and hygiene.
But it can also lead to more significant issues like skin problems, and a higher likelihood of getting sick from viruses and bacteria.
A companion can help your family member stay disciplined with their personal grooming and hygiene, and they can even help in the process if your loved one has difficulties with daily living activities due to mobility issues.
A messy living environment
Some people are naturally a little bit messier than others, and in that case, it is obviously nothing to worry about.
But if your family member has always been very tidy, but all of a sudden, you notice that their house is always messy, try and have a conversation with them. Try to find out the reason, maybe they care less about tidiness, or perhaps they find it to be physically exhausting.
Whatever the reason may be, talk to them to see if a companion might be the solution.
Reduced motivation to exercise
Another sign that an older adult might benefit from a companion is that if you notice that they have a reduced interest in recreation and exercise.
If they were always active, like going for walks, jogs, or to the gym, and you notice that they’re no longer as active, try to find out what’s causing the lack of motivation to exercise.
It could be that they are no longer able to do the exercises that they enjoy due to joint or mobility issues. A companion can help them find exercise classes geared towards older adults at the local senior center, or online.
Maintaining a healthy exercise routine is vital, especially as we age, to promote both physical and emotional wellbeing.
What if my family member is reluctant to have a companion?
Like many older adults, your loved one might be reluctant at the idea of a companion at first. They might view it as a sign of weakness, or as an infringement upon their independence. They might have concerns over security and privacy issues as well, especially if they live on their own.
You should never dismiss their concerns as invalid. Rather, you should talk to them about their worries, and try to come to a consensus about companion care. For the relationship to work long-term, your family member has to be enthusiastic and accepting of the idea.
Here are a few things you can do to help your loved one see the value of a companion.
Explain companion care as a favor to you
If you’re constantly worried about the safety and wellness of your loved one, it can increase stress in your life, and take your focus and attention away from your own family and work.
Explain to your parents that if you knew they were with a qualified, caring companion, it would help put your mind at peace knowing they were safe.
Your reluctant parent will be more open to the idea of a companion if he or she believes that it will genuinely be a benefit to you.
Explain home care as a benefit
Instead of something that’s being forced upon them, explain companion care as a benefit to them.
Try to think of any hobbies or passions that your parent may be interested in, but unable to pursue at the moment due to limitations in time and/or mobility.
A companion can free up time by taking care of some of the light housework. They can also help by assisting with any tasks related to the hobby that requires greater physical exertion.
Reassure them that they’ll have a say in the process
The biggest factor of all is that no one wants to get stuck with someone they don’t get along and connect with. On the other hand, if the companion has a personality or temperament that your loved one really resonates with, then it is very likely that he or she will grow to cherish that relationship.
So, you can make the process a lot smoother by reassuring your family member that you’re not going to impose any companion on them, but rather they will be actively involved in the selection process, and that you’ll only pick someone they fully approve.
How to select the right companion for your loved one?
The first thing you’ll need to know is where to look for someone who can provide companion care.
You can start with those in your community who have hired companions before, and ask them if they know of someone that might be suitable.
In the state of New York, you may be able to hire a family member through CDPAP, a New York State Medicaid program, to provide companion care. We’ll discuss more details below.
Finally, there are many professional services that provide companion care, and you may be eligible to hire one of them through CDPAP as well.
But here are a few things to consider when choosing a companion, regardless of where you find them.
The companion must be compatible with your loved one
As we explained before, the most significant requirement has to be that the companion and your loved one enjoy spending time with each other. Otherwise, the relationship will not last, or it will be stressful for everyone involved, including you.
You can make sure they’re compatible with each other by allowing them to interact at length during the interview/selection process.
They must be able to do the necessary job
Another important factor is that the companion must be able to perform all the necessary tasks of the job.
Assuming that they get along well, there are still other requirements that your family member might have. For example, he or she might need to visit the doctor periodically, and the companion would have to drive them. So, you’d want to make sure that they have a clean driving record, etc.
Make a list of all the required tasks, and go through each of them during the selection process.
Have a clear job description
It’s best not to leave things ambiguous. Create a job description so that everyone is clear on the responsibilities of the companion. The extra effort and planning upfront will save all of you the headaches from any potential misunderstandings in the future.
The job must be the right fit for the companion
The requirements of the job must fit in well with everything else going on in the companion’s life, like school, work, family, etc.
During the interview, try to make sure that they will be able to commit for a reasonable length of time so you don’t have to repeat the selection process again a couple of months down the road.
How much do elderly companions make?
The rates will vary depending on the required tasks and previous experience, but on average, the hourly rate for a companion care provider in New York is $16.30 according to Indeed.com.
Does Medicare pay for companion care?
If your elderly family member is above the age of 65, you might be wondering if Medicare would cover the cost of companion care.
But according to Medicare’s website, the following services are not covered.
● 24-hour live-in home care
● Meal delivery services
● Homemaker services, like shopping, cleaning, laundry (activities of daily living)
● Personal care, like grooming, bathing, etc, if that is the only care you need
While they don’t specifically mention companion care, it is unlikely that Medicare would cover the costs, since it doesn’t technically fall under medical care.
For more information on the type of home health aide services covered under Medicare, be sure to check out their website.
But don’t worry, if your loved one lives in the state of New York, he or she might be eligible to hire a friend or relative to provide companion care through CDPAP.
Companion care through CDPAP
CDPAP (Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program) is a New York State Medicaid program that covers the cost of services for chronically ill or physically disabled adults, and allows them to hire friends and relatives to provide help with activities of daily living (ADLs).
To be eligible for CDPAP, your loved one must meet the following requirements.
● Must have Medicaid
● Your loved one must have a medical condition that requires them to receive assistance with activities of daily living
● The care recipient must be self-directing, or they must have a representative that is willing and qualified to direct care on their behalf
For more information, including how to apply, check out our in-depth guide on CDPAP.
Final thoughts on elderly companion care
It’s never easy to accept that your loved one might be getting to a point where they could need help with daily living activities like grooming, cleaning, meal prep, etc.
But aging is a natural part of all of our lives, and unfortunately, sometimes that comes with more limitations on our physical and cognitive abilities.
The good news is that with the assistance of the right companion care provider, your loved one can continue living in the home and community that they love, and maintain their emotional and physical wellbeing, and ultimately their quality of life.
If you’ve noticed any of the signs that suggest your elderly family member might benefit from a companion, talk to them today to see if it might be an option they open to. And if you do decide to move forward, be sure to check out CDPAP to see if you can have your costs reimbursed by the NY State Medicaid program.