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Are You Looking for an In-Home Personal Assistant?

Written by: Michael S. True, M.Ed

This article is copy protected and should only be reproduced by permission of the author. For information contact me at: .

     More and more people who are in need of personal assistance are seeking out others to live within their homes or apartments and provide some level of support. Financially, this can either be an added expense or a money-saving opportunity. Examining the level of care needed and the needs of the housemate is an important step in this process.

     Recently I recieved a letter from a woman who was seeking a "live-in" to provide support for her mother in her private home. This was my response...

     I must admit, the more I have been thinking about your question, "Where do I start to look for someone near our Mother's Age, (87), [to live-in, and drive her around]... " the more I started thinking about how many others must be in your same shoes. Tens of thousands of people are going to require some level of care or supervision in the coming year. Everyone knows someone who is, has been, or will be involved in helping an individual in maintaining his or her greatest level of independence.

     There is planning to be done, decisions to be made, people to talk to or interview. Making contacts on behalf of your mother may be necessary.

     First you must consider your mother's needs and expectations. I'm sure that you already have some knowledge of these. Will you expect your "live-in" to attend to any domestic or personal needs? You mentioned that this individual would have to have a driver's license. Will the need for being a driver include going for supplies, (with or without your mother), running general errands, or providing transportation for appointments, etc? Is this part of the housing exchange or will there be seperate compensation?

     It sounds like companionship is high on your list of priorities. Finding someone compatible is the key to a lasting relationship of any nature. Getting a perfect match may be very difficult. However, in many cases, and "Attendant Wanted" or "Care-Giver Wanted" classified gets some good candidates. If no care is expected, this, of course, will not be appropriate. A simple, "Room for Live-In Companion" ad could be an alternative. Then it is a matter of screening for the best candidate. Whether or not care or supervision is to be expected will make a significant difference to your search.

     In any case, both your mother and her housemate will need to get something out of the situation to make it work. The sharing of a home is probably for your mother's convenience. She has the room and having someone around is important. The reason I mention this is because your housemate will have needs in this area also. This individual will either be thinking to himself or herself, "I have a small but steady income and "free rent" will allow me more financial freedom." Or, "If my personal time, diminishes as a result of this tradeoff, or my need to provide care beyond myself becomes an issue, then I must decide if the lost time and physical effort is worth it."

     State Medicaid can in many cases, be billed if you wish to add an element of care providing. Private insurance may also pay for some health related in-home services. Volunteers from senior service agencies and church groups can also be approached to supplement supervision.

     Many folks tend to look closely at providing support within the extended family. If a close friend or relative is giving care, the knowledge of personalities, likes and dislikes, and common interests comes into play. Familiarity is a definite asset. Also, the adjustments that need to be made will get more attention and support if a larger group is involved. More so than just one person making the decisions for another, or one person having to make their own decisions without at least some amount of encouragement. Especially in situations where there may be some resistance to change, family support will be very important.

     Many family members provide direct care for relatives. However, it is unfortunate that in some states, immediate family cannot be reimbursed through Medicaid for providing extensive care. This is something that is very frustrating to thousands of individuals and their families. Contact you state legislators if this is an issue with you. I encourage you to persuade them to change or modify the existing laws in your state. This can only serve to strengthen the family.

     If you are unable to provide care from within the family, there are many organizations that deal with the needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities. These same places may be able to give you leads for finding the right person to provide the level of care you are seeking. Does your mother have friends in any community or church groups? Would she have talked to friends about the possibility of sharing her home? Could you approach individuals within these groups? Perhaps a few weeks of tagging your mother around would generate some connection between her and a known peer.

     I concluded...

     Your local Senior Citizen Center or Adult Day Program may be good source of assistance. Even if your mother does not routinely take advantage of scheduled activities, case managers may be assigned or provide counseling for the family. If there is any level of disability involved, contact your local Independent Living Council or Center. City, county, and state social service agencies may also provide support and referral services. Most states have Area Agency on Aging programs and a Department or two which coordinate support services for persons with disabilities. There are also a variety of private providers such as In-home medical, nursing care, and personal attendant agencies. And finally, there are many Internet resources that provide planning tips, and personal support. Go to: to view the ILR directory links relating to providing long-term care. The "World of Resources" directory also features links to specific agencies within your state and other support services and organizations. Go to the Site Index for other areas useful links.

     This brings us to the point of actually screening applicants.

     There are some things to make ready before beginning this activity, as well. First, and formost, find a renter's application or similar document and give your perspective applicant the chance to fill it out before the date and time of your interview.

     Next, outline your requirements: desired age, level of maturity, professional skills, actual times needed for care-providing services, need for reliability, common interests, (as noted above), physical strength if lifting is involved, willingness to perform domestic chores, and so forth, well ahead of time. Make a list of these and give a copy to the individual before you ask your first question. This can save a good deal of time and frustration.

     Finally, do not hesitate to ask for personal and work-related references. Then, follow-up with phone calls or letters to be certain that these are reliable sources. During your contact, explain your connection with the person you are interviewing... "I am looking for a personal assistant for myself or a family member, would you consider this person able to perform such tasks?" Do you know of times when they have done this in the past? How did it work out?" "How long have you known them?"

     If all goes well, the match will be made. However, there is no law against giving the relationship a trial period. If you choose to do so, let your housemate know before they sign on. Usually 30 - 60 days will give you enough time to know if problems are going to surface. Reach an understanding that if you have any concerns you must be able to terminate the partnership with no questions asked.

     All my best, Michael S.True

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