What is Companion Care?
Companion care for seniors is a specialized aspect of non-medical care services. In Texas, care agencies that specialize in companion care do not require a license from the Health and Human Services Commission as long as the agency does not provide hands-on assistance with certain activities of daily living (ADLs). A license for Personal Assistance Services is needed for agencies that provide ADL support, which specifically include bathing, dressing, grooming, feeding, exercising, toileting, positioning, assisting with self-administered medications, routine hair and skin care, and transfer or ambulation.
While a companion care agency cannot physically assist with ADLs, their caregivers can assure the older adult is performing their care needs such as bathing, and stand by to ensure the senior’s safety getting in and out of the bathroom. Additionally, for those seniors who require the use of a cane or walker, the companion caregiver will walk alongside them, encouraging the senior to exercise while assuring their safety around obstacles that could lead to a fall.
Does Your Loved One Need Companion Care?
Older adults who reside independently in their own homes may eventually have difficulty managing everyday household tasks. Whether they experience a loss of mobility with aging or cognitive decline from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, companion care is often the first way families seek help to enable their aging loved ones to remain in their own homes.
If other family members work full-time or have other obligations, it can be difficult to ensure that a family member is always available to transport a senior loved one to regular doctor appointments and help with other errands like grocery shopping. These seniors, particularly if they no longer drive and lack access to convenient transportation, can benefit from companion care. Additionally, older adults who live alone and don’t have many friends or family members who make regular visits can benefit greatly from the socialization offered by a companion.
Companion care is a valuable benefit for older adults who face challenges in keeping up with daily household chores, are at risk of isolation, or need transportation to appointments and other locations. If your aging loved one wants to age-in-place, companion care is one of the most helpful services to enable them to remain independent, in their own home.
Safety Aspects of Companion Care
Independent seniors who do not require assistance with personal care may engage the services of a companion care agency to assist with household and transportation needs, or to provide emotional support or socialization, particularly for those who live alone or have cognitive difficulties. For example, a recently widowed senior who had relied on their spouse to prepare their meals may opt for easily prepared foods, but miss out on healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. A companion caregiver can assist with grocery shopping, monitor expiration dates of foods in the pantry and refrigerator, and prepare hot balanced meals, as well as sit down and dine with them.
Additionally, certain household tasks that are generally taken for granted when younger may become significantly more difficult when the body ages. Such chores as carrying laundry up or down stairs, fitting clean sheets on a bed, cleaning under furniture, reaching items on the top shelves of cupboards, and changing light bulbs in ceiling fixtures can be difficult and unsafe for many seniors. Companion caregivers can manage the routine chores alongside, or on behalf of, the older client to assure safety.
Many seniors find that their diminishing eyesight and/or slower reflexes make driving a car risky. Their companion caregiver can drive their own car, or the senior’s vehicle if preferred, to take their client to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, to perform other chores, or to attend social events and church services.
The Socialization Benefits of Companion Care
Companions provide a variety of beneficial services that make life more manageable for older adults, but companionship itself is perhaps the most important, particularly for seniors who live alone and find it difficult to get out of the house. Older adults living independently often experience loneliness and isolation, and companions engage in conversation, take walks with their care recipients, and play games like card games or board games, and simply provide a listening ear and someone to talk to.
Likewise, by transporting older adults to the local senior center for activities, to healthcare or therapy appointments, and other activities, companions help older adults remain active and engaged and also ensure that they’re able to receive vital healthcare services.
Selecting a Companion Care Agency
Agencies that specialize in companion care services are exempt from licensing in Texas. Therefore, families should ask several questions to determine whether the companion care agency is the right choice for their loved ones?
- How does the agency select caregivers? Are they independent contractors, or company employees?
- What kind of background checks are performed before a caregiver is assigned to a client?
- How is a specific caregiver assigned to each client? Does the agency simply select the employee nearest each client, or are they matched based on tasks and personality matches?
- Can the agency provide references of satisfied clients?
- Does the agency have workers compensation insurance to cover any accidents that may occur in the senior’s home?
- Does the agency have liability insurance to cover damage in the senior’s home, theft of property, and automobile liability by their caregivers?
- Is training provided for caregivers working with those with cognitive difficulties such as dementia or alzheimers disease?