What Is Companion Care?
Seniors are gems of our society who need a lot of love and care. We therefore want to make sure they are living a satisfied, happy life. The most common issues at their age are loneliness and isolation. They often want to spend more time with family and children, which is difficult, as everyone has busy routines. As a result, they may need other sources of companionship. Companion care is emotional support for senior citizens who are generally healthy, and want to live independently at home. This type of care can include several non-medical services that can make a senior’s life more manageable. One option of companion care at home is to hire a caregiver. Additionally, many senior living facilities also provide companion care to senior citizens.
In this informative article, we will tell you everything you need to know about companion care.
Companion care is a type of home care service that offers non-medical services to senior citizens or people with disabilities. It differs from personal care, as personal care assists seniors with activities of daily living, such as bathing, medication, dressing, and home maintenance tasks. Alternatively, the goal of companion care is to provide emotional support to the elderly in the form of socialization. Companion care depends on the requirements of each individual.
Seniors can get companion care services at their homes, assisted living facilities, or in-home hospices. In simple terms, companionship for a senior spans both physical and social care. Here are the services one can expect from companion care:
- Emotional support
- Enhanced life quality; moral support
- Socialization and entertainment
- Continuous communication with the senior
- Light housekeeping
- Running errands (shopping, grocery)
- Planning social activities
- Going out to socialize
- Meal preparation
Companion care can include other chores that maintain the stress-free independent life of an elderly person or a senior couple.
Importance of Companion Care
Research has indicated that elderly people who are involved in social activities, in which they use their mind and body, are less likely to suffer from ailments and medical conditions. Socialization and emotional support are essential for seniors, and these are the basic roles of companion care. Companion care is as important as medicine for a senior citizen. If medicine treats the physical issues of the elderly, then companion care aims to treat the emotional and mental issues that can arise due to loneliness and isolation in old-age.
How Companion Care Works
Senior citizens depend on companion care in order to age in place. The provision of companion care can be formal or informal. Many elderly people have friends and family members who offer informal care, like managing household tasks. These seniors are fortunate to have people close to them who can provide elderly care.
On the other hand, local organizations, companion caregiving agencies, and other independent contractors provide formal companion services. Some agencies solely offer companion care services for seniors.
Companion care is not the same for all senior citizens; therefore, the frequency of visits to senior citizens depends on their individual needs. Some companions will visit regularly, and others will visit less frequently. Some seniors need regular companion care, and others do not. Companion care services for seniors include preparing meals, washing dishes, laundry, cleaning the house, and keeping the house well organized. Some elderly people may schedule appointments with their companions outside the typical visit hours, and companions can adjust their plans to accommodate these needs.
Does Your Loved One Need Companion Care?
Companion care services are usually essential when:
- The elderly person resides independently at home
- The senior person experiences immobility with aging
- The elderly person suffers from diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia
- The senior person suffers from depression and loneliness
- The senior person needs a hand with routine activities
Companion care is often the first way families seek help for these issues. Companion care services enable older people to remain happy in their homes.
Why Should Family Members Consider Companion Care?
Companion care services for seniors are appropriate when family members work full-time, or have other obligations. These family members will find it challenging to offer elder care to their senior loved ones. Therefore, they seek companion care services from agencies or independent caregivers. The companions offer excellent elder care, and the seniors benefit greatly from socializing with companions. Moreover, companion services enable the working members of the family to work effectively without worrying about their aging loved ones.
What Are the Benefits of Companion Care?
There are a multitude of benefits of senior companion care. Not least is the peace of mind it can provide to family members. For senior citizens, having a trusted friend and companion may help increase both longevity and quality of life.
Having a person with whom to go on social outings, whether it be movies, walks, art galleries, or coffee, helps provide stimulation and continued connection to the community. Even within the home, companion caregivers can provide mental stimulation by encouraging the elderly to read, do puzzles, or do outdoor activities, like gardening. A senior companion also ensures that medications are taken on time and that seniors are eating properly, and will be on the lookout for any signs of worsening conditions, like increased forgetfulness, changes in mobility, or signs of depression.
What Types of Senior Companion Care Are There?
Depending on the need and the budget, there is a senior companion to meet almost any need. These include:
Live-in companionship: This type of companionship is ideal for those that have several medical needs or decreased mobility. For this to work effectively, there are generally several different companions who work in shifts to provide support and care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All the needs of the elderly citizen are taken care of, from meals and medication, to shopping and accompanying them on appointments and outings.
In-home companionship: This is ideal for ensuring that the elderly have consistent interactions and social stimulation. There are usually specific goals for the companion, and this helps family and friends ensure that the right needs are met. These may include evening meals, grocery shopping, or doctor’s appointments, as well as other social activities.
Companion hospice care: For those that have had to move to hospice care, senior companionship can provide much-needed connection. Within a hospice, senior companions can run errands, read to patients, and help them get to appointments. The senior companions are usually volunteers who provide an invaluable service.
Who Provides Companion Care Services?
Here is a list of types of organizations that provide companion care services:
- Certified Agencies: Home care certified agencies provide companion care services. They may include both medical and non-medical help in their services. Hospice agencies work like other certified agencies, but they are strictly appointed by the federal government.
- Non-Licensed Agencies: These include non-certified agencies who provide companion care services without medical support.
- Independent Contractors: These are independently hired people who are self-employed and working as an independent companion care providers. These companion care providers are generally not licensed or certified.
The benefits of companion care to the elderly are massive. Companion care enables seniors to live in a home where daily household chores are not a problem, and where they can receive help attending appointments. Symptoms of depression due to loneliness may be mitigated.
What Are the Services of Companion Care?
As the name implies, companion care is about providing companionship to senior citizens; a companion is someone with whom to share personal stories and experiences. Personal sharing is important for elderly people who are living alone, and who have been isolated from others.
Some of the common services provided in companion care are:
- Reminders to take medication
- Emotional support
- Assistance with daily activities
- Housekeeping tasks
- Cooking meals
- Planning, scheduling, and managing social activities
- Tours to local places, such as sightseeing trips, shopping, movies, and visits to family members
- Providing entertainment, such as games and hobbies
- Helping maintain a healthy body weight by exercising and eating a balanced diet
- Assisting with walks, swimming at the local pool, going to neighbors’ homes, and any other activity
Studies show that conversation and mind games, such as scrabble and bridge, can help stimulate the brain and delay dementia and Alzheimer's care.
Questions About Selecting Companion Care Services
As you start to narrow down the available options for companion care services, consider these questions:
- Does the companion care agency offer extra services, like medical care, if my elderly loved one’s condition demands?
- Is the agency recommended by a social worker, physician, hospital, or health professional?
- Does the agency run background checks on their staff members?
- Do they have a license to provide medical services?
- Does the companion caregiver have any certificates or skills, such as in dementia care or nutrition?
- Is the caregiver trained in providing emergency help?
- Will they be available 24 hours/7 days a week for help?
- How does the companion caregiver develop the monthly plan for my elderly loved one?
- Are my family members involved with the care process?
- Will the agency send the same caregiver each time?
- If the caregiver doesn’t show up for work on a given day, who will provide services?
- Will there be a contract if I will hire an independent person as a caregiver?
- Is there a payment plan, and what are the different methods of payment?
- Will there be any additional costs not included in the initial quote?
- Will the caregiver work on holidays or weekends? If yes, will the charges be the same, or it will cost extra?
How to Hire a Companion Caregiver
If your elderly loved one is interested in having some extra support to stay independent and stress-free from home responsibilities, it may be time to consider companion care services. Here are a few recommendations on hiring a companion caregiver:
Determine What Needs Must Be Met
Make a list of the needs of your loved one. While listing needs, you can ask these questions:
- Does your senior loved one need someone to talk with and take care of his/her safety?
- What kind of emotional support does my senior require?
- Does the elderly person feel lonely?
- Does my parent need a helping hand with his or her routine activities?
- Does he or she need home cleaning or transportation assistance?
Come up with a list of tasks that can be transformed into a job description. Be as descriptive as you can. For example, if you are looking for a cooking partner, be sure to note any special dietary requirements. If transportation services are needed, designate the vehicle to be used.
Be careful to authorize, certify, or register companies or caregiving agencies offering practical personal care services, like bathing and clothing services.
Mostly, independent companions don't have to be certified to carry out duties such as offering an arm to help a senior citizen get out of a chair, or making food. Regulations, however, vary from state to state. Make sure that you check the rules in your area and that you know what type of training a caregiver needs.
Decide Whether You Want to Work with An Agency or Go the Private Route
As the situation is different for different seniors, there is no single solution that works best for everyone. The advantages and disadvantages of each choice should be balanced.
Working with an agency:
Here are the benefits of hiring caregivers from a companion care agency or company:
- The company is responsible for screening, hiring, accounting, paying taxes, and insuring the caregivers
- There is a pool of caregivers from which to choose someone who can meet the personalized needs of each elderly person
- Backup support is ensured if your companion caregiver is sick or cannot be there
- The staff of the agency is insured and bonded to protect you from damage or mugging
- The agency can send various caregivers to your senior loved one at different times to handle the responsibilities. It may be difficult for your elder to get attached and share their personal life with often-changing caregivers.
- Organizations and agencies also charge more for training, recruitment, and supervision than private companion caregivers.
- The selection process is controlled by you.
- You may ignore formal qualifications and recruit based on experience.
- Hiring an employee yourself is often less costly than hiring an agency
- You have to put your time into locating caregivers, conducting interviews, and carrying out background checks and references.
- If your employed caregiver is sick or has time off, you need to have a Plan B.
- You are an employer, and therefore, all administrative tasks relating to payroll, liabilities, health insurance for workers, social security, and Medicare taxes may be your responsibility.
If you need help immediately, it is likely best to work with a company, because it usually takes less time to locate and employ a companion caregiver from an agency. Consider hiring an accountant for tax and insurance duties, as you may have opportunities for tax deduction benefits.
Also, you can hire a company caregiver temporarily, and use a private caregiver later on. You can reduce costs by ensuring that your loved one enjoys full healthcare coverage.
Ask Around for Agency or Caregiver Recommendations
Word of mouth is one of the easiest ways to find a good companion caregiver. It is helpful to hear what others have to say about their experiences, whether you choose to use an organization or find your caregiver yourself. Check the services that have been used by friends, family members, colleagues or neighbors. Talk to social workers or health workers, or contact older people in your community. The more information you can collect, the better.
Retirement communities, senior centers, old age homes, and religious houses often advertise elderly companion jobs on their brochures, billboards, and newsletters. Online job websites and local websites might also come in handy, since they provide typically reliable avenues through which senior services jobs are advertised. You can also reach out to home health aides and nursing assistants from training institutions.
The process of recruiting competent and caring companion caregivers for the elderly needs to be done with a lot of care. Remember, you not only need an experienced companion caregiver, but also quality senior living facilities. To ensure you hire the right person, here are some important tips to consider:
Select from a Wide Array of Service Providers
When it comes to senior caregiver jobs, there is a lot of personal contact with the elderly. Hence, serious vetting of potential candidates is essential. Conduct interviews in residential care facilities to find out how prospective companion caregivers relate to older people. By observing how they interact with the seniors, you can more easily assess a candidate’s character.
You can also seek help from an agency, where your senior living needs will be reviewed before a companion caregiver is assigned. Before choosing an agency, you should factor in several things regarding companion care services. Ask yourself whether the agency has:
- A convincing level of experience, and has been in operation for a substantial duration
- A valid license, where applicable
- References and recommendations from reliable social services or healthcare experts
- Well-trained staff in specific areas, such as dementia
- A comprehensive breakdown of the cost incurred once you hire a caregiver
- A wide variety of senior companion care services
- Reliable supervision mechanisms for its employees
- Experienced prospective employees
- Detailed staff background checks
If you opt to recruit a companion caregiver privately, you ought to find out the following information regarding prospective candidates:
- If they have acquired first-aid and CPR training. Also, look out for other specialized skills and credentials
- The level of experience they possess
- References from competent social services professionals
- Whether they have effective transportation
- If they have valid licenses
- Whether they are legally permitted to work in the U.S
- If they can voluntarily take part in a background check
- Their cost of providing senior companion care services
- Working schedules, and when they will be available
Background Checks and References
Background checks and references are vital when you choose to personally hire a companion caregiver. Find previous clients, talk to them, and discover the potential candidate’s character. You can also run background checks online for a reasonable fee.
What is the Cost of Companion Care?
The cost of companion care services differs based on the training of caregivers and the level of care provided. There may be other factors, such as local market prices and the reputation of the service agency. As per the most recent Genworth Care survey, licensed companion care services charge on average $18 per hour nationwide, and a minimum of 4 hours of services are required per day.
Medicare will not pay for companion care services, so most seniors end up paying privately with their own money. Long-term care insurance may help cover the expenses of companion care, but this will not cover independent caregiver services. You can check out various payment options according to the laws of your state, and decide which suits you best.
Most people would rather stay in their own home than move to elderly care facilities. However, with communities changing and families becoming more dispersed, there is a risk that homes can become more of a lonely prison for a senior citizen. What options are there to ensure that the elderly remain healthy and connected while at home?
Senior companionship is about creating a support network that provides the elderly with consistent social interaction. Whether it be a friendly chat, someone with whom to go on social outings, or providing company at mealtimes, senior companionship provides a spectrum of support to ensure that the mental, physical, and emotional needs of senior loved ones are met.
Senior companions can be hired from a variety of organizations, and costs range from voluntary to fee-based services. Many religious groups provide a range of services, while professional firms can support more medically related needs.
Is There a Companion Care Service Near Me?
The most likely answer is, yes! Senior living facilities offer companion care services, as well. If you want to hire an independent caregiver in your home for the care of your loved one, you can simply look for references and hire a reputable caregiver.
If you want to use the help of local 55+ communities, search our website. We provide an online service locator that can help you find the best senior living services in your area.
Learn more about the best companion care services near you via our website. You can also use our directory to look for a senior living facility near you, check reviews, and get pricing information.
For more knowledge related to other senior living options, such as assisted living, nursing homes, retirement communities, old-age communities, and memory care units, please read our blog.