When I Needed Home Healthcare Aides, They Came Through for Me
My husband is my primary caregiver. In fact, he’s been my only caregiver for the past 12 years that I’ve been living with ALS. That changed last week, when he needed medical tests that required an overnight stay in the hospital. That’s when we turned to a local home healthcare agency for help and got just what we needed.
But it proved to be a learning curve as well, one that left me with a few unexpected projects to finish before there’s a next time.
Two months ago, as part of our plan and desire to age in place, my husband and I decided to visit a local home care agency that was recommended to us by the ALS Association. We introduced ourselves, chatted with the staff, and even arranged for a nurse to come to our home to assess our needs and sign off on all the paperwork.
Even though my husband is a wonderful caregiver, I’m so thankful we had everything in place for his emergency. I had to be alone at home for two full days plus one night. Since we don’t have family nearby to step in, we called the agency and arranged for their home health aides to come to our home and stay with me.
How did it go?
Sure enough, on the designated day and right on time, the first home health aide showed up. Although my rollator keeps me fairly mobile and I’m somewhat independent in my daily living skills, I still need help. For example, I need someone to fix my meals, help me onto my shower chair, and dry me off. Plus, with a rollator in my way, I can’t open or close any of our window curtains.
My aide was professional, skilled, and friendly — exactly what I expected. What I didn’t expect was the lickety-split way that she accomplished things. After attending to all of my personal needs, we discovered she still had two more hours to fill before her shift ended.
The situation reminded me of my professional working days, when we’d host intern students from the nearby university. I would always underestimate their youthful energy and assign them a project thinking it would take them all afternoon to complete. In what seemed like only 30 minutes, they’d be back at my office door asking, “What’s next?”
So, with my aide asking the very same question, I had to come up with suitable household duties that needed attention — tasks such as vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher, or doing a load of laundry. She tackled everything with gusto and a smile.
During the two days and one night, my three aides were truly helpful in our time of need. Was it a good experience? Yes, yes, and yes. But I did come away with a few recommendations I’d like to share:
- Connecting with the home care agency well before you need them is superimportant. To avoid possible misunderstandings or delays, have all the paperwork in place and make sure you are in its computer system.
- Prepare a written list of all and what types of daily living skills and essential activities you’ll need help with. This ensures that nothing will be overlooked or left to the last minute.
- Make a second list of household duties, everything and anything. Especially note activities that need to happen on certain days or a time of day. For example, note what day the garbage truck comes by or when the mail is delivered.
My personal to-do projects
When one aide walked into the room after putting away the laundry and casually remarked, “My, you have a lot of socks,” it shocked me into realizing my sock drawer had somehow gotten out of control, again. I decided not only to do another sock declutter, but also to include all my clothing drawers as well. I’ll not let someday-itis catch up with me again!
It’s a big step to accept care from strangers, but it’s something we have to do for our health, security, and well-being. And for me, it’s part of learning to live well while living with ALS.
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