When I Needed Home Healthcare Aides, They Came Through for Me

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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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.

What happened?

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.

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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.


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

Comments

Carolyn Barry avatar

Carolyn Barry

Dagmar, this was so helpful to read. I do have a question to ask you. When you first went to the health care agency, were you able to set up an "as needed" type of service? I had always thought that an agency would require ongoing care, as opposed to just calling for their help when the need arose. That's why I hadn't considered this next step yet. Did you find it very expensive, and was the care cost on an hourly basis? I don't expect that my insurance will cover any of the care.
Thanks!
Carolyn

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Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

When we filled out the paperwork there was no commitment to use them. It would start only when we called them, and then, it was "as needed." I needed 2 days' worth. And they would wait until we needed them again... maybe weeks or months later. It was hourly: $34.50 for a 4-hour aide (shift), although they can do 1-2 hrs only if needed. I think each agency may be slightly different. We used Bayada Home Health Servis: https://www.bayada.com/

Jennifer avatar

Jennifer

Dagmar,

I am so grateful for the tips, guidance and reflections you make in your column. It was your posting(s) on rollators a year or so ago that prompted me to get one. This info on preparing for home health aides is so helpful, too.

Thank you very much.

Jennifer

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Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

It makes me happy to know what I write is helpful! Thank you :-D

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

For anyone who is interested in which service we used, it was: Bayada Home Health Services. https://www.bayada.com/
Dagmar

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Carolyn Barry avatar

Carolyn Barry

Thanks Dagmar for all you explained. Many years ago when I needed to have a nurse come out after my child's trach surgery, I had been referred to the Bayada nursing agency. They were very good, yet I didn't realize that they also employed home health aides. I will definitely call them here in PA, once I am ready to set up an appointment for the possibility of needing services. You've really helped relieve my anxiousness over not knowing who is best to call, as well as what they can do when they are here. Thanks again!
Carolyn

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