ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

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Monday , November 14 , 2016

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Much of what we do in home care business is administrative: arranging schedules, handling call offs, following hiring protocols, assessing clients and documenting, documenting, documenting. The data entry and paperwork is endless.

But at heart our business is all about human beings interacting with one another, so in the long run our success relies on pure people skills. Nowhere is this more important than in finding the right “match” between caregiver and client. It’s definitely an art, not a science.

The first consideration is ensuring that the home health aide has the right skill set, experience and strength for the client, but the rest is about finding the right personality match. A skilled home health aide who is beloved by multiple past clients may nevertheless rub her new client the wrong way and there may be no “fixing” the situation short of changing the aide.

A complicating factor is that many of our clients are convinced they don’t need our help in the first place. It’s their pushy children who are forcing them to do this, they tell us. (Never mind that they are 95, legally blind and recovering from a broken hip. By golly, they’ve always done everything on their own and they don’t see why that should change now!)

In these cases, just getting in the door is success. Being permitted to stay for the entire shift is a major victory. Clients who are resistant from the get-go usually won’t help our cause by saying just what they would like to have done. We know we’ll be more likely to succeed if we send a home health aide who is creative and proactive about setting their own schedule of things to accomplish on the shift. They need to prove their value to the client.

Other clients love nothing more than giving directions, right down to the last detail of how they want things done. They need someone who is willing and compliant. If the client’s manner is gruff or even hostile, we need to match them with an aide who is mature, experienced and self-confident enough to know not to take things personally.

Patience and understanding are all the more critical with clients who have dementia. Dementia patients can lose their social inhibitions and say things they never would have dreamed of saying in their pre-dementia lives. Family members are often mortified to hear what comes out of a parent’s mouth, but caring, experienced home health aides are usually unfazed by this behavior. They understand the situation. It’s very important for us train employees for dementia care and to recognize ahead of time who does not have the right temperament to succeed with these clients.

There’s no way around it: some customers are just plain difficult. And rude, demanding behavior is tougher to put up with when there is no dementia involved. In those cases we have to remember—and remind the home health aides involved—that even difficult people need care. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances such as pain or frustration at being dependent that we need to keep in mind.

Regardless, we do our best to help everyone who needs it. One of the clients we have been providing around-the-clock care for over 6 years has “fired” rejected over 35 people. One aide carried too large a handbag, she said. Another one was a “moron,” and yet another (one of our sweetest and most skilled) “looks like a man; don’t send her back.”

As you can imagine, we had almost as many employees who didn’t want to work with her either. “I need money but not that bad,” was a common refrain. We don’t force the home health aides to take a client they aren’t happy with. The “match” has to work both ways.

With effort and creativity we’ve managed to provide this client uninterrupted care all these years. We have a pretty finely tuned sense of who will pass muster with her by now. And we make sure to thank the home health aides effusively and frequently so they know they are deeply appreciated by us, even if the client herself takes their efforts for granted.

On the bright side, there are times when we get the perfect fit right away, and that makes us really happy. Over ten years ago I signed up a client who needed a companion several days a week. When I dropped by toward the end of the first shift to see how they were doing I found the two of them sitting on lawn chairs and chatting like the oldest of friends. All these years later they are still inseparable pals and the client, now in her 90’s, is still living in her home.

Posted in: Caregivers, Home Care

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Monday , October 31 , 2016

Support for Family Caregivers: We Can Do Better!

In a presidential election cycle full of so many distracting and distressing non-issues, some of the pressing needs of American families have had less attention than they merit. Childcare, the cost of education, and preserving social security and Medicare have all received at least some attention and found a place on the candidates’ websites. Rightly so. These are areas of vital importance to the strength of American families and the nation as a whole.

But how to help families care for seniors has not been a significant part of the national dialogue. Don’t you think it should be? Families receive very little help in the vital task of caring for elders or the disabled. They struggle to fulfill this responsibility in the way they want—with love, compassion and the respect their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles deserve. But they could use some help.

Thankfully, poverty among seniors is significantly lower than it was prior to the passage of the social security act in 1935 and Medicare in 1965. These were major achievements of the 20th century that led to real quality of life improvements for the elderly and families overall.

But neither of these programs directly address the burden on families of providing care for those who need it. What’s more, the past few decades have seen important changes in our economy and family structure that require us to re-think the support families need. Historically, unpaid family labor—largely provided by women—was a resource that we took for granted. That can no longer be the case. Women both want to and, for urgent economic reasons, must be contributors in the workforce.

In addition, improvements in health care mean that we are living longer. For some people these bonus years are healthy and productive, but many others do need care and help.
We need new tools to support seniors and families. I often speak with families who are shocked that Medicare benefits do not cover in-home help for the elderly, or do it on an extremely limited basis. Medicare addresses critical health needs caused by illness and injury and simply isn’t designed to assist someone who needs ongoing help with bathing, toileting or meals.

Yes, if you are hospitalized and discharged home, Medicare will provide very limited (perhaps 4 hours a week), short-term (perhaps 3 or 4 weeks) of home care service by a home health aide. If you need more than that or if you need the help ongoing, you are on your own.  Full information about the Medicare home health benefit can be found at

I know from talking with hundreds of family caregivers how many are truly struggling to make ends meet and to provide the best quality care for loved ones.

Are you a family caregiver? If so, what are your needs? In your wildest dreams, what could your local community, or your state and national government do to support you and your family?

What would help you both realize your own potential and fulfill your loving commitment to family?Would it be more paid-time-off for caregiving? More access to information about resources? Being able to accrue social security even when, for caregiving reasons, you are not in the paid workforce? Having more public funding for professional in-home care? More affordable long-term care insurance? More services that come to the home?

Give me your thoughts! You can email me at Put “Support for family caregivers” in the subject line. Your responses will contribute to the content of future posts.


Posted in: Aging

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Thursday , October 20 , 2016

Game Changing Tools for Family Caregivers: Workshop will offer new techniques for dementia care

“The new normal.” That’s what Lynn Feinberg, senior policy advisor for AARP, called family caregiving in a 2012 report to the EEOC. Most seniors needing help and care are not in facilities. Between 80 to 90% of caregiving to seniors is provided in the community by family or friends.

But although caregiving is common, and often personally rewarding, it is rarely easy. Anyone who taken on this role knows how complicated and demanding it can be. What’s more, it is not a role that most of us plan or train for. The need arises and, almost before we know it, we find that we have taken on new responsibilities for which we are not very well prepared.
Family caregivers face significant demands on their time, their finances and their energy. Eventually these demands and the stress they create can take a toll on a caregiver’s health and well-being.

Family caregivers show significantly higher rates of depression, fatigue and anxiety than comparable people who are not caregivers. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, they even experience higher rates of physical ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.

These effects are even more pronounced for those caring for a loved one with dementia. Dementias, such as Alzheimer’s and other illnesses affecting cognition, place extraordinary demands on family member.

Every week in my role as owner and director of a home care agency I am inspired by the grace, courage and ingenuity with which unpaid caregivers rise to the occasion of caring for a loved one. But I have also seen what a difference it can make when they have the opportunity to learn new caregiving tools and techniques and to share their ideas and concerns with others facing similar challenges.

That’s why this fall ComForCare will be partnering with the Jointure to offer a five-week caregiver skills workshop for family members and friends caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. The workshop has three main goals:

•to educate caregivers about dementia, including Alzheimer’s, so that they understand what changes are taking place in their loved ones and what they can expect,
•to teach proven strategies and techniques for working effectively with the care recipient and dealing with stress, and
•to offer a warm and supportive environment for sharing concerns and connecting with others facing the same challenges.

We call these proven techniques “game changers” because of their power to improve the dynamic between care givers and care recipients.

We will be meeting once a week starting Monday, November 7, at the People Care Center in Bridgewater. Ideal participants should be currently providing care for a loved one with dementia and be willing to attend all five sessions.

Register online at or call Jointure for information at 908-722-0233.

Posted in: Caregivers, Dementia

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