About Scott Ellis

The Benefits of Home Care

There are many reasons to consider home care for your loved one but the essence of home care can be summarized by three essential benefits.

Three Benefits of Home Care


When seniors reach the point of needing outside care, their greatest fear is the loss of their independence.  We all value our freedom and relish our ability to take care of ourselves, but for seniors, it is no longer a voluntary relinquishment, it is something that is imposed on them by the limitations of frailty and sometimes, mental capacity.

Understanding the Independence Issue

When something is taken from you, even by nature, it makes us angry and we want to strike back in defiance.  We go into denial and refuse help, especially outside help that costs money.  You may have experienced this with someone close to you for whom you are considering care.

At least 86% of people over age 60 say they want to avoid ending their days in a nursing home.  But until something dramatic occurs forcing the issue, most seniors typically refuse even home based supportive care and it’s all about the fear of losing one’s independence; having someone else tell them what they can and cannot do.

So it’s important when attempting to arrange care for a loved one that they know that home based supportive care is just that, supportive.  The primary mission of any home health agency should be to ensure the customer’s independence at home for as long as possible.  It’s important that we help them understand that the presence of a caregiver is not a restriction but rather, a way of helping them keep what they cherish most, their independence.

Quality of Life

As our health deteriorates, so too does the quality of our life.  We can’t get out and go or do like we used to and we feel less and less like trying.  If a senior takes a fall and breaks a hip or arm, their ability to heal is severely restricted and it takes longer for them to heal than a younger person.  Such an event can and often does trigger a serious and permanent decline in the overall wellbeing of the patient.

It has been stated that over 80% of such cases enjoy faster and more complete recovery when a knowledgeable and compatible outside caregiver is employed.  Even before an unpleasant and debilitating event occurs, a good caregiver will help ensure the safety and general mobility of a frail senior.  They can help them continue enjoying many of their favorite activities where, if left alone, they will otherwise simply stop.

Family will usually do their best to ensure their loved one continues an active life but it can become an overwhelming burden and produces guilt in all parties.  Outside help can provide the key to a continued higher quality of life for the patient and their entire family.

Peace of Mind

For the family, the most worthwhile benefit of home care is knowing that your loved one is receiving the time, attention and loving care of someone who has the experience and knowledge required to assist them in living a better, safer, longer life.  If you have been through it already, you know what it’s like receiving a call from the emergency room telling you your loved one has taken a fall and broken something.

If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, you lie awake nights worrying whether or not they remembered to turn off the stove, lock their door or take the medication they need.  These worries can be alleviated with qualified home care.

The benefits of home health care are numerous. But independence, quality of life and peace of mind and front in center when addressing the needs of the person who needs care as well as their family.  If you’re considering a Live-In aide (New Jersey) or hourly assistance (counties of Somerset and parts of Middlesex and Hunterdon) give us a call to learn more at 908-359-4663 or send us an email.

Home Health Care & Understanding Medicaid Qualifications

MedicaidWhen the time comes to seek help caring for a loved one Medicaid is one of many options to help offset the cost of care.  But before you apply to Medicaid you will be required to go through the Medicaid qualification process to prove financial eligibility.

There are several important things to understand in advance of the qualification process including:

  1. You or your loved one can’t have too much income or assets in their name(s).
  2. You will be required to prove financial need
  3. The process will include a 5 year “Look Back” period.

The Five Year “Look Back”

The 5 year “Look Back” period means that any money spent in the five years prior to the Medicaid application must be accounted for as having been used for “verifiable goods and services.” The 5 year “Look Back” period is there to prevent people from transferring assets to a family member and then claiming they are destitute.  The idea is to prevent fraud and insure Medicaid funds are there for those that actually need them. If you can’t formally and legally establish that the money spent was for acceptable purposes, there is a penalty, often equal to the value of the amount spent but unsubstantiated.

Common Mistakes

The most common mistake is to spend down the assets by hiring a private companion/aide to help the loved one in need until the funds run out. The catch is that if the private aide is not properly set up as an employee with taxes withheld then the money spent on them will NOT count against the spend down when you go to apply for Medicaid. Now, the money is gone and you still may not qualify for Medicaid.

Often that mistake involves the hiring of people working under the table or whom are not legally entitled to work in the US.  In those circumstances they can’t give you proof of employment for obvious reasons.  So now you are stuck with no money and can’t get qualified for Medicaid because they penalize you for the amount you spent on home care but couldn’t properly substantiate.

At this point, if you can’t take care of your loved one yourself, you are forced to pay for the facility (or extended home care) out of your own pocket until the penalty has been satisfied.  That could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over time and most folks can’t handle that.

Planning for Medicaid

If you are considering home health care for your loved one it is important, for the reasons mentioned above, to hire a home health agency right from the start and allow the agency to handle the details of employment, ensure proper documentation and establish the legitimacy of expenditure so that the 5 year “Look Back” period can be legally satisfied.   A legitimate agency can and will provide you with qualifying verification on the amount spent, thus greatly smoothing out the qualification process.

If you’re in our service area and would like more details on planning for the qualification process through the proper use of home health care for your loved one, give us a call at 908-359-4663 or drop us an email.

Drivers for the Elderly

Many families that hire a live-in caregiver for their loved one anticipate the enhanced freedom that comes when a caregiver can drive their  elderly loved one around so they don’t have to. It’s a little like the way parents feel about getting their child a car so they can drive themselves around to all their sporting, school and social events. But there are some important issues that must be considered when a hired caregiver is driving the elderly.

Does The Driver’s Insurance Provide Coverage for Everyone?

First, insurance companies do not cover people who transport someone in their own vehicle while being paid. The caregiver’s agency may provide liability insurance but the caregiver’s car will not be covered for physical damage. The best way to negate this problem is to provide a vehicle for the caregiver to drive. The owner can give anyone permission to drive so as long as the vehicle is properly insured, it should be ok. If you or your loved one have a vehicle hang on to it for the caregiver to use (only when they transport the person they are taking care of).

When Is It A Bad Idea For A Caregiver To Provide Transportation Services?

For a caregiver to take a patient (especially someone with dementia) to doctor’s appointments without an accompanying family member is not in anyone’s best interest. They are not family and should not be used as a surrogate for a family member who is responsible for them.

What Else Should I Know?

As a general rule, people who drive do not usually make good long term live-in caregivers. Why? It’s because people who drive tend to be independent in nature. To be tied closely to a geriatric person for days, weeks and months on end requires a special person. Sooner or later, a person who drives will all too often start finding excuses to go out or take time off more frequently, requiring frequent relievers who may or may not be familiar with the case. If they start leaving the customer unattended, it can be a serious problem and you may not be aware of it until something goes wrong.

If you have a live-in caregiver and your loved one will need to be transported from time to time, consider alternative means of transport.  Options to consider include:

  1. Having a family member drive them
  2. Senior Care Transportation services which often use accessible vans and buses
  3. Your local church, synagogue or other religious organization which may have volunteers that will assist with transportation needs
  4. Public Transportation which will often have special rates available for seniors (remember, you caregiver can accompany them)
  5. Taxi or Private Care for occasional or spur-of-the-moment travel needs

It’s best to have a few options on hand with contact numbers and rates readily available so that you can address any transportation needs that may arise.

7 Answers to “What Is A Good Caregiver?”

When a person finds themselves in need of care, the first person expected to render that care is usually a close family relative.  These good folks do their best to persist as long as it takes, sometimes for years.  The ones that don’t last may find that the work is too stressful, boring, physically and emotionally difficult and too disruptive of the rest of their lives.  Good as their intentions may be, very few family members can sustain a demanding caregiving effort indefinitely and when they have finally had enough, guilt and hard feelings can emerge.

What most people don’t realize is that not everyone is suited to caregiving, even when the patient is someone close to them.  So what makes a person a good caregiver, especially when the patient is someone they don’t even know?  Here are 7 key points to understand:

  1. Personality – This is the single most important ingredient to consider.  Caregivers need an innate sense of selflessness and empathy, and sometimes what may seem like a natural personality fit can be deceiving.  Most people have a good degree of human compassion but only those with the right set of inner ingredients can voluntarily sustain themselves over time.  Don’t assume that one personality type is best until you have experience with it.  Look for “sweetness,” a willingness to serve, an absence of “attitude,” and the patience to weather a patient’s bad days.  Be leery of people who stipulate non-medical tasks they won’t do.  With the exception of injections, wound care and dispensing medication out of prescription containers, there should not be much they won’t do. It’s their attitude toward work that matters most.
  2. Experience – Experience is valuable in that it helps the caregiver determine whether or not they can handle a particular assignment.  But it is NOT the primary ingredient one should look for when evaluating a caregiver.   An inexperienced caregiver can be more eager to please and willing to go the extra mile.  Caregivers are human and they can project inappropriate characteristics and responses from past experience onto a new case without realizing they are doing it.  If they have experience with a specific ailment, they may know whether or not they can handle it but your patient may exhibit entirely different behavior and past experience may or may not be relevant.  On the other hand, someone with no experience caring for particularly taxing ailments like say, a dementia patient, should be carefully considered before being hired.
  3. Training – It is hard to argue that licensed caregivers are not more prepared for caregiving than those who have never undergone formal training.  However, if the caregiver has a bad attitude or a poor work ethic, all the training and licensing in the world won’t make them a good caregiver.  If your loved one needs personal care (assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.), you should look for a Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) but always assess how well their personality fits.  However, an experienced person with a natural aptitude can be every bit as effective with a particular patient. Providing training is one of the many functions of a home healthcare agency.
  4. Reliability – Caregivers work largely unsupervised.  Hourly caregivers can run into all manner of obstacles in getting to and from their assignment locations and excuses abound.  Prior references will provide clues as to whether or not they can be relied upon.  Take this seriously but not too seriously.  References can provide a measure of what will happen when you are not around but a lot of people are reluctant to disclose negative characteristics about former caregivers.  They are unwilling to expose themselves to possible recrimination and often don’t want to harm someone’s chance to make a living.
  5. Accountability – How a person accepts criticism is usually a reliable indication of whether or not they feel responsible for their patient.  Anyone who cannot admit past mistakes should be viewed with suspicion.  Caregivers who place blame for things that go wrong everywhere but themselves are not to be trusted.  It may be natural to avoid blame but responsible people do accept responsibility.
  6. Honesty – Honesty doesn’t just mean that they do not steal from helpless old people or their families.  It means they show up on time, handle their responsibilities accurately and can usually account for things such as drugs, supplies and monies entrusted to them.  Where live-in caregivers are concerned, it also means they arrange for time off and return according to the schedule they agree to, giving adequate notice and not playing games to make relievers look bad in order to assure their own job security.
  7. Financial Need – We have a natural repulsion for caregivers who openly acknowledge they are doing this work because they need money.  We have a tendency to assume it means they do not care about the loved one.  However, judging a person who does this work for money is not necessarily a good gauge as to their aptitude.  After all, most of us hold jobs because we have to pay the bills.  This is not something to be upset about.  If you are paying an aide privately, then you have taken on the responsibility for managing that person and continually negotiating their compensation.  Unless they continually push, don’t be surprised or offended if they try to negotiate for more money.

So what makes a good caregiver?  It is a set of intrinsic qualities that certain human beings possess and others do not.  It is all about personality and how that personality fits with the patient and the members of their family.  It’s just as simple and just as complicated as that.

Mesothelioma and Caregiving

Those who become diagnosed with mesothelioma often find comfort and relief from a large support network made up of family and friends. In many cases, these same family members and friends act as caregivers and offer medical care that is intended to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. The aim is to keep a mesothelioma patient comfortable while offering individual attention and on-site care.

Mesothelioma patients may encounter difficulty in dealing with symptoms of the disease. These symptoms, which can be quite debilitating, may compromise quality of life and can make it difficult to carry out normal activities. Similarly, dealing with the side effects of treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can be life-changing. Although mesothelioma treatment options are certainly designed to help the patient combat the disease, they can weaken the body and mind.

Treatment for mesothelioma will vary from patient to patient, and thus affects what a caregiver may cope with depending upon the patient’s response to treatment. Although no cure exists, patients can elect to undergo therapy that may improve their overall quality of life. Attaining an early diagnosis can expand treatment options and may result in more effective treatment results. In addition to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, some patients may qualify for experimental treatments through clinical trials.

Whether or not a patient elects to undergo treatment, those who may aid in caregiving should find ways to reduce stress. Many choose to meditate, pray, read, exercise or take a walk. Stress and anxiety are factors when dealing with a terminal illness and are important issues to address after a friend or family member has received a diagnosis.

The patient and family advocates at Asbestos.com can assist mesothelioma patients in a variety of ways. They can help patients find the best doctors and treatment facilities in their area, provide access to local support groups, offer free literature and informational books on asbestos-related illnesses, and help veterans receive their VA benefits for asbestos-related health issues. Being diagnosed with an asbestos related disease often leads to a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Written by the content team at asbestos.com