Geriatric Care – What is the Role of a Caregiver Agency?

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Geriatric Care – What is the Role of a Caregiver Agency?




Guest:  Mary Peters – Founder, Care For Life

Host:  Sally Hughes Smith – Artist, Author; The Circle – A Walk with Dementia


Sally Hughes Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  We’re fortunate to have Mary Peters with us today.  She is a professional geriatric care manager and has vast experience in the field of taking care of older people.  She’s been very helpful to me in understanding the difference between hiring a caregiver versus a geriatric care manager, who oversees all of the problems associated with an elder person, as well as going through an agency to hire a caregiver.  Those are three different ways to go.  Mary, help us understand what a caregiver agency does.


Mary Peters:  There are two different kinds.  Let’s say that you’re going to have surgery and you’ll be convalescing for about six weeks, and maybe your spouse is elderly and can’t take care of you.  You’re going to need someone to help you.  You can hire a private person recommended by your church or your neighbor, or whatever.  But this person is not bonded.  They don’t have a national SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) check.  Several years ago, nursing homes were mandated by the legislature not to hire anyone without a national SLED check.


Well, some of these people failed, and they’re out looking for work.  And if they fail the national background check, you know that there’s something wrong.  So, some of the things you want to ask the agency; and I recommend an agency over a private caregiver, is how long they’ve been operating; how long they’ve been established, if they’re part of a franchise.  And then I would go online and look at that franchise and see what kinds of things it offers.  You want to know that the caregivers are bonded, that they have liability insurance, and professional training.


Our caregivers, at Care For Life, have mandatory inservices every month.  They get trained in everything from lifting and bathing, to working with Alzheimer’s patients, and patients with cognitive problems.  You want to know the minimum number of hours required for a service request.  Some agencies require four hours.  We have many 24-hour cases; that is, around the clock, seven days a week.  That takes six caregivers.  What we try to do is match the caregivers with the client.  Some people like caregivers that are cheerful and talkative, and then some people like caregivers that are quiet and remain in the background more.  So, that allows us, in our assessment, to match the personalities with the clients.  You also want to know who’s going to be going in to check and see if things are going well.  At Care For Life, we have a quality [control] person.  That’s all she does.  The caregivers don’t know she’s coming.  She just pops in to see what’s going on.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Is that the sort of thing that a caregiver agency would do?  If I went to a caregiver agency could I be assured that they were checking that these people [caregivers] were doing a good job?  There must be a lot of different caregiver agencies, with each having their own focus, their own personality; some good, some bad.  How do you weed out the good from the bad?


Mary Peters:  They’re in the phonebook.  It’s full of them.  But, I would ask them how they know the caregiver is doing a good job:  What do you have in place?  And, like I said, what we have in place, there’s no charge for this person.  That’s all she does.  She goes around checking quality, and writes a report.


Sally Hughes Smith:  How do the costs filter down?  Are there any public caregiving agencies, or are they usually always private?


Mary Peters:  They’re usually private.  Medicare does not pay for this kind of care, although it should.  I’m always after Henry Brown, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham to do this.  And I think Congress won’t do this until all of their parents are having problems.  So, Medicare doesn’t pay for it.  Long-term care insurance pays for our care because we have medical professionals.  I don’t know about the other agencies, but we file; we handle, and do everything relative to their long-term care insurance as a service to the client.


Sally Hughes Smith:  So, really, with a caregiver agency; as opposed to a private caregiver, or geriatric care management, which oversees the caregivers, the bottom line is to be wary.  A caregiver agency can be of great help to you.  It could really solve your problems, but you need to shop around and be sure that you’re getting reliable care. 


Mary Peters:  It’s not just price.  You get what you pay for.  Some people don’t want to pay a lot and they hire other people.  They think our rates are high.  And, in the next day or two, they call us and say, I’ve got to get these people out of here.  I want to hire you.  That’s happened many times.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Thank you so much, Mary, for helping us understand how to find help for your elder loved one.  Depending on your needs, there are so many options, whether you live around the corner or across the country, or whether you just need someone for a few days a week.  Can you hire somebody to just come in and bathe your mother and clean up the house; just come in once a day and do that?


Mary Peters:  Yeah, some people just need help getting up and getting their day started.  So, we would send in a caregiver, say, for four hours, that matched the personality of the client.  We have one with my father right now, who he enjoys; laughs and jokes with.  So, they would get the client out of bed.  They’d get them bathed and dressed, and get them breakfast.  They’d clean up the bathroom and the kitchen.  And then they’re on their way.


Sally Hughes Smith:  And, some people, that’ll keep them at home for a much longer period of time.


Mary Peters:  Right.


Sally Hughes Smith:  Thank you, again, Mary.


Mary Peters:  Thank you.


Sally Hughes Smith:  It’s wonderful to have you here.  And thanks to all our listeners for joining us.  We welcome your suggestions, comments, and questions on our Web site.  This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying good-bye and wishing you courage and joy on your own journey.  We are all connected.


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book; The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia.  Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the health professionals tab on the podcast homepage.  All profits from sale of The Circle support research at the Center on Aging.  Thanks.


If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at:  (843) 792-1414.

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