Definition of Companion Care
Companion care is non medical care for people confronting long-term physical and mental challenges. Clients are people who want to live their lives to the fullest in their own homes and communities. The goal of companion care is to help individuals maintain and enhance their well-being and independence. A wide range of non-medical services can be defined as companion care . These include:
- Companionship: spending quality time in the company of like-minded caregivers;
- Light housekeeping: dusting, tidying, and laundry;
- Medication reminders: ensuring compliance with physician’s instructions;
- Meal preparation: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and light snacks;
- Errands: grocery shopping, sundries;
- Grooming guidance: buttons, socks, shoes;
- Escorts: doctors’ appointments and social excursions;
- Correspondence: assistance with letter writing and emails to friends and family;
- Exercise: daily walks, a breath of fresh air.
How Do You Find A Good Companion Caregiver?
The most important qualities for companion caregivers are competency, empathy, and a desire to help their clients achieve the best possible quality of life. No formal degrees or qualifications are required. You should meet a number of candidates and include your elder as much as possible in the selection process. There is no guarantee you will get the best caregiver by paying top dollar, but your chances of engaging quality a caregiver increases with the level of respect you offer. The best caregivers are in demand and can pick their clients. They are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. Personal recommendations are extremely valuable. Ask around. Here are some ideas of where to search:
- Professional Agencies: Professional companion rates can range from about $9 – $30 per hour. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover companion care, but some long-term care policies do. Make sure the agency does extensive background checks and provides monitoring of each patient’s care.
- Students: Check with colleges and universities. Most students will expect to be paid an hourly wage.
- Faith-based organizations: Ask at your place of worship. If you do not have a religious affiliation, ask at local churches, synagogues, etc. Many organizations support their communities without requiring you sign up with their faith. They just want to help.
- Volunteers: A number of non-profit organizations provide volunteer companions for free or for a token donation. The Senior Source does a great job with this.
- Relatives: Relatives may provide some level of companionship and support. If you want consistent care and services you should negotiate a rate with your relative just as you would with any other person. The relationship between an elder and a relative can be a wonderful life-transforming experience, or it can trigger family feuds that last long after the elder has passed.
Benefits to Elder and to Companion
Social isolation among people over the age of 65 has reached epidemic proportions. Researchers at the University of Michigan have shown the magnitude of risk associated with social isolation to be comparable with that of cigarette smoking. Those who are socially isolated are at significantly higher risk of conditions ranging from clinical depression to coronary heart disease.
Individuals who are socially integrated live longer than those who are not and are less likely to develop health problems or experience mental illness (such as depression). Socially integrated people are also more likely to practice good health habits and appropriate self-care during recovery—reducing the overall cost of their care.
Companion caregivers gain employment, income, friendships, and the satisfaction of doing work that truly matters.