In senior home care, who is the client?

The answer is obvious, isn’t it?  It would seem the client is the person a home care agency cares for. The client is the older person who needs help staying at home independently or the disabled client who needs help with transfers and household chores. Washington State Law mandates that every home care agency develop a plan of care for each client, so shouldn’t the client be the person whose name is on the care plan? At Family Resource Home Care, we call that person the “direct client.”

If only things were that simple.

Think of it from a business perspective. Who gets the benefit?

In many, if not most cases, a family member is the one who is arranging care, signing the paperwork, and arranging for payment. In addition, it is a family member who may be receiving the major benefit from the care their relative is receiving. For example:

Client #1  – A couple in their early 80s. She’s had dementia for years. It’s been a while since she was able to do any housework or meal preparation and she recently has begun to have difficulty with personal care. She’s started wandering and is often confused about where she is or what time of day it is. Her husband is basically strong and healthy, but his health is declining due to the stress of caring for his wife. They start receiving home care for her. Who gets the benefit?

Client #2 – A man, also in his 80s, living alone in his house in North Seattle. His daughter lives in Olympia, a 1+ hour drive away, with her husband and two teenagers. She works full-time. Her father insists he’s basically fine but is becoming less and less able to care for himself. He loves it when his daughter comes to visit. When she does, she usually winds up doing housekeeping, preparing meals, and running errands. She also spends countless hours on the phone attending to matters related to his health and safety. He is unsteady on his feet and she worries about him falling. The reality is that she simply is unable to provide the help he needs now – and will increasingly need in the future. He eventually (and reluctantly) agrees to a caregiver who comes over 3 times per week. Who gets the benefit?

The benefit goes to the entire family. The client’s family is the client, just as much as is the direct client. Family members get a tremendous benefit from the caregiving their loved ones receive. As a result, the family deserves the same high level of customer service due to the direct client.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the family to recognize that home care is for them, too. As a loving and caring family, they put their focus on their elder or disabled relative, often to the detriment of their own health and well-being. But family members who recognize that the health of their loved one is dependent on keeping themselves healthy more often take steps to maintain balance in their own lives.

My 90-year-old father lives with his wife, who is 70, along with her 97-year-old mother. (How many other 90-year-old men do you know who live with their mother-in-law?) It would be impossible for her to maintain any aspect of her personal life without home care.

Home care is for the entire family, not just the person whose name is on the care plan.