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Accepting an Older Caregiver

Caregivers can’t always be a wide-eyed twenty-something; they come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Older companions are an increasingly common form of help. Often times they are unskilled labor who don’t provide nursing care, but they assist with life’s daily such as toileting or dressing, and will also do light housekeeping, meal prep, or laundry. What they’re really great at: keeping your loved one entertained through conversation, pursuing shared interests (cards, arts and crafts, gardening), and driving your loved one on errands such as hair appointments or grocery shopping. Your loved one gets important social stimulation — and you’re able to take care of other responsibilities.

Many local volunteer organizations, like religious organizations and local senior centers, are matching seniors with other seniors. The healthier adult visits the other for meals, card games, conversation, and other social time. You can also find paid elder companions through local home health agencies.

Tout the benefits your loved one might appreciate most. An elder companion gives you reprieve, but that isn’t necessarily the most beneficial for your loved one. Explain that the caregiver is there to help with housekeeping or to assist your loved one in getting ready in the morning.

Consider calling the companion caregiver something else. You know your loved one best. She may like the idea of “a driver” or a “gardening helper” instead of a caregiver. If your loved one has dementia, you don’t need to let on that the caregiver is there as an extra set of eyes and ears to keep the person safe. Instead, let your loved one see the caregiver as someone who wants you to teach him how to play cards or someone who helps with the laundry.

Mention a friend who’s using one. Some people decide changes are okay if someone they know and respect is doing the same thing. “Your neighbor Karen has someone come in to read aloud to her in the afternoons, since her daughter isn’t so good at that.” Or, “I heard [Celebrity X] hired someone to play Scrabble with her!”

When the caregiver themselves is older, it is a way for your loved one to bond with. They might be able to relate to each other better and that caregiver might understand their needs a little better.