My husband passed away three years ago and learning to live alone at 74, for the first time in my life, was a daunting task. Besides dealing with the deafening silence and loneliness, my biggest fears were getting sick or losing my mobility. How would I cope? Who would take care of me?
I tried my best to push those thoughts away. I was active, ate well and did my yoga every day. Why was I worried? I thought back to the many challenges I’d faced in my life and reassured myself that I had the courage to take on anything that came my way. Heck, I’d come through the pandemic and that was a master class in living alone.
Then a few months ago, I tore the meniscus in my right knee and couldn’t walk. Suddenly I was facing my worst nightmare. My doctor told me all I needed was ice and patience to heal, and that was that. I was just an old lady with a sore knee, and he sent me on my way.
A friend took me home, and there I sat in a rented wheelchair, unable to take care of myself. I was frightened and began experiencing crippling panic attacks that left me confused, shaking and breathless. I considered myself a strong woman, so what was happening to me?
My family could only do so much; they all had busy lives. I couldn’t even shower alone and was too embarrassed to let them help me with that. Terrified of feeling so vulnerable, I reluctantly realized I needed help. The personal support offered free through our health care system in Canada wasn’t enough. I had to hire private home care.
I contacted the company I’d used occasionally for my husband, and they responded quickly. For several weeks, I had a revolving door of wonderful caregivers who were helpful in my daily routines.
Just having someone there helped to calm my panic attacks. They provided good conversation and pleasant company when I needed it. I am truly grateful to these human beings who care for others as a profession. It is a calling to be admired.
Eventually, as I began to heal, moving from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane, my anxiety subsided, and I ended my need for support. I learned a lot through the process and was shocked at the pile of bills I’d accumulated. Since I’d only ever used the one home care company, I decided to do some research in the event I ever needed to do this again. It was an eye-opening exercise.
I found that each company had their own policies, pricing and procedures, and these differed widely. It literally pays to know this before hiring a home care service to help ensure that it best fits your needs and your budget. There is more to know than just the basic information like:
The hourly rates can range significantly from company to company. Confirm the level of expertise you are getting to ensure your needs will be met. Some companies offer a discounted rate if you need to hire round the clock care.
Some require as little as one or two hours at a time with no minimum days per week, while others make the client book as many as 20 hours per week. This can have a significant impact on costs incurred for hours that are not necessarily needed.
This can also vary anywhere from a few hours to several days. The company I used needed a full week! It can be difficult to predict how the patient will be that far in advance. Getting locked into a schedule can be a costly mistake.
If 24-hour care is necessary, it might be less expensive to look into companies that offer a live-in home care service. Not all do. That means clients are charged a lesser rate to have someone to live with the patient. The rates are cheaper because the caregivers are living in your home, eating your food and using your utilities etc.
While most companies cover their caregivers with the required insurance to take patients to appointments, some do not. That means clients incur the added expense of hiring taxis, UBER etc., to get out for a drive or go to appointments. Those that do offer this service add mileage to the client’s bill.
Most will take payments by cheque or Interact bank transfer. But in the case of a larger bill, Interact can have confusing limits, which complicates things. Paying by credit card is the easiest method. Some companies charge clients a processing fee, which can add significantly to the balance.
All trained caregivers know how to make tea and toast. But in my case, some of the younger, newly trained support workers had no idea how to manage basic things like meal prep without my supervision.
One young lady didn’t know how to use a dishwasher – she’d never used one. Another put food in freezer bags without taking the air out – my freezer was filled with little bags that looked like balloons. They were all lovely and doing their best, but I was paying for help, not to sit on my walker and give lessons in Kitchen Management 101.
I found it was best to ask the company for older, more experienced personnel during the day, while the younger ones could cover shifts in the evening and overnight. That worked out well.
Hiring private at-home care is a costly endeavour. It pays to know the right questions to ask when choosing the company. I wish I’d known all of this before I made my call to the only company I knew. I could have saved thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees.
My recovery has been bumpy, because of compounding health issues, like my lupus condition. But I’m getting there and for that I’m grateful.Our traditional medical systems are often overloaded and can only do so much. It’s more important than ever to advocate for ourselves or for loved ones who cannot do so.
Sometimes a holistic approach to healing both mind and body can be most beneficial. It certainly was with me. There are many forms of alternate therapies that can help us to heal from the inside out, and have a profound effect on our overall wellness. Some insurance companies cover the cost of these treatments, so it’s best to check it out.
I’m thankful for the support I received from the more non-traditional therapies I used over the past few months – like homeopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and clinical hypnosis. All of these practitioners were instrumental in helping me manage my chronic pain and emotional distress.
One size does not fit all when it comes to our health. When one thing doesn’t work, we owe it to ourselves to find something that does.
Living alone and temporarily losing my mobility and independence was traumatic. At 77 years old, I may not ever physically recover fully to the way I was before this happened to me. My body seems slower to heal with each passing year.
Coming to terms with my new reality is a daily challenge, as it is with so many seniors. I don’t have to like it, but I accept where I am, and I’m grateful for everything life has given me. This is just another opportunity to summon my inner warrior and be the best I can be, one day at a time.
Have you had to deal with loss of independence? What was the cause? How did you deal with it? Did you hire a care professional? What tips can you share when choosing a care provider?