What Elder Companions Do and How They Help

Closeup of a happy retired man on the wheel chair with a nurse
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Elder companions -- sometimes called home companions, who also cater to a younger population -- do just what the name implies: provide company for people who live alone, especially those who are homebound because of frailty or dementia. Most importantly, these companions function as an extra set of hands, eyes, and feet to the person you care for when you can't be there.

Specifically, most companions can assist with the following:

How they help

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

Elder companions are ideal for those who spend much of their time alone and require some assistance with basic daily tasks. Family members can work or handle other activities -- or simply take a few hours of respite -- while their loved one has company and some supervision. Companion care also provides valuable social benefits, decreasing isolation and improving quality of life. Warm relationships are often formed when a consistent companion is on the job -- a boon for both the companion and the person he or she visits.

What they cost

Cost can range from free services provided by local volunteers to between $10 to $25 per hour for help arranged through an in-home care agency, depending on the type of care needed, time of day, location, and services provided. Medicaid or Medi-Cal may help pay some of the costs of care from a licensed provider for those who have low income and few assets.

How to get started

You can find companions on your own in much the same way you'd find a babysitter: by talking to neighbors, friends, or family members. Or you can try these options:

  • In-home care agencies. Use Caring.com's Senior Living Directory to search for in-home care agencies, most of which provide elder companions, by city or zip code -- and to see ratings and reviews.

  • Meals on Wheels. In addition to providing the hallmark service they're known best for -- home deliveries of meals to older adults and others with mobility limitations -- many local Meals on Wheels programs provide outreach services, including a Friendly Visitor Program that pairs a volunteer with a neighboring senior. Begin your search for local help at the Meals on Wheels website.

  • Area Agencies on Aging. Trained staff at your local Area Agency on Aging can usually provide referrals for local help.

  • Local newspapers. Try placing an ad briefly describing your needs in a local newspaper.

  • Local high school students. Contact area high school counselors. College-bound students often need community service experience and are available to provide some care and company during afternoons and evenings.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 2 years, said...

My mom is 92. Lives alone in a small apt in facility with both assisted and independent living We have a caregiving agency that I'm not happy with. Mom lost her male companion - the love of her life - suddenly 6 mos ago. She has very early signs of dementia. Her caregivers don't speak English or drive. She has had a very busy, professional life. So she needs conversation to keep her mind stimulated. Also someone who drives to get snacks or at least so she can get fresh air. I'm busy and my brother lives back east. He's not here and doesn't seem to realize what her needs really are. He cuts the checks so I practically have no say in changing caregivers. But I'd like her to have company a few hours about 2days a week.

almost 2 years, said...

Does ADA apply to companions to elders with disabilities? I am disabled and have a friend who stays and helps at home and driving in exchange for room and board. Hoa is denying her occupancy! I own mobile home on rented land. Thanks LA Ponciroli

over 2 years, said...

We have this set up for my father to ensure he eats and remembers to take his meds. I was fortunate to hire a family friend, so I didn't have to worry about vetting or references. The problem with hiring through an agency is that they substitute people, sometimes without telling you ahead of time, and that can be confusing or dangerous for the person receiving care. They can also be less flexible.

over 2 years, said...

Hi would love to sit and be a companion don't work anymore so It would be ideal for mei don't drive but a very good cook and clean and be there for him are her just be there to care of her needs and really I need the company also.

almost 3 years, said...

I'm so glad that there are people who will come take care of and keep company with elderly people. I want to be there for my mother as much as I can, but it's a two hour drive to see her, and I have four kids. There's no doubt that she's lonely, and she does need help with the cleaning. I'm going to have to start looking around for someone to come visit her a few times a week.

almost 3 years, said...

I would love to be so nice companion and help them with their laundry shopping going to the doctors

almost 4 years, said...

This companion care article was very helpful because I never knew this type of care existed. Thank you so much!

over 4 years, said...

What my need is, transportation. To grocery store, Drs appointments, pharmacy, etc.

almost 5 years, said...

who is out there. Iiven Mo.

about 5 years, said...

I am considering becoming an in-home care giver. I am looking for anything with suggestions to be prepared and know what to expect. Thank you