How to Get Your Loved One to Accept an Elder Companion

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Elder companions are an increasingly common form of help for family caregivers. Mostly unskilled labor, they don't provide nursing care, though they usually assist with some activities of daily living, 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 getting hair appointments or going to the barber. Your loved one gets important social stimulation -- and you're freed up to tend to other responsibilities and to recharge.

Many local volunteer organizations, including churches and other religious groups and local senior centers, offer programs that match 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.

Some older adults readily welcome a hired companion, while others harbor more resistance. Try these approaches to the subject:

Concede your loved one's perspective. Sometimes you can disarm objectives by stating them empathetically: "I know you dislike having people come into the house, but since your surgery, things have changed a little."

Don't be shy about describing your own needs and shortcomings. Say, "Mom, I wish I could spend every minute with you, but I just can't." Or, "I'll worry less about you on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons if I know you have someone to hang out with while I'm working."'

Tout the benefits your loved one might appreciate most. An elder companion gives you respite, but that doesn't have to be the main benefit you talk up to your loved one. Express that the companion is there to help with housekeeping or to assist your loved one in getting ready in the morning.

Consider calling companion care something else. You know your loved one best. She may like the idea of "a driver" (someone to drive her to appointments) or a "gardening helper" (to putter in the yard with her), for example. If your loved one has dementia, you don't need to let on to what extent the companion is there as an extra set of eyes and ears to keep the person safe. Instead, let your loved one perceive the companion as "someone who wants you to teach him how to play cards" or the person who helps with laundry.

Mention a friend who's using one. Some people decide changes are OK if someone they know and respect is doing the same thing. "Aunt Bessie 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!"

over 3 years ago, said...

For respite care Kscarf might be right, but FULL-TIME agency-hired home caregivers in are more expensive than a facility. I found that the very least expensive 24hr "companion" caregivers are over $8,000/month. Add food, utilities, etc, and it's $9,000-10,000/month (comparable to the most expensive large care facilities in the area). By comparison my Grandmother is in a really superb board & care with a higher level of care for about $3600/month (BTW, start by checking out the "best"... Show more For respite care Kscarf might be right, but FULL-TIME agency-hired home caregivers in are more expensive than a facility. I found that the very least expensive 24hr "companion" caregivers are over $8,000/month. Add food, utilities, etc, and it's $9,000-10,000/month (comparable to the most expensive large care facilities in the area). By comparison my Grandmother is in a really superb board & care with a higher level of care for about $3600/month (BTW, start by checking out the "best" B&Cs first -- we found that the difference in price between the amazingly good board and care vs. the grim/run-down ones in the "druggie" part of town came to a few hundred/month, and the "deluxe" one included a lot of things for free that the "cheap" ones charged extra for). Hide

almost 4 years ago, said...

Dr Dick for Dr Ethelle Lord. The online version of this article can be found at: http://dem.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/6/2/245. The subject matter is DEMENTIA and the the title of the study is "Spousal dementia caregiving in the context of late-life remarriage". The research was conducted by Sherman and Boss, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, respectively. I would appreciate your comments given that I am the reverse of the participants in the study. I am now 85... Show more Dr Dick for Dr Ethelle Lord. The online version of this article can be found at: http://dem.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/6/2/245. The subject matter is DEMENTIA and the the title of the study is "Spousal dementia caregiving in the context of late-life remarriage". The research was conducted by Sherman and Boss, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, respectively. I would appreciate your comments given that I am the reverse of the participants in the study. I am now 85 and my wife is 78. We were married six years ago. She was the last person that one would expect to have dementia; she is an RN as well as being a Counselor. She was always very active and competed in many track events including the running in two marathons. She is very small and weighed about 97 pounds until lately when her weight dropped to 90 pounds (her doctors have her on a diet of ice cream and pie). I can definitely relate to many of the problems stated in the study. Thanks. Hide

almost 4 years ago, said...

@ Financial Assistance, Dr. Dick ~ please send me the link to the study or at least the title of the study by Sherman and Boss. I can then comment on it. I would not think the study is invalid, but it does have strong limitations. Dr. Ethelle Lord http://remembering4you.com Pioneers in Alzheimer's Coaching @ Financial Assistance, Dr. Dick ~ please send me the link to the study or at least the title of the study by Sherman and Boss. I can then comment on it. I would not think the study is invalid, but it does have strong limitations. Dr. Ethelle Lord http://remembering4you.com Pioneers in Alzheimer's Coaching Hide

almost 4 years ago, said...

DrDick here again. I just read a study that was conducted by Sherman and Boss, and was published by Sage.pub.com The title of the study is "Spousal dementia caregiving in the context of late-life remarriage". I am wondering if there are others out there that have read this study. If so, I would appreciate reading your view of the study. My basic problem with the study is the small number of participants in the study; there were only nine and all were women. (All the participants were... Show more DrDick here again. I just read a study that was conducted by Sherman and Boss, and was published by Sage.pub.com The title of the study is "Spousal dementia caregiving in the context of late-life remarriage". I am wondering if there are others out there that have read this study. If so, I would appreciate reading your view of the study. My basic problem with the study is the small number of participants in the study; there were only nine and all were women. (All the participants were volunteers and no husbands volunteered.) To me that invalidates the value of the study even though there are many excellent points brought out in the study. But I do wonder if the results given would be the same if the participants were husbands rather than women. Comments? Hide

almost 4 years ago, said...

Thank you! Thank you! Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

@ onthefly ~ It is true that the training on Alzheimer's and the care of individuals with Alzheimer's of the CNAs, LPNs and even RNs in a memory loss unit is limited, sometimes practically non-existent. However I feel it is up to us, family caregivers to quietly begin to turn that tide. By signing a Caregiver Partnership Agreement with the institution, the family caregiver can bring positive impact and changes to the quality of care. The face of nursing homes is changing, but slowly. I... Show more @ onthefly ~ It is true that the training on Alzheimer's and the care of individuals with Alzheimer's of the CNAs, LPNs and even RNs in a memory loss unit is limited, sometimes practically non-existent. However I feel it is up to us, family caregivers to quietly begin to turn that tide. By signing a Caregiver Partnership Agreement with the institution, the family caregiver can bring positive impact and changes to the quality of care. The face of nursing homes is changing, but slowly. I want to be part of this movement because with the influx of Alzheimer's diagnosis now (in the millions in every country in the world), we need to refuse mediocre level of care for our loved ones. I did check the home where my husband is now residing (for past 2 years) and found the team of workers to be exceptional. That was the basis for my decision to place him in this particular home. I am part of their team under this partnership agreement and feel confident that every issue concerning the care of my husband is brought to my attention first. My wish is that everyone who has to avail themselves of such services do not be afraid, simply stay engaged and active in the day-to-day care of your loved one. You did something very special for your mother. No doubt she is around you in spirit every day and will certainly watch over you. It is important for people to know their limitations and know when to fold to let someone else provide the hard care. My husband stopped walking in 2010 and I had cared for him for 10 years at that point. My body was giving up and I had to go to physical therapy to repaid some damage after he went into nursing care. Dr. Ethelle Lord http://rememering4you.com Pioneers in Alzheimer's Coaching Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

I think it is as far away as we want it to be. When the political will arises we will have this. Like I said, not a 'one size fits all' situation. There is an enormous amount of myth and 'conventional wisdom' around that is nothing more than a cynical lie about the reality of life in assisted living or a nursing home. Or for that matter a lie about the true lack of competence in many home care agencies. We are going to live longer with better meds to assuage the aging brain. I was lucky my... Show more I think it is as far away as we want it to be. When the political will arises we will have this. Like I said, not a 'one size fits all' situation. There is an enormous amount of myth and 'conventional wisdom' around that is nothing more than a cynical lie about the reality of life in assisted living or a nursing home. Or for that matter a lie about the true lack of competence in many home care agencies. We are going to live longer with better meds to assuage the aging brain. I was lucky my mother had the resources to pay for an aide during her waking hours. I am fortunate to be 'only' 65 and strong and healthy. But you are right. The stress was the worst I experienced in life. But the stress in a care facility would have been worse. Mom died at 95 last August but my years facilitating her taught me a lot and I have no regrets for inviting her to spend her last days at my house. Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

@ onthefly ~ Ideally it would be perfect to keep someone like my husband at home. Both of us would benefit greatly. However the reality is that the family caregivers burnout and even die first because of the tremendous physical, emotional, and financial cost of being a full-time family caregiver. Too many people do not care and understand the tremendous responsibility, and the rewards of family caregiving. We really need a village, as you mentioned, and we need a change of heart from... Show more @ onthefly ~ Ideally it would be perfect to keep someone like my husband at home. Both of us would benefit greatly. However the reality is that the family caregivers burnout and even die first because of the tremendous physical, emotional, and financial cost of being a full-time family caregiver. Too many people do not care and understand the tremendous responsibility, and the rewards of family caregiving. We really need a village, as you mentioned, and we need a change of heart from society. I'm afraid that is a couple of generations away, don't you? Dr. Ethelle Lord http://remembering4you.com Pioneers in Alzheimer's Coaching Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

@ Financial Assistance, Dr. Dick ~ My husband is also a retired Major from the USAF with 21 years of service. Stimulation for him is hanging a mobile with airplanes just above his TV so that he can spot it easily when he is watching a program. His favorite photos are all hanging near him so he can see his loved one at a glance. As was mentioned below, photo albums are useful at the beginning and middle stages, but less so in the advanced stage since those memories are not like pictures on... Show more @ Financial Assistance, Dr. Dick ~ My husband is also a retired Major from the USAF with 21 years of service. Stimulation for him is hanging a mobile with airplanes just above his TV so that he can spot it easily when he is watching a program. His favorite photos are all hanging near him so he can see his loved one at a glance. As was mentioned below, photo albums are useful at the beginning and middle stages, but less so in the advanced stage since those memories are not like pictures on the wall. Playing simple card games and cribbage helped my husband stay sharp for a very long time. I also introduced Pycnogenol and wrote an article about it (http://remembering4you.com/articles.html). That vitamin actually gave him a very big advantage since it targets the vascular system and the brain. I purchase the strongest form with 60 mg and give it to him twice a day in divided doses. I purchase it from Kaire.com on the Internet. All the best to you and your dear wife. Do let me know if there is anything I can do to help you in supporting your needs. Dr. Ethelle Lord http://remembering4you.com Pioneers in Alzheimer's Coaching Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

wow, there are some good people on this thread! I am a believer in aging in place. Think there should be gov financial benefits for relatives caring for elderly family at home. We are sold a bunch of baloney about both assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. They are almost always grossly understaffed. The residents are often grossly overmedicated with sedatives. Keeps them quiet, you know, til someone can get to them! Some families must avail themselves of these places. In that... Show more wow, there are some good people on this thread! I am a believer in aging in place. Think there should be gov financial benefits for relatives caring for elderly family at home. We are sold a bunch of baloney about both assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. They are almost always grossly understaffed. The residents are often grossly overmedicated with sedatives. Keeps them quiet, you know, til someone can get to them! Some families must avail themselves of these places. In that case, you still need to visit every day, share your concerns with staff, if stonewalled, go to admin director, ask for 'care team' meeting. Do not worry about being a bother. That is your job. Often there are under-qualified nurse practitioners and impaired physicians making decisions for your loved ones. It isn't easy, but you will know such peace when the pass away because you made a difference. But don't kill yourself in the process. Use all the good help you can beg, borrow, or pay for. It takes a village. Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

So much of our work and personal life is dedicated to' Do it Now!' and putting out fires. Financial Assistance's comments show how important it is to prepare psychologically and physically for retirement: Realize that you will have lots of time after your career ends, and start an activity ---- well before retirement ----- that will be satisfying. Or try several until you find ones that work. And if you can't find anything that interests you, consider that perhaps, no matter how many... Show more So much of our work and personal life is dedicated to' Do it Now!' and putting out fires. Financial Assistance's comments show how important it is to prepare psychologically and physically for retirement: Realize that you will have lots of time after your career ends, and start an activity ---- well before retirement ----- that will be satisfying. Or try several until you find ones that work. And if you can't find anything that interests you, consider that perhaps, no matter how many 'friends' you have that may share your opinions, you may in reality be something of a bore - both to yourself and your significant others. Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

Dr. Dick one of the best ways to provide stimulation for your wife is to get her talking about her travels, looking at pictures you took, and remembering. I have seen people who absolutely come alive when asked to recount happy memories. to others. With dementia, the short term memory is usually affected first and often the only real memories are long-term. Being able to remember something joyful is a blessing to all of us, but even more so for those who have trouble remembering... Show more Dr. Dick one of the best ways to provide stimulation for your wife is to get her talking about her travels, looking at pictures you took, and remembering. I have seen people who absolutely come alive when asked to recount happy memories. to others. With dementia, the short term memory is usually affected first and often the only real memories are long-term. Being able to remember something joyful is a blessing to all of us, but even more so for those who have trouble remembering breakfast this morning. Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

DrDick again. Can someone please enlighten me on the subject of "stimulation" as pertains to a dementia patient. My wife is an RN and worked in a variety of fields during her 35 years of performing nurse work. I am a retired military officer with 28 years. Neither of us were ever devoted to arts and crafts, card games, etc. We both enjoyed travel but obviously that is out of the question now. Any ideas? DrDick again. Can someone please enlighten me on the subject of "stimulation" as pertains to a dementia patient. My wife is an RN and worked in a variety of fields during her 35 years of performing nurse work. I am a retired military officer with 28 years. Neither of us were ever devoted to arts and crafts, card games, etc. We both enjoyed travel but obviously that is out of the question now. Any ideas? Hide

about 4 years ago, said...

@ Financial Assistance and Dr. Dick ~ I used to work as a paralegal for Legal Services for the Elderly and knew first hand the shortage of nursing staff and professional caregivers within each long-term facility. I do not believe I have ever seen one that exceeded the limits set by governments. Having that knowledge and the understanding that "if it's meant to be, it's up to me", I stay ahead of the services provided to my husband and often call a meeting with management and staff to... Show more @ Financial Assistance and Dr. Dick ~ I used to work as a paralegal for Legal Services for the Elderly and knew first hand the shortage of nursing staff and professional caregivers within each long-term facility. I do not believe I have ever seen one that exceeded the limits set by governments. Having that knowledge and the understanding that "if it's meant to be, it's up to me", I stay ahead of the services provided to my husband and often call a meeting with management and staff to address problems that I see in his case. Because of ethics and regulations it is really not possible for me to involved any other resident. Still, all residents are benefiting from my advocacy and changes that can be implemented. Also, as a result of this knowledge and experience I have created a Caregiver Partnership Agreement Program for large facilities. I recently accepted two test sites for this program and hope to have it public within the next 12 months. I specified that NO medications would be supplied to my husband without my prior approval and that his medication list can be examined by me when I visit the facility. My husband is a rather passive person but I know there are other residents who have appeared to me as "quite" medicated at times. I just wish more relatives did not just abandon their loved ones once they need to be in long-term care. I'm sorry to hear that Florida has adopted that practice as you are a state with an aging population like we have here in Maine. Dr. Ethelle Lord http://remembering4you.com Pioneers in Alzheimer's Coaching Hide