Elder Law Report
In-Home Care with Helping Hands
In the Limelight: Sarah Callahan Dixon from the Gastonia branch of Helping Hands.
Can you tell me about Helping Hands?
SD– Helping Hands Nursing Referral Service has a main office in Shelby and we opened the Gastonia location this past July. The company was started in 1975 and Ruth Huffstetler has owned it for the past twenty-four years. Most people don’t realize how long we’ve been around. I have worked in the senior industry for about thirteen years, mostly in communities and I found myself convincing seniors to stay at home, which wasn’t my job.
You were caring for seniors but thinking, it would be great if you could stay in the comfort of your own home andreceive amazing care, right?
SD– Exactly. Communities are perfect for some people, but I think staying home is a better option for most. So, I found myself convincing families to instead of moving into a community to stay home and call companies like Helping Hands.
When I give seminars, I often ask the audience, ‘please raise your hand if, when you need care, you want to go into institutional care?’ Nobody raises their hand. If it came to it, most would prefer to stay at home and have in-home care.
SD– Where Helping Hands stand apart, is we’re a little different from most in-home care companies. Most in-home care companies charge from anywhere between nineteen to twenty-five ($19 – $25) dollars an hour or more, but because we are a referral service we offer our services at a much lower cost for families. Our starting rate here in Gastonia is thirteen ($13) dollars an hour. The only time we have an increase is when someone needs total assistance or we’re driving long distance, maybe to Charlotte. Otherwise it’s thirteen dollars across the board, so we’re saving families approximately ten dollars an hour to care for their loved ones.
So, over the course of a forty-hour work week, that’s a savings of four hundred dollars, every week. That’s sixteen hundred dollars a month.
SD– Yes. One of the biggest questions I get from families is, how can we get it at that cost? This relates directly to our referral service. We have over one hundred and fifty caregivers that are contractors with us. They are screened, reference checked and interviewed. They are professional caregivers. Some are CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants), or PCA’s (Personal Care Assistants), and some are people who have cared for their parents and then want to help care for seniors and be their companion.
Let’s talk about the screening process because that’s an important part of bringing people you trust into your home. Helping Hands takes care of that?
SD– Right. Most people when they have a private caregiver, they’re paying them between ten and fifteen dollars an hour. They choose that because it’s cheaper than an agency. We can provide both a lower cost and a screened individual.
So, you go through background checks?
SD– Yes, we go through background checks. If a person is going into a community, for instance we have several caregivers who are in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, they then must have a TB skin test because that’s a requirement for those facilities, and possibly a drug screening for those facilities as well. We try to abide by any state regulations. We also sit with people in the hospital, so whatever the hospital requires, we then require for the caregiver as well.
Who would benefit the most from Helping Hands? Who would be a good client in your experience?
SD– Anyone who needs assistance at home, Helping Hands would be a great fit for them. We have people in their forties and fifties who have a disability that requires a caregiver. There’s not an age criterion, we’ve taken care of children. Some of the best referrals for us is a person who is lonely at home and maybe cannot monitor their own medications or is out of rehab but isn’t quite ready to be on their own. We can place someone within twenty-four hours. If someone calls me, I can make sure they have a caregiver sometimes on the same day, but it will be within twenty-four hours.
How do people reach you in the Gastonia area?
SD– They can reach us through referrals from the hospital system, that is our biggest referral source right now, and from skilled nursing facilities. Our number is 704-874-1804 and we’re off Remount Rd in Gastonia. Most of the time I’ll go to the client’s home to meet them and get information.
People are so concerned with cost and how they’re going to pay for care. There are always different ways of paying. You can pay cash of course, but what other ways are there to pay for Helping Hands?
SD– There is Long Term Care Insurance and Veteran’s benefits.
That’s Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefits?
SD– Yes. With our company, the families pay the caregivers themselves, so they can pay using cash, long term care insurance or veteran’s aid and attendance. Long term care reaches out to us, that’s how they get reimbursed.
You work with the insurance company to help make that happen?
I think the whole idea of staying at home is less final, in comparison to moving to a facility. Being at home equals longevity because you are more comfortable and happier.
SD– I read an article that said approximately eighty six percent of people would prefer to stay at home, and sixty percent lived longer by staying at home. I would like to see the numbers on isolation because I think it would be very different being at home on your own and being at home with someone. When people are isolated they tend to get very depressed. Having someone there whether a caregiver or family is huge.
Do the caregivers in-home stay with the same people?
SD– Yes, and this is one of the biggest benefits. We strive to have the same caregiver stay with the client. It’s important to build that relationship. With twenty-four-hour needs, we do need several caregivers to rotate but it is the same two or three caregivers. It is especially important for the elderly and those with dementia to have a familiar face and someone you trust. It also gives comfort to the children of clients because they know their loved one is not alone, and someone is there caring for them and helping them with medications and cooking. That’s one of the biggest reasons to get a caregiver in-home is to cook, clean and help with care. This is something that comes up in the interview process, that the caregiver is capable of cooking, really cooking for a client.
I wanted to touch on one other thing because I think it’s important and impactful. I looked at the statistical data on the life span of family caregivers, like a wife caring for her husband or husband caring for his wife. I work with seniors and know from experience that a spouse feels the obligation to be the caregiver. They do it out of love and respect, but they do it to their own detriment. They don’t take vacations or get respite care, which is having someone come in so the caregiver (the spouse) can take a rest. Do you provide that also?
SD– We do provide respite care. Many times, it turns from respite care to full or part-time care because the spouse suddenly realizes the stress they were under and the break they needed, and they want to continue that on.
If you look at the numbers for what it does to a family member who gives care, the stress takes a huge toll. Having a professional to come in and take some of that stress away, it lengthens the live of the family caregiver as well as the person needing the care.
SD– Even in facilities, I have seen the spouse pass away before the patient.
Many times, the family caregiver will pre-decease the patient because of that huge burden of stress.
SD– It is something that all professionals in this line of work know about, but when we try to explain this to the family caregiver it doesn’t sink in until its too late.
I’m Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. To contact Helping Hands call 704-874-1804.
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