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Home Care Services Can Provide an Alternative to Long-Term Care

(ARA) - It can be wrenching to see the independence of a loved one or family member decline. Simple tasks that used to be effortless, such as cooking a meal or keeping a house tidy, can become impossible for someone who is recovering from a hospital stay or whose strength is declining with age.

As the population ages, more and more people will face the reality of an older adult who may need assistance to live independently. For many in this group, a nursing home or retirement center is more than they need; and yet complete independence isn't realistic, either.

One option that is becoming increasingly available across the nation is home care services. These services allow many people to remain in their homes and enjoy the independence of their daily routines and familiar surroundings. Home care services typically provide non-medical help with daily living tasks including meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands or even simple companionship.

When considering a home care service, it's important to know about the agency providing the service and its process for screening and matching its employees with care recipients.

"It's never easy to make the decision to invite a stranger into your home to provide care," says Larry Meigs of Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services, a franchise network of home care agencies with 92 offices in 30 states, headquartered near Philadelphia. "But there are steps to take and questions you should ask of an agency that can help minimize the emotional trauma of leaving a loved one at home alone."

Of course, the first requirement is a criminal background check for any caregiver. "However, we also believe it's important to screen for intangible traits such as a caring personality and a desire to help people," says Meigs. "These kinds of things will make the biggest difference in the quality of care our clients receive."

Visiting Angels believes the most important step in screening is to verify the quality of the caregiver's employment history. Many Visiting Angels caregivers have worked with their respective offices on numerous cases, and eventually the agency becomes the best reference for the caregiver.

Visiting Angels agencies focus on building relationships with each client. Meigs says Visiting Angels is unique among home care services in that the care recipient and involved family members actually choose the caregiver who best suits them and their needs. Visiting Angels office staff receive extensive training before opening, and may attend up to six regional "refresher" meetings per year, including an annual conference with experts presenting seminars on homecare. This year's annual meeting will be in San Diego on June 20 and 21.

"The first step we take is a face-to-face meeting in the client's home to get acquainted and determine what needs exist," says Meigs. "We will only recommend care givers who have experience with the client's needs. For instance, if the client has Alzheimer's disease, we'll assign a caregiver who has experience with similar disorders."

Next, Visiting Angels sends potential caregivers to the client's home and the client makes the selection. "Our caregivers will not dictate what the client's schedule should be," Meigs says. "If someone is used to having breakfast and bathing at 7 a.m., our caregivers will accommodate that. It is our job to adjust to the client's schedule and see to it that they remain comfortable in their home."

After a caregiver has been placed with a client, the agency continues to monitor service through telephone calls and in-home visits to make sure the client is satisfied with the caregiver and the services provided.

Visiting Angels provides a range of non-medical services including assistance with hygiene (subject to restrictions in some states), meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping, weekend or holiday care, live-in or live-out care, temporary or long-term, and respite for family care givers.

To find the Visiting Angels office nearest you, visit To learn more about Visiting Angels franchise opportunities, visit or call (800) 365-4189.

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