A Bar Mitzvah is looming in the near future. Your 75-year-old widowed aunt certainly wants to attend, but will need a caregiver to accompany her. Are you prepared for that?
According to William Blacker, president of Home Instead Senior Care -- part of a 550-member franchise group operating in 47 states -- more and more senior citizens are opting to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Yet there are times they may need help to do so. They may also need help to go out to attend services at the synagogue, birthdays, family functions and many other events.
For instance, Blacker points out, look at these statistics from AARP: A nationwide survey of Americans aged 55 and older -- taken in 2000 -- showed that 89 percent in that age group overwhelmingly said they wanted to stay in their homes. That percentage jumped to 95 percent for those 75 and older.
Other surveys have revealed that 62 percent of adult children do not live in the same community as their aging parents, and that millions of Americans need assistance from others to carry out everyday activities.
"And that's where we can step in," says Blacker, a licensed nursing home administrator with more than 30 years of experience operating assisted-living and long-term care facilities, and one of this area's certified geriatric-care managers.
"With most seniors preferring to remain in their homes and live independently as long as possible, it's vital to find a caregiver who is not only compassionate, but reputable and qualified. Toward that end, we have developed a number of programs to ease the burden for everyone."
Blacker's son, Larry, is also in business with his father, and acknowledges that their biggest day-to-day challenge at the Levittown-based company is to recruit qualified, dependable and compassionate caregivers for their clients.
"We provide a valuable solution for the elderly who prefer to live in place where their quality of life is enhanced, without the stress and hardships of interrupted routines and changes in their activities of daily living. We also provide temporary assistance for those family members who, on occasion, need respite services from a trusted source."
In fact, adds William Blacker, the stress of caring for an elderly loved one can be an enormous burden, and families continue to be challenged more and more to seek out services to help fill their needs.
"But where do families go for help? My agency may be the answer. I counsel families and try to guide them towards the best possible alternative for their loved one and themselves. Many times, I recommend alternatives that do not embrace our company's services because it's ultimately a better choice for their individual situation."
Some Helpful Advice
To help find and select an appropriate caregiver, Blacker offers the following tips, which coincide with guidelines from the National Family Caregivers Association in Washington, D.C.:
· Do a criminal background check to guard against theft or abuse.
· Conduct personal interviews. Does the person meet all your requirements?
· Obtain several references.
· Be aware of legal requirements -- minimum wage, taxes, worker's compensation -- all enter into the hiring mix.
· Keep accurate records.
· Identify the exact services needed.
The National Association for Home Care in Washington, D.C., has a Web site to help with the assessment (www.nahc.org/  consumer/contents.html).
Blacker's company also offers many free brochures. To order, call 215-943-7700.