It’s obvious to most anyone, that older adults want to stay at home and be independent for as long as possible, yet sometimes they will require external help and care in some form. If you want to consider a promising business idea, you might want to size up the opportunity represented by our aging population for doing just that – providing various forms of home-care. Why? Because the expected demand for home-care services and support will increase exponentially over the next 30 years!
While most elders experiencing some diminished state of mind or body want to make their own care decisions, their declining cognitive, visual, auditory or other age specific illnesses can hamper their doing so well, not to mention the wounded pride of having to recognize that they may not be as vital as they once were. The first step, and this is a big one, is for the elder to admit that they need help. Whether it is taking care of themselves or their living space. I don’t have a fool proof formula to recommend but I can testify from my own experience that it is quite a delicate conversation to have but one that with time, is inevitable. When an elder finds it almost impossible to tie their shoes or open a jar, when they receive overdue bill notices they thought certain they had paid or when they can no longer remember their PIN number to their debit or charge cards, elders instantly recognize and fear their approaching limitations. We are all made of the same stuff in the end so it isn’t hard to empathize with them. Initially, an elder will be in denial of their circumstances and only after some period of time with repeated experiences of their limitations will objective reality sink in and the serious thought of entertaining personal care support services arrive. This care needn’t be expensive or complicated, it could initially take the form of added calls from loved ones and some extra time spent helping with minor household chores when family or friends visit but in time, some form of contracted care may be needed. While external care does have a financial cost, the first place to consider is care services that are publicly funded. Then and only then would external, purchased care services be needed, and when they are, they can be obtained in proportional need, a few hours, days and if needed, full time. These private services are multiplying quickly and with competition comes positive pressure on fees and services over time.
It is really too bad that we are so reluctant to confront our own limitations, I know, that is easy for me say now! What I mean is that an elder’s independence is never actually threatened by entertaining care services. It is the elder or the elder’s group of compassionate collaborators to their care who make the decision, in that way, the elder is still making the decision. Sometimes publicly funded delivery arrangements for home-care services can be difficult to coordinate and can come with restrictions on the elder’s ability to choose the services they desire. If that ever becomes frustrating and some financial means exist, the private sector awaits the opportunity to impress. Sometimes it isn’t a service but an assistive, medical or technological device that can help an elder to meet their needs. More on that in another column.
Most of us will have our parent’s age-related needs to assist, some will also have their in-laws and others, that of their close, aging friends. If you ask me, these experiences are God’s way of ensuring that each of us learn and practice first, the required level of respect, compassion and dignity to elders that we one day hope will be extended to us.