If you are a caregiver for an older adult, you know the burden and responsibility that comes with that role.

The emotional, physical and economic strain can be formidable.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, four in 10 U.S. adults are now caring for a sick or elderly family member as more people develop chronic illnesses and the population ages.

The key is to find competent, trustworthy caregiving help as the needs increase over time. “There is usually a turning point when the primary caregiver is unable to manage the need,” says Sarah Van Huis, program director, Service for Adults Staying in Their Homes (SASI). “That’s when we get the call.”

Based in Evanston and founded in 1975, SASI is a local nonprofit that helps seniors and other adults who, due to aging, illness or injury, need assistance to be safe and comfortable at home.

Today, it’s not just about providing continual care to the aging population. According to Nancy Nicholson, SASI’s Director of Marketing & Development, the needs are changing. “In the past, clients were generally in the mid 80s,” Nicholson says. “Today we are serving a younger demographic, such as people needing short-term caregiving after surgery.”

Aging in Place

The vast majority of seniors want to stay in their homes as they age, no matter what their health status. Of course, your caregiving needs are unique. And chances are, you have never gone down this path before.

Before you pick up the phone or do an online search, SASI recommends you do a personal evaluation:

  • How much help do you need?
  • When do you require assistance? Is there a certain time of day?
  • What do you need help with?
  • Do you, or your loved one, need help with personal care? What DON’T you need help with?
  • Are there tasks you or your family member wants to keep doing on his/her own?
  • Who is responsible for care?  

What to Ask When You Call

SASI offers the following questions you should ask when contacting a home services agency:

  • Are you licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)?
  • Do you serve my family member’s geographic area?
  • How do you screen caregivers? Do you conduct background checks?
  • Will your agency provide the same caregiver on every visit?
  • When your caregiver is unable to come, will you provide a substitute?
  • How much training do your caregivers receive? (Illinois requires a minimum of eight hours.)
  • Do your caregivers get special training in working with the elderly, and/or with individuals with Alzheimer’s or other chronic diseases/conditions?
  • How much, and how, does your agency charge?
  • Do you require a minimum number of hours of service?

Flexibility Is Important

It’s important that the agency you select is flexible to meet your specific needs. Unlike some for-profit agencies, SASI will provide a caregiver for one hour a day. The hourly rate is $30 or less, depending on complexity. A four-hour (or more) daily commitment is $19 per hour.

Engaging a caregiver can help alleviate the burden of family caregivers. It gives you a breather and someone else to count on.