Whether you choose to find a companion through an agency, directly on a self-employed basis, or through an introductory agency like HomeTouch, it's personality that matters.
When our loved ones begin to get older, we naturally want to help them stay happy, healthy and independent for as long as possible. At this point finding the right companion care becomes a critical concern, and not just if their health is declining.
In fact, loneliness is one of the biggest challenges the elderly face, more so than other more seemingly obvious health concerns. Loneliness is as big a killer as obesity and heavy smoking, so finding a way to combat the ravages of loneliness plays a significant part in helping your loved ones to age gracefully.
How to select the perfect companion
With roughly 3.9 million older people in the UK saying that the TV is their only company, loneliness is an epidemic, but the burden of easing loneliness shouldn’t fall on relatives alone. Indeed, the emotional implications of caregiving are well documented, and sacrificing your own life to provide constant companionship for an elderly relative is a sure-fire way to let resentment foster.
Companion care can be part of the solution
What is companion care? Companion care is friendship but in a more formal way. Older people often find their existing social network declining and their ability to forge new connections limited by circumstances beyond their control, such as reduced mobility. As a result the likelihood of suffering from loneliness increases as we age, and companion care is designed to fill this gap.
Companion carers help older people with tasks that might be becoming increasingly difficult, like housework, shopping and chores, while providing a vital social connection. It’s the social aspect of companion care that is really valuable, the carer becomes someone with whom they can chat, share gossip and a cup of tea. Preventing loneliness can help your loved on to stay physically sound, just by having an extra person to share the small things with.
Constantly providing companion care yourself can be draining, and with older people often fearful of being a burden, the dynamic between parent/child is perhaps not one of simple friendship.
How to find the right companion
Choosing companion care can be challenging – precisely because it’s the ‘companion’ element that is most important. Companion care is relationship based, so it’s important to find someone who your loved on gets on with.
Price of care is also likely to be a concern – although companion care is the least expensive care type because it doesn’t demand specialist skills.
In all, the most important aspect of choosing the right companion carer is personality - which in turn has an impact on where you should source your carer. Care agencies, which many people still assume is their only option, unfortunately rarely let you choose your own carer. They tend to see care more as a functional service than an emotional one.
At the other extreme is finding a carer yourself, an option many shy away from because of the time, effort and lack of security this involves. However, the big advantage to this comes with allowing you complete control over the carer you choose and finding a companion who has a natural synergy with your relative.
For many, though, the potential downsides of this – hiring someone un-vetted and potentially unreliable or, worse, dangerous – far outweigh the positives.
Wherever you source companion care from, the principle is the same: you’re looking for a friend, someone who can help with general tasks, but also someone who sits down for a cup of tea, takes an interest, and talks like an old friend.
Many fall into the trap of assuming care is something to consider when their loved ones are growing infirm, but that isn’t the case. In fact, with loneliness being one of the biggest threats the elderly face, it makes absolute sense to prioritise companion care.