What Is Companion Care?

What Is Companion Care?

What Is Companion Care?

Many older adults find that their social and physical activity levels start to decline because of illness, injury, aging, and other factors. As activity levels decrease, the potential for developing feelings of isolation and loneliness may increase, especially for those living alone or with limited mobility,

Unfortunately, feelings of isolation might raise the risk of mental and physical health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, depression, and cognitive loss, according to the National Institute on Aging. Thankfully, those who are alone or seeing a decline in their activity level may find companion care to be a valuable service.

Companion care services provide companionship and emotional support to help older adults or people with disabilities fight social isolation. Seniors can be vulnerable to accidents, emergencies, or even abuse. In these instances, companion caregivers can enhance their client’s safety and security by monitoring their well-being and calling for help if needed.

Unlike trained medical professionals, like a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse, companions are not required to be trained or certified because they offer non-medical services. However, companions who are hired through home care agencies may receive first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.

Is Companion Care The Same as Caregiving?

Companion care and traditional caregiving, two of the most popular services offered to older adults, have some similarities. For instance, a companion and a caregiver may perform tasks for their clients, such as:

  • Light household activities, such as sweeping and washing clothes or dishes.
  • Preparing Meals
  • Transporting clients to medical appointments and other activities
  • Running errands
  • Grocery shopping
  • Communicating with a client’sclient’s family members and other team professionals

The difference between companion care and traditional caregiving comes in the level of care provided. For example, companion care primarily focuses on engaging clients in social interaction, such as playing games, going on walks, reading together, and accompanying them to social outings.

Traditional caregiving, on the other hand, focuses on providing more hands-on help with daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and mobility assistance. In addition, traditional caregiving often requires specialized training and physical care since older adults and people with disabilities have complex medical needs or cognitive impairments. For example, a certified nursing assistant is trained to take vital signs, safely move clients into beds and wheelchairs, and observe and report subtle changes in their clients’ behavior, mood, mobility, and cognition.

Types of Companion Care

Companion care services, including community settings and private homes, are offered wherever older adults live.

1. Companion Care in Community Settings

Companion care services are offered to older adults who live in skilled nursing communities, group homes, or assisted living communities. Companion care in a community setting is usually offered as an additional paid service that families can choose for their loved ones. Hannah Karpilow, who has more than 40 years of experience providing attendant care, told Forbes Health. In this setting, companions can be hired through a home care agency or by older adults or their family members.

2. Companion Care in Private Homes

Older adults who live independently in their homes may opt for companion services. The companion may be given a list of tasks until they get used to the client’s routines and preferences. If other residents are living in the house, the companion is solely responsible for the person receiving the care, Karpilow said.

3. Live-In Companion Care

Older adults may require a companion to live with them in some situations, such as when older adults have been diagnosed with dementia and cannot be left alone or when they have a chronic illness and experience unexpected medical problems. The responsibilities of a live-in companion are similar to those of a non-residential companion. Still, they might need to be on call at night in case the client needs assistance going to the bathroom or has to be redirected if they become confused and are prone to wander away. According to Karpilow, it’s important that clients and live-in companions set up clear guidelines and expectations, such as scheduled times to work and times to be off. “No one is capable of working every day around the clock,” Karpilow added.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing Companionship Services

1. Cost of Companion Care

The cost of companion care is one of the most important factors older adults and their families should consider before hiring a companion. Costs vary depending on the number of hours a companion works daily, the type of companionship services wanted, and the state where a client lives.

According to the 2023 Genworth Cost of Care Study, the average national median cost for companion care, which is classified as “homemaker services”, is $189 per day or $5,720 per month. But costs vary for each state. For instance, the daily median cost for companion care is $195 in Connecticut and $151 in North Dakota. Genworth bases annual rates on 44 hours of care a week multiplied by 52 weeks. However, costs for companion care would be lower for those who only need the service for a few hours per day or week. To help reduce costs, older adults or their family members should check to see if their insurance company pays for companionship services.

2. Employment Laws

Clients and their families must also be aware of local and state employment laws regarding live-in employees. For example, some states have laws that make it difficult for live-in employees to move out if necessary. It’s also important to pay the companion legally rather than “under the table.” A companion who works independently must be issued a W-2 or 1099 paperwork confirming their income for the specific tax year.

3. Finding Companion Care Services

Some home care agencies include companion care in their overall services for clients. Local organizations for seniors may also provide referrals for the service. The Area Agency on Aging is one of the first steps to take when seeking agencies or organizations that offer companion care services.

Combating isolation and addressing physical, social, and emotional needs are major reasons for having a companion. Regular social interaction and engagement with a companion can help older adults maintain their independence, improve their quality of life, and remain active and engaged members of their communities.

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