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The Coming of Age of the Home Care Industry: Meeting Senior Independent Living Needs Now and in the Future


In this episode of Help Choose Home, we welcome Andrea Cohen, a social entrepreneur dedicated to transforming the way care is delivered to seniors at home. As the Founder and CEO of HouseWorks, her vision crystalized over 25 years ago when she took care of both her parents and made an unwavering commitment to redefine what it means to age.

As an innovator and thought leader in the home care industry, Andrea and the team at HouseWorks take an entrepreneurial approach to service delivery that returns a sense of control to adult children and their parents. Andrea was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) and she also sits on the Board of The Commonwealth Institute, the Schwartz Center Leadership Council, the Caregiver Action Network and serves as an appointee to the Massachusetts Women’s Forum.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How home care is prepared to meet a wide variety of needs and promote senior independent living
  • Specialized dementia care that benefits both clients and caregivers
  • Suggestions for consumers who are seeking care for a loved one

Highlights from our conversation:

When Andrea entered the home care space more than 20 years ago, her social work background gave her a unique perspective of the industry. Her goal was and continues to be providing seniors with anything needed to stay at home comfortably and remain independent. At the time, not only were independent home care companies like HouseWorks unusual in the industry, but home care was also seen as a service that sent in a home health aide who only met basic care needs. Andrea helped pioneer the concept of surrounding seniors at home with the care and services needed to live comfortably and independently.

While HouseWorks is a non-medical home care agency, Andrea believes that description is somewhat of a misnomer since many of their clients need complex, round-the-clock care. By working with families, Andrea and her team develop care plans to meet the diverse needs of clients, helping them remain in the familiarity of home.

In addition to HouseWorks, Andrea has also served as a leader and strategic partner for other care-at-home models, such as Beacon Hill Village. Developed in 1999 by a group of friends who wanted to remain in their Beacon Hill community in Boston as they aged, the village model is an innovative community-based approach that emphasizes peer-to-peer networking to promote an active lifestyle, improve health and reduce isolation. Members of the Beacon Hill Village can access programs and services that help meet their needs and the transitions they encounter during the aging process. The village movement has taken root, and today, there are approximately 350 villages in the United States and around the world. The Village-to-Village Network connects these villages for networking and to share best practices.

Andrea has also focused a significant amount of time and resources on providing support for family members who are caring for a loved one with dementia. A central aspect of this support is a certified dementia specialist training program for care team members to ensure they can provide the specialized care needed for both clients and family members. Additionally, care team members participate in a virtual dementia training where the symptoms of dementia are mimicked, allowing the care team to understand what it feels like for individuals with dementia. This intense training helps care team members gain extra insight and empathy for their clients, which in turn helps them provide a higher level of care.

Often, families don’t know where to turn when home care is needed. Andrea recommends that if a loved one is in the hospital, it’s important to meet with the discharge planner. A discharge planner will help identify home care needs and make recommendations, providing families with a road map to navigate care at home.

Andrea recommends thinking ahead and knowing the available options for adult children who are concerned about the safety of an aging parent who lives independently before there is an urgent need. Watch out for subtle signs that help is needed, such as memory issues or trouble keeping up with managing the house. These signs present adult children with opportunities to recommend home care for just a few hours each week for assistance with general household tasks, such as meal prep, shopping or light housekeeping. This non-threatening approach helps the older adult get used to the idea of having someone assisting at home, paving the way for an easier transition if additional care is needed down the road.

Andrea believes the home care industry is coming of age, both in the ways it provides diverse and complex care currently, and also when looking to the future where technology will continue to enhance care and care delivery.

After listening to this episode, you should come away with a greater understanding of the innovation occurring in the home care industry and its positive impact on the ever-growing senior population.

Listen to this episode here, or on Apple Podcasts, Google, YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts.

To learn more about the home care industry and other innovative ways in which seniors are able to remain in their homes and communities during the aging process, listen the Help Choose Home interview with Shawn M. Bloom, President and CEO of the National PACE Association. Shawn explains the importance of taking a comprehensive look at the social, medical, environmental and family issues that impact care in the home.

If this episode has been helpful, be sure to leave a five-star review and share the podcast to help us in the national effort to educate about home healthcare options! You can connect with Merrily Orsini on Twitter: @MerrilyO.

Sponsors

The Help Choose Home podcast series is a collaborative effort by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), Axxess and corecubed to educate the public about the many benefits of the in-home care industry, which includes non-medical home care, private duty nursing care, medical home health, hospice and other in-home health and wellness services.

Access the full Help Choose Home podcast library here.

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