Home Helpers and Aging Care Givers
Almost 90% of the home helpers that provide care to the elderly are unpaid care givers and untrained to deal with this huge undertaking. Home helpers have to dedicate most of their time and financial resources to help take care of a senior that they care for. Below you will find an article that has story about volunteer and paid home helpers and the trials that they go through when caring for a loved one.
Care Givers and Home Helpers
John Sorensen stood in the entryway of his Upper West Side apartment with a fresh bruise spreading over his upper arm and a blood-smeared bandage around one shin.
Mr. Sorensen, 91, had fallen in his kitchen — he said he did not recall how — and was still unsteady on his feet.
“It’s been a very bad day for me,” he said, his voice quavering just above a whisper. “I could’ve fallen 20 or 30 times today but I caught myself.”
Mr. Sorensen is one of six New Yorkers over the age of 85 I have been following since the beginning of the year. For Mr. Sorensen and the woman who manages his care — Anne Kornblum, a niece of his late partner — the fall was a cause for worry. Had Mr. Sorensen reached a turning point in his already fragile health? Was another fall inevitable, especially if Mr. Sorensen, who is nearly blind, continued to refuse to use a walker?
Ms. Kornblum guided Mr. Sorensen to a favorite chair and tried, once more, to reason with him. If he were to fall again, she said, he might have to give up his home.
“I tell him, if he falls and breaks something, his life is going to change drastically,” she said. “And it will bring into question whether he can stay here. Because once he goes into the hospital with something broken, it’s sort of out of my hands what happens to him.”
Ms. Kornblum examined Mr. Sorensen’s arms and legs for other bruises. She did not say what they both knew: that she was doing all she could to keep him alive and out of a nursing home, and that no matter how much effort she put in, at some point it was a battle she would lose.
“It gets stressful,” she said. “You learn as you go along as care givers.”
THE STORY OF AMERICA’S aging population is to a great extent the story of people like Ms. Kornblum, one in which care givers include friends or family members step in to be informal care givers, usually without training, and at great expense in terms of personal time and money. According to the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, unpaid home helpers provide 90 percent of long-term care for the old or disabled. Like old age itself, the job arrives unbidden and with little in the way of guidance, to be managed more than mastered as a care giver.
Mr. Sorensen’s fall and the events leading up to it show how tenuous such care can be.
Mr. Sorensen relies on regular visits from Ms. Kornblum and weekly visits from three home helpers attendants. Ms. Kornblum coordinates the home helpers aides and manages Mr. Sorensen’s finances; the home helpers attendants run errands and keep him company, chatting with him about his younger days or his passion for opera.
Besides taking care of Mr. Sorensen, Ms. Kornblum works full time as a criminal investigator for the Postal Service and tends to three other older relatives: her mother and both of her husband’s parents. Her father-in-law is 96 and has severe dementia; her mother-in-law, who cares for him, is almost 90. Her mother, she said, “is in the worst shape of them all.” When anything goes wrong, Ms. Kornblum gets the call.
“John is actually in the best shape of my four old people,” she said. “But he’s the most difficult. But it is what it is. It’s all a negotiation. It’s a gift to have them at this stage of life. But it’s challenging.”
In August, the system broke down.
Her mother-in-law fell and had to be hospitalized, and Ms. Kornblum went to stay with her father-in-law. For a week she did not leave her in-laws’ house, even to walk around the block.
At the same time, two of Mr. Sorensen’s three home helpers attendants were on vacation and missed their weekly visits.
Among the jobs the three home helpers share is refilling Mr. Sorensen’s prescriptions, including the one for the “sleeping pills” — actually antidepressants — without which he cannot drift off at night.
The Fragile Patchwork
CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
By the time his third home helpers aide’s rotation came around, the pills were nearly gone; the drugstore had none on hand and had to order more.
Ms. Kornblum arrived at Mr. Sorensen’s apartment to find him bloody, bruised and lonely. He had not slept in two days, he said, and had dropped to the floor from lightheadedness.
Ms. Kornblum herself was worn out from her weeklong stay with her father-in-law. But she filled Mr. Sorensen’s prescription and brought him pizza from a favorite old restaurant. She cleaned the blood from his leg and washed off some that had spattered on a kitchen cabinet; she helped him to the bathroom. “I don’t need any more accidents,” she said.
Back in his living room, they settled into a familiar dynamic. Ms. Kornblum was indulgent but persistent; Mr. Sorensen was grateful but stubborn.
He refuses to allow anyone else to clean the apartment for fear that they might put things where he cannot find them. The place is meticulously ordered but dusty around the edges…………………….
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