Helping Seniors Live at Home

Eye on LSSI, Winter 2010 (Download PDF Download PDF of entire publication)

Intouch caregiver Marva Stewart (left) helps 89-year-old Charlotte Davis with personal care as well as other daily activities, enabling Charlotte to continue living in her home.Why should a person lose everything just because they are old?” asks Marva Stewart, 71, Chicago.

Marva is a caregiver for Intouch Home Care Services of Salem House, a program of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI). Caregivers like Marva perform a number of services for older adults to help them remain in their homes. These services include: helping with personal care (bathing, grooming, etc.), preparing meals, shopping for groceries, providing transportation to appointments and performing housekeeping tasks, such as cleaning and doing laundry.

Marva is passionate about being a caregiver. She says home care services, like Intouch’s, are important. “Just because a person is older, it doesn’t mean he or she wants to be displaced,” she says earnestly. “Homemaking services help an elder person stay at home.”

“And keeps you independent, too,” adds Charlotte Davis, 89. For the past 12 years, Charlotte has been served by Salem House’s Intouch services. And for all that time, Marva has been Charlotte’s caregiver, helping her at her home five hours a day, five days a week. (On the weekend, Charlotte’s family comes by to help her, but because of Intouch’s services, “They don’t worry about me,” she says.)

Marva begins her day at Charlotte’s by cleaning her bedroom. “She doesn’t like to see a bed unmade,” Marva says with a laugh. She also does Charlotte’s laundry and dishes, prepares two meals each day, helps Charlotte with her personal care, does the shopping and housecleaning, as well as makes sure Charlotte has what she needs. “But she’s easy,” Marva says, adding that being a caregiver “is not just a job.”

“It gives me a good feeling to [be able to help] keep an older person in her home,” she notes. She explains that after she retired from working in accounting for AT&T, “I still needed to make money, and I like old people.”

“Me, too,” chimes in Charlotte.

“I hope it’s in place when I have to use it,” Marva adds.

“I’ll take care of you, then,” Charlotte says, and both women laugh.

‘I love Salem House…’

Charlotte has been living in her tidy brick bungalow on Chicago’s south side since 1974. Her husband, Raymond, died in 1993. She had four children — only one is still alive, however — and has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She came to Chicago from Birmingham, Ala., in 1939 and met her husband here.

Now, Charlotte deals with a lot of health issues. She has diabetes, congestive heart failure, lung problems and high blood pressure; and she can’t hear or see well. As a result, she takes a lot of medicine, including several different kinds of eye drops.

“I don’t know what I’d do without Salem House,” she says. “I love Salem House. If I didn’t have [home care services], I’d be in a nursing home.

“I know everyone at Salem House,” she adds. “I call and talk with them. I have someone to really care for me.”

Charlotte explains that she found out about Salem House from talking with another woman. “I said I didn’t want anything like that, but she encouraged me to try it,” she remembers. “Now, I love it.”

Salem House offers Intouch Home Care Services to private pay clients throughout Cook County and to low-income seniors, like Charlotte, who are served by the Community Care Program (CCP) on the south side of Chicago, between 22nd Street and 129th Street.

Private pay clients generally are those who do not qualify for CCP funding but still need assistance with daily living activities. For these clients, Clara Hubbard, Salem House marketing manager, does an assessment — using a tool similar to one the state uses — to determine a plan for the client. This tool helps her to determine what a client’s needs are, based on what the person can and cannot do, and then the number of hours that services will be provided to the client and how often (number of days per week). This Plan of Care is then used by the caregiver who assists the client.

For CCP clients, the Plan of Care is laid out by the Case Coordination/Case Management Units of the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA). Generally, when a call comes in to the IDOA about a senior who needs help, a case manager does an assessment and then creates a Plan of Care. Each plan is different. A typical one may include assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, transferring (from bed to chair, etc.), answering phones, preparing meals and doing the laundry. Once the plan is made, the case manager refers the client to an agency, such as Intouch, which serves the area where the client lives.

“We accept all referrals [from the state] unless the person is severely impaired,” says Sadie Shines, Salem House program director. She notes that an assessment can be done initially in a hospital, if person has been sick or injured. Typically, that is followed up by an in-home assessment. She says that most of her CCP clients receive an average of between 12 and 15 hours of caregiver service per week. Some clients, though, like Charlotte, need 20 to 30 hours of service a week.

These home care services, which are vital for seniors who wish to remain in their houses, are relatively inexpensive, compared to nursing care, assisted living and other options. Private pay clients are billed an hourly fee, and as of July 2010, CCP clients no longer have a copayment.

“This program is a blessing for me,” says Charlotte, and as for the fee, “I don’t mind paying the little amount they ask; it’s nothing [for the services I receive].

“I’ve had a lot of losses,” she says. “I lost three children, part of my hand, but I’m doing okay. I am just stubborn and won’t let myself be an old lady on a stick.”

Keeping seniors in their homes

“Our goal is to try to maintain our clients in their homes and prevent institutionalization,” says Shines, who has been working at Salem House for 16 years. She adds, “The caregivers are the ones who keep the program going.”

Salem House opened in 1974 and began offering home care services in the early 1980s. According to Shines, it was originally called “chore service.” That term was replaced with “homemaker services” and now has evolved into “caregiver services.”

Today, Salem House’s Intouch program has 160 caregivers who served 348 clients in Fiscal Year 2010. After a person is hired, she or he receives 24 hours of training, over a three-day period, using modules provided by the Illinois Association of Community Care Program Homecare Providers (IACCPHP). The trainees also receive an orientation session about LSSI. After the initial training, workers also have quarterly training sessions each year.

“They train us on how to take care of elders, what their needs are and different ways to make a situation better,” says Marva. “We’ve also had speakers on fire protection, hygiene, the flu and other diseases. It’s real intense, but I really look forward to the training sessions.”

A field monitor visits the client 60 days after the home care service starts to make sure the client is getting the service he or she needs. In addition, the monitor makes regular checks on caregivers, to make sure they are doing their work in accordance with their training and the individual’s Plan of Care.

“I think this program is so great,” Marva says. “It is the best thing that someone could think of. Whoever came up with [the idea for] this program deserves an award.”

For more information on Salem House programs, contact Sadie Shines at 773/873-3400 or visit www.LSSI.org.