Making Life Easier for Caregivers

Eye on LSSI, Winter 2012 (Download PDF Download PDF of entire publication)

Marietta Hagewood (front, left) and grandson Thomas Stein with Intouch Home Care assistant Deatrice Gregory. Thomas says home care not only helps his grandmother but also him and his wife. “It’s taken a lot of pressure off me,” he says. Credit: Fred ZwickyWhen Marietta Hagewood, 88, had a stroke in 2010, her grandson, Thomas Stein, left a good job in Houston, packed up his apartment and moved back to Peoria to care for her. He quickly realized, however, that being a caregiver can be overwhelming, to say the least.

“When I first came up here, it was just me and Granny,” says Thomas, 45, whose wife stayed in Texas for a month to tie up loose ends. “I’m a guy, and she’s my granny, and there were certain things I just couldn’t do for her. I was definitely at my wit’s end.”

Even when Stein’s wife, Tina, joined them, the family knew they needed help, because Tina has multiple sclerosis, and Thomas runs an accounting business out of their home.

The Steins found much-needed relief through Intouch Home Care Services, a program of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI).
Intouch Home Care assistant Deatrice Gregory has restored order to what Thomas calls “a chaotic situation,” taking care of Marietta’s needs for three hours a day, five days a week. Another aide visits the home on the weekends.

“It’s been a real blessing, to be perfectly honest,” Thomas says, noting how the care not only helps his grandmother, but also him and his wife. “It’s taken a lot of pressure off me. I definitely would not be able to run my business nearly as well as I can without their help.”

Lessening the toll on caregivers

The Steins and Marietta Hagewood are among 380 clients currently being served by 140 home care assistants through the Intouch Home Care Services program in Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, Woodford, Marshall and Stark counties. About 90 percent of the clients in Peoria, Tazewell and Fulton counties qualify for financial help through the Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program. Intouch Home Care serves private pay clients in all six counties.

“We are a non-medical, in-home care provider. We provide full service housekeeping care, as well as help with activities of daily living,” says Program Director Dale Claus.

Assistance may include helping clients move about in the home or getting in and out of a vehicle, making meals, helping with bathing and taking them on errands, such as to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment.

Besides helping seniors maintain their independence and providing cost-effective alternatives to a nursing home, Claus says the Intouch program offers a “tremendous benefit” to the primary caregivers, often the client’s spouse, children or grandchildren.

“A lot of literature of late is focusing on the effect of caregiving on the caregiver. Not only is there a physical toll for the primary caregiver, but there is also an emotional and a mental toll in watching a loved one become less capable over time,” Claus says.

“Particularly when the caregiver is a spouse, having a home care assistant come in to give some respite, even to just be able to go out and have dinner with a friend or go to a movie by themselves, lets them get away from the stress of the situation and results in their ability to become a more effective caregiver,” Claus adds. Caring for one’s parent or grandparent can be equally stressful, he adds.

“There’s a tremendous amount of daily pressure and stresses that are experienced by the so-called sandwich generation in trying to figure out where they need to be placing their priorities,” Claus says. “‘Should I be going to my daughter’s dance recital, or should I be going over to take care of Dad?’ For us to be able to provide care for an aging person not only frees up the family caregiver to be able to focus their energy on their own immediate family, but it also depressurizes the situation and lessens the burden.”

Thomas and Tina Stein say the program has another benefit for his grandmother, who also has diabetes and is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

“Having someone who’s trained for this to come in and help bathe her and do those type of things helps her maintain her dignity and not feel like we’re getting too personal, and that helps her feel like she’s less of a burden,” says Tina.

Marietta Hagewood’s regular home care assistant, Deatrice Gregory, has been working for LSSI for six years and currently has two other clients besides Marietta.

“Every client is a little different in terms of what he or she needs,” Gregory says. “I’m glad that I can do the things for the family that they can’t do themselves. I think it makes their lives a little easier.”

Peace of mind

Marietta Hagewood, 88, relies on the help of home care assistants like Deatrice Gregory (left) to stay in her home. Marietta, who values her independence, says, “I’d like to stay here until they have to carry me out.” Credit: Fred ZwickySome clients contract services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while others only need someone for a couple of hours once or twice a month, Claus says. For some, it’s a temporary solution while their loved one is recovering from an illness.

Maureen Sluga hired Intouch Home Care Services after interviewing six agencies that provide in-home care when her 81-year-old mother, Barbara Reilly, of Peoria had a heart attack last year.

“She was in the hospital for 10 weeks, and we didn’t know what her capabilities were going to be when she was released, so we planned to have 24-hour care initially and then start cutting back until we were confident she was strong,” says Maureen.

“One reason I went with LSSI was the training and skill level of the aides, and the ability to have a pretty consistent group of caregivers throughout the time frame we needed,” she adds.

“It sounds simple, but I was able to sleep at night knowing someone was there with Mom, knowing that she was indeed taking her medication and knowing that if she needed to get up in the middle of the night, she was going to be able to do so safely,” says Maureen, who not only works full-time but also was a newlywed at the time. “It also allowed me to keep working and not have to take additional days off that I didn’t have.”

Maureen says her siblings, who live about three hours away, had used up most of their vacation time during the hospitalization as well and were thus relieved to know their mom was being well cared for until they could get back for a visit.

“It gave me the overall peace of mind that I could also go over there and just be her daughter for awhile,” adds Maureen.

Claus says demographics show that clients are coming into the program at an older age than they did previously.

“Our oldest client whom we are aware of is 101 years old, still living at home on her own and just needs help with transportation and possibly meal preparation,” he notes.

“We are convinced we are providing a very valuable service to help seniors stay in their homes a lot longer than they would otherwise, which is far less costly than putting them in a community or skilled care facility,” Claus adds. “Basically, we are giving the clients and their family members a sense of hope. The autonomy that comes with being able to stay in your own home is really important to a person’s sense of self.”

Marietta Hagewood is grateful that Intouch is helping her stay in her home.

“I paid cash for this house, and I’d like to be able to hold on to it,” says Marietta, a widow who worked for 57 years as an accountant right up to the day she had her stroke.   

“I’d like to stay here until they have to carry me out.”

About Intouch Home Care Services

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) has been helping seniors in their homes since 1981 through its Intouch Home Care Services. The statewide program provides non-medical assistance through home care assistants, who receive 24 hours of intensive training prior to being placed with a client and 12 hours of in-service training each year. All assistants are insured and have been carefully screened and completed a background check.

The home care assistants help older adults with personal care, home care, meal preparation, transportation and other tasks of daily living. They also provide companionship to the senior and give respite to the primary caregivers. Services are tailored to fit the needs of each family.

Among some of the many services home care assistants may provide are preparing a grocery list and cooking meals; assistance with morning wake-up and evening bedtimes; running errands; changing and washing bed linens, as well as other laundry; assistance with walking and exercising; and providing emotional support and conversation.

Because the services are non-medical, insurance will not cover them, but clients in Peoria, Tazewell and Fulton counties may be eligible for the Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program.

To be eligible for that program, clients must be more than 60 years old with liquid assets totaling less than $17,500, which does not include the value of one’s home or vehicle. Clients also must demonstrate a need as determined by a case coordination unit, according to Program Director Dale Claus.

In central Illinois, Intouch Home Care Services is available to private pay clients in Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, Marshall, Stark and Woodford counties.

For information on LSSI’s Intouch Home Care Services throughout the state, please visit www.LSSI.org/homecare or call 877/709-9177. For services in Peoria and central Illinois, call 309/671-0308.