Independent Living: Finding Help for Everyday Tasks

When Going it Alone gets Rough

If you are dealing with illness, disability or just not able to do what you once did, then you might be ready to ask for help in dealing with everyday tasks such as shopping, transportation, housekeeping, and laundry. But who and how do you ask for help?

Asking for help can be difficult if you’ve been able to manage independently up till now or if you feel reluctant to burden family or friends. But keep in mind that most people are happy to do what they can.

Here are some suggestions on how to find the help you need:

Ask a neighbor. When asking a neighbor for help, you want to be sure your request is do-able. Asking a neighbor to add a few items to a shopping list on occasion is probably reasonable but asking for weekly rides to the market might be more than your neighbor can offer. Asking for help with annual chores might be fine but it’s probably unlikely your neighbor can offer assistance on a routine and frequent basis.

Contact a faith group in your area. Many congregations and churches offer help through volunteers to their members as well as to individuals living in the community. You might find a volunteer can come to your home for a few hours each week or each month. Keep in mind that help is available depending on how many volunteers are available or can meet your request. If you are not successful on the first try, then phone another faith group or call back in a few months.

Learn if you qualify for home care services. Contact a local home health agency, senior center, geriatric case management service, or United Way office to learn if you are eligible for services in your community.

Barter for help. Can you offer something in return for the help you need? Maybe you could baby-sit for a young mom in exchange for a ride to the doctor’s appointment or maybe you could make a casserole in exchange for help with a light chore?

Hire for services. If you do decide to hire for services, then proceed carefully. You can find people through newspaper ads but be aware you need to screen and interview people to determine their reliability and honesty. By hiring through an agency, you will pay a higher fee but are likely to have peace of mind about who is coming through your door.

If you want to bypass an agency, then try finding someone who is known through your circle of family and friends.

Make a list of those who do offer their help. Sometimes we overlook the people most available and willing to help. If someone offers to help, then ask that person what they are willing to do, and within what time constraints. If someone offers a ride to the mall once every two weeks, accept it and then start looking for someone else who can get you to the doctor’s office. If you are specific about the kind of help you need and the time needed to accomplish your task then people will be able to make a good evaluation of their ability to fulfill your need.

In conclusion, most people want to lend a helping hand but it’s important to ask people for assistance in a way that makes it easy for them to fulfill your request. Be specific about what you, how often you need their help, and what options you are exploring. By setting out your requests in a clear and forthright manner, you will likely find that more people than you might have imagined will be ready to lend a helping hand.

And don’t forget, the best reward for most helpers is a sincere “thank you” with a big smile and maybe a few dollars for gas or a home-baked treat or handwritten card. In following these steps, you can gracefully accept and request the help you need.


Personal Emergency Response Systems for Peace of Mind

If you have a frail or ill parent who lives alone, you might be interested in knowing that your loved one could continue to live alone and have the help that she or he might need in an emergency through a personal emergency response system.

What is a personal emergency response system?
Through television and magazine, most of us have seen the ads where an older adult falls but then receives help by using a “call button” which places an alert call to a medical provider. While that is the most basic form of personal emergency response systems, there is a whole range of response systems now available for anyone who might be at risk for fall, seizure, or accident at home.

The systems range from a simple “alert” in the event of an emergency to a regular “phone in” by appointment for those who prefer to have a predetermined time for contact. If an individual needs help but cannot reach a phone or is unable to dial, the individual can simply press the “help button” which is typically placed on a bracelet or necklace type device to place a “call” to the emergency response center for help. Most often the response center will first attempt to contact the individual and/or a designated family member or a local medical provider.

Who needs a personal emergency response system?
While we most often think of the frail, older adult who is at risk for falling as the primary user of personal emergency response systems, there are many other types of people who are now relying on these systems to fulfill their safety and health needs. Let’s say you are a 45 year old individual who has had a stroke. You might be able to live alone but would like a personal emergency response system to ensure that you remember to take your daily medications. Or let’s say you are an individual who lives alone and who is prone to periodic seizures. The most advanced personal emergency response systems on the market are being developed to detect motion so that the system can place an “alert for help” even if the individual does not activate the system him or herself.

What should I look for in choosing a service?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a provider of services. Know what level of service you will receive and what level of service you desire. Do you want an emergency response only or do you want contacts made for medication reminders? Who provides the first level of response at the emergency call center? What information do they have at hand about your loved one? What type of training do they have for these calls? What actions will they take and in what order? How much will equipment cost? Do you buy the equipment or is it leased? Are there installation fees?

Where can I find these services?
There are many private businesses selling personal emergency response systems as well as non-profit, health care and social service groups providing this service.

Be Consumer Savvy
When shopping for a personal emergency response system, be sure to compare both costs and services to be sure you are getting the type of response system best suited for your needs and pocket book. Contact the Better Business Bureau in your area to learn if the provider is reliable and reputable. Ask for references from the company and if there is a trial period for services. Review contracts carefully and above all, take the time to know exactly what your loved one needs. Don’t let a salesperson “guilt” you into buying more services than you need or can afford.

Personal emergency response systems can offer not only peace of mind but also security, safety and be life-saving.

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