Human beings are social creatures who suffer physically and mentally when faced with loneliness or isolation. An article in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry defines loneliness as “a discrepancy, either in quality or quantity, between the individual’s desired and actual social relations.”

According to the article authors, 25 to 60 percent of older Americans struggle with loneliness, increasing their risk of chronic health conditions, depression, and a significantly lower quality of life. A Harvard 75-year longitudinal study of men concluded loneliness is “toxic,” affecting an individual’s health and happiness and resulting in declining brain function. Other research has linked loneliness to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, depression, a weakened immune system, Alzheimer’s, and death.

While many of us have an elderly loved one who lives alone, even if we desperately want to be physically present, it is often impossible. Companion care can fulfill the social and safety needs of our loved ones so they can continue living in the home they love.

What is Companion Care?

Companion care provides social and emotional support, but not medical services, to seniors or disabled people of any age who do not otherwise have an in-home support system. A professional companion caregiver’s primary purpose is to relieve the loneliness and social isolation seniors often experience and keep the person engaged in the world around them.

Companions can also serve as a valuable link between the senior and their family, keeping them apprised of their loved one’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

Companion care duties may also include:

  • Light housekeeping
  • Meal preparation
  • Shopping and other errands
  • Transporting seniors to appointments or social outings
  • Pet care

Companion visits vary for each person, depending on their needs and budget. A companion may visit once or several times a week, for a few hours a day or all day, on a part-time or full-time basis.

According to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care survey, the median national hourly cost for companion care (also called homemaker services) is $26.00, ranging from $19.00 to $35.00, depending on the location. Medicare does not cover companion care services.

What is the Difference Between Companion Care and Personal Care?

Companion care

The relationship between a companion caregiver and their client is “hands-off.” An older person’s companion does not assist with activities of daily living (ADLs), which include transferring, bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, and continence, and does not provide even basic medical services. However, a companion caregiver, and any designated caregiver, watch over the senior, ensuring they and their environment are safe. If the companion notices changes in the older adult’s physical or mental health, they report concerns to the family or appropriate professional.

Personal care aide

While a personal care aide provides the same services as companion care, personal caregivers are “hands-on,” primarily focusing on assisting seniors with ADLs.

Personal care by a home health aide

Home health aides perform the same “hands-on” duties as personal caregivers. They are also trained to provide basic medical services under the supervision of a registered nurse or other medical experts. Services may include temperature, respiration rate, and pulse checks, and medication administration.

Home health care

Home health care is delivered by a nurse, physical therapist, or another medical professional and may include:

  • Wound care.
  • IV or nutrition therapy.
  • Injections.
  • Monitoring of severe illness or declining health.
  • Medication monitoring.
  • Patient and caregiver education.
  • Coordinate patient care with other health professionals.
  • Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

Most states do not require personal care aides to be certified, although some agencies require certification. States vary in their requirement for home health aide certification.

Does Your Loved One Need Companion Care?

If your loved one has lost their significant other or close friends, they can feel isolated and depressed. They may lack the motivation to seek new social opportunities or cannot drive themselves. You may worry that their mental and physical well-being is declining.

Answers to the following questions may help you determine if companion care might help your elderly loved one live a happier, more fulfilling life.

  • Do they lack social interaction?
  • Are they struggling with cognitive decline or memory problems?
  • Has their grooming or hygiene slipped?
  • Does your loved one appear to be losing weight? Are they uninterested in food?
  • Are they unable to care for their pet or perform simple household tasks?
  • Are they unsure whether they’ve taken medication as directed?

How Can You Find Companion Care?

You may find family members or friends can fulfill companion care needs, but if not, you can locate companion services through various resources. While it can work well to have someone you know to serve as an unpaid companion caregiver, there can also be problems with the person not adhering to an agreed-upon schedule or duties.

A reputable home care or home health agency ensures their caregivers are trained and experienced and pass a background check successfully. Agency staff also handles employee payments and disputes.

Besides a home care agency, you may find a companion caregiver through one of the following:

  • Your local senior center
  • Church
  • Your physician
  • Eldercare locator
  • Hospice Agencies
  • AARP has various resources, including finding senior care, senior home safety tips, and much more.

Questions to ask before hiring a companion caregiver through an agency may include the following:

  1. What license does the agency possess?
  2. Do they perform background checks and verification of former employment before hiring staff?
  3. What training do companion caregivers receive? Do they have any special certifications?
  4. Who supervises the caregiver?
  5. Will my loved one have the same caregiver most of the time?
  6. How will you determine if your recommended caregiver will be a good fit with my loved one? Can we request a different caregiver if desired?
  7. How will you design a care plan for my loved one?
  8. What is the hourly rate? Is the rate higher on holidays or weekends? Do you handle payroll for my assigned caregiver?
  9. Can your agency also provide a personal care or home health aide if needed? Do you have home health medical professionals on staff?

If you are concerned that your elderly loved one isn’t receiving the friendship, social involvement, and mental stimulation they need to thrive at home, companion care can provide a wealth of benefits.

At Home Harmony provides all levels of home care for seniors and disabled individuals who want to continue living in their private homes as long as possible. We have helped older adults stay safe in their homes as they forge new social connections, improve their health and well-being, and stay connected to the world around them for twenty years. Contact our compassionate staff at 804-210-3103 or [email protected] for answers to your questions about companion care or other home care services.