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Paid Aides—An Agency’s or Your Own?

Alfred H. “Skip” DeGraff

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There are at least two universal truths that apply to family caregivers. First, they are among the most caring, loving and generous people in today’s world. Second, sooner or later most realize that although their love and intentions to assist a family loved one are unlimited, their human stamina for providing that assistance has limitations.

Sooner or later, most families realize the need for outside relief or replacement help. Some wisely bring in outside help providers from day one to complement family caregiver efforts. Others prefer first to use only family help before eventually becoming physically and emotionally tired and asking for some relief. 
Regardless of how and when the decision is reached, the family discussion next becomes, “Where can we find quality, trustworthy providers?”

Community volunteers can be tapped to provide several types of very dedicated, responsible help. Whether the volunteers come informally from friends or through a structured organization, many families successfully reply on unpaid relief assistance.

Other families prefer to hire providers. They usually find there are two primary sources. Aides can be personally employed or contracted from agencies.
Personally employed PAs (personal aides or assistants) are often the choice of help recipients who have long-term needs and who are able to insist on maintaining a maximum control over the quality of their lifestyle. When, instead, a family prefers agency aides, it’s usually because the recipients are unwilling or unable to employ their own PAs, or they receive funding from a source that requires using aides from an approved agency. 

So, from where should your family’s auxiliary help be recruited? To begin a more detailed comparison, let’s first debunk the great myth about agency aides: “If I hire an agency aide, a professional who is experienced and trained will arrive at my door, will know exactly what needs to be done, and will simply take care of my needs while I relax, rest, and recuperate.”

Regardless of an agency aide’s abundance—or often complete absence—of experience and training, that person will arrive on the first day with the same greeting as someone personally employed, “Hello, I’m Heidi (or Sam). Please tell me what help you need, as well as how and on what schedule you want me to provide it.”


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