SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- California's 65 years and older population has increased to approximately 11.4 percent, and with that increase comes greater demand for personal care services. According to the December 2012 Consumer Reports on Health, the "demand for home-care aides--also known as personal-care or home-health aides--is skyrocketing." The U.S. Department of Labor projects the fastest-growing occupation in the country in 2020 will be in-home assistance. Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Living Center of Southern California, Inc. (ILCSC) Norma Jean Vescovo is seeing firsthand the impact in the number of older adults seeking services.
"We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of older adults we serve at the Center, especially this year. Thirty percent of the individuals served by the ILCSC are seniors or older adults," said Vescovo. "Although, a minority of these older adults is currently seeking personal assistant services, we believe the demand will increase."
Vescovo believes older adults may not be seeking personal assistant services because many of them are on Social Security and funds to pay for in-home services may be scarce. Consequently, many individuals rely on relatives as personal assistants and may look to receiving In-Home Supportive Services benefits (IHSS) to pay for their services.
Program Manager for the Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) Socorro Arroyo-Merchain also believes demand for services will increase. "Of the older adults we serve," said Arroyo-Merchain, "30 to 40 percent use a personal assistant service. I do believe the demand for personal care attendants will increase; however, I am unsure if that demand will be met."
As people age and change, so do their lifestyles and budgets. Older adults often find they need assistance with housing, financial management, healthcare benefits or access to services. The needs are amplified for someone who is alone for the first time after losing a spouse or companion and who doesn't want to move in with his or her family. That individual is forced to cope with the challenges and barriers threatening independence. And making the decision to accept assistance often feels like giving up and giving in.
"Our experience is that when individuals reach ages 62-65, they are concerned about changing from one benefit to another, such as private healthcare insurance to Medicare or Medi-Cal benefits," said Vescovo. "The complicated regulations and requirements, lengthy applications and technology contribute to the individual's confusion and exacerbate the concern that he or she may not be able to make it alone. This is where ILCSC can help. The Center offers support groups and independent living skills classes to assist older adults with transition services."
The DMC also offers services to older adults to help with age-related issues. In particular, the Center has the Independent Living-Older Blind (OIB) program, which offers assistance to older adults who are experiencing age-related vision loss that impacts their daily activities. The program focuses on helping older adults learn new approaches.
"We provide individualized training services in the older adult's home environment," said Arroyo-Merchain. "Our ultimate goal is to enhance the person's independence and prevent institutionalization."
Independent Living Centers, like ILCSC and DMC, collect extensive background information on individuals, which is helpful in talking with older adults about their needs, their ability to pay and eligibility for IHSS or Medi-Cal. For older adults looking for in-home personal assistant services, the ILCSC also has a list of personal assistant resources and can point IHSS-eligible adults to the Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC), which also maintains such a list. The ILCSC prepares older adults by counseling them on what to look for when hiring a personal assistant and walking them through an interview format.
DMC's personal assistance program is in its infancy but is moving toward an online application process for applicants who meet the minimum IHSS requirements. A person interested in becoming a personal care assistant in the DMC registry must have at least one year of experience as well as basic English skills.
According to Arroyo-Merchain, "An ideal personal care attendant would go through an extensive training and be able to provide transportation, if needed. The individual would be patient, speak clearly and have at least two to three recent references for verifying experience."
"Although there is no perfect process for finding the right personal care assistant, having experience, a good antenna and enlisting the aid of a friend or advocate in the interviewing process definitely can help," said Vescovo. "Look for someone who is naturally caring, displays initiative, is a good listener and sensitive to nonverbal communication, is respectful of the individual and his or her home and belongings and has gone through an extensive training program."
The California State Independent Living Council is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living.
SOURCE California State Independent Living Council