Home Instead caregiver Judy Cumbee is pictured in the home of Sterling Heights resident Larry Bowes Jan. 29.

Home Instead caregiver Judy Cumbee is pictured in the home of Sterling Heights resident Larry Bowes Jan. 29.

Photo by Deb Jacques

COVID-19 spikes demand for in-home senior services

By: Mark Vest | Metro | Published February 10, 2021


METRO DETROIT — Sterling Heights resident Roxanne Hayes has an 86-year-old father who lives with her and her husband.

Hayes and her husband both work, and around last March or April, they began to utilize the services of an in-home senior services organization..

“They’re a real good companion for my dad,” Hayes said. “He can’t take care of himself too well. I don’t think we could do this without them. I don’t think he’d be able to live with us without their help.”

In-home care can vary from two hours a day a couple days per week to 24/7 service. For overnight service, caregivers work in shifts.

Kerry Pareja owns a Home Instead franchise in Shelby Township.

From her perspective, the demand for in-home services has been “huge.”

Because of COVID, “We’ve had an increase in need, along with the fact that the population is aging so quickly,” Pareja said.

In-home care services can help seniors by making meals, performing light housekeeping, keeping track of medications, driving them to doctor’s appointments and the store, and helping them get dressed and in and out of the shower.

Like Home Instead, Right at Home has locations in Oakland and Macomb County, as well as Grosse Pointe.

Right at Home’s main office is in Bloomfield Hills.

Belinda Grunewald is a Right at Home co-owner and president.

“What I get a lot are seniors that are just starting care and they don’t want help because they want to be independent,” Grunewald said. “I usually tell them that they will be independent if they get our help. … They will continue to live an independent life and a safe life, but with our help.”

Grunewald said some companies, including Right at Home, work with Veterans Affairs, and that a veteran or the spouse of a veteran can have services paid for by the VA.

“The Area Agency on Aging 1-B, which operates in six counties in Michigan, including Oakland and Macomb, has a program called MI Choice.

Kathleen Yanik, who is a communications manager for the agency, said the program is delivered through state Medicaid dollars.

The program is available for individuals who are 65 and older, as well as younger adults with disabilities.

To qualify, an applicant’s monthly income must be $2,382 or less, with $2,000 or less in assets.

Yanik said qualification also requires a “nursing home level of care,” such as cognitive decline.

Those who do qualify can get an array of services.

“It’s kind of all the help and support you need with activities of daily living,” Yanik said. “It really does provide a robust amount of wrap-around services that helps people stay in the home instead of entering the nursing home.”

The AAA 1-B does not deliver care but has a “pool of home care agencies that go into the home and provide those services.”

The agency can help direct those who don’t qualify for MI Choice to other options.

From Yanik’s perspective, staying at home is what many seniors and families prefer.

“And it can also be a great help to family caregivers,” she said. “When I talk about family caregivers, I mean anyone who is providing unpaid care to a loved one.”

For more information, visit aaa1b.org or call (800) 852-7795.

Michael Marohn is the franchise owner of a HomeWell Care Services location in Troy.

Aside from “viruses and illnesses that can be contracted in a facility,” he considers one-on-one attention to be another advantage of home care services.

“It’s more one-on-one care,” Marohn said.

Comfort can also play a big role in some people’s choice to utilize home care services.

“They can basically age in place within home care services,” Marohn said. “A lot of it’s mostly familiarity and being there.”

For more information, call (248) 866-6161 or visit homewell cares.com/oaklandcounty.

Some of the seniors who receive in-home care services have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, for which Pareja said there is special training.

She estimated that 20% of the approximately 70 Home Instead clients have dementia.

For seniors who have issues with memory loss, in-home services can be particularly important, as having someone nearby can be vital for their safety.

“What people are looking for the most is someone to be there,” Grunewald said. “When memory issues come into play, someone to be there to make sure that this person remembers to eat, to remind them to drink water so they don’t get sick, to remind them and walk with them to the bathroom. … If they’re left alone, they would get in trouble really, really fast.”

Grunewald provided examples of what kind of trouble that could be.

“They can turn on the oven or the stove,” she said. “They could wander out in the snow without shoes or a coat on. I’m always urging people who have a senior parent or relative to make sure that they get someone to help.”

Shelby Township resident Elizabeth Stemple has been a caregiver for Home Instead for more than 10 years. She has observed that seniors look forward to her arrival because, prior to that, “they were probably sitting there all alone.”

Despite challenges, there are some rewarding aspects that go along with her job.

“The satisfying part is being able to see seniors participate in life still, even with compromises from getting (older),” Stemple said. “They can still stay in their home. You can help them by seeing them enjoy dinner you’ve made or going out, and maybe enjoying friends that you haven’t seen in a while.”

When considering a gratifying part of her job, Pareja’s attention turned toward a client.

“We’ve had a client for maybe seven years or longer; he’s now 102 years old,” she said. “He’s had the same caregiver consistently, and the two of them work out so beautifully. He’s helped this man age in place. … It’s so gratifying to help people.”

Aside from providing training for caregivers, Home Instead also has nurses that make quality assurance visits.

The demand for in-home services has been so high that Pareja said the most challenging part right now is hiring. She has been a franchise owner for approximately 17 years and said, “It’s more than I have seen it before.”

“Because the business is growing, rapidly growing, with untapped job opportunity, we see the need to keep bringing in professional caregivers,” Pareja said. “We’re trying to gather as many good, quality people as we can.”