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Reliable in-home helper allows elders to be independent longer

Dear Savvy Senior: I would like to hire an in-home helper for my 82-year-old mother to assist with household chores such as housekeeping, grocery shopping and driving her to the doctor. But Mom doesn’t require personal caregiving, nor does she require home medical care. Any tips to help us find someone? —Searching Sarah

Dear Sarah: Getting your mother some help at home to handle some of her day-to-day chores is a smart idea that can make a big difference in keeping her independent longer. Here’s are some tips to help you find someone reliable.

In-home help

For seniors who could use some help at home but don’t need a caregiving aide for personal care, there are homemakers/home helpers you can hire who can help make life a little easier.

Most in-home helpers can assist with any number of tasks, such as shopping, running errands, transportation, light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, arranging services (home maintenance, lawn care, etc.) and other household chores, along with providing companionship and support. And, if your mom gets to the point that she needs personal care such as bathing or dressing, many home helpers can assist with this too.

Most home helpers are part-time workers who work a few hours a day or a few days a week.

You also need to know that while Medicare does cover home health care services if a doctor orders it, it does not cover in-home homemaker/helper services.

There are two ways that you can hire someone for your mom: either through a home care agency or directly on your own.

Home care agency

Hiring a home helper through a nonmedical home care or nonmedical companion care agency is the easiest, but more costly, option. Fees typically run from $15 to $25 an hour, depending on where you live.

How it works: You pay the company, and they handle everything including assigning trained and pre-screened staff to assist your mother with chores. They also find fill-ins on days her helper cannot come.

Some of the drawbacks: You may not have much input into the selection of the helper, and helpers may change or alternate.

To find a home care agency in your area, type “non-medical home care” in a search engine followed by the city and state where your mom lives. You can also use Medicare’s home health services search tool at — click on “home health services.” Other alternatives: Most home health agencies offer some form of nonmedical home care services, and check your local yellow pages under “home health services.”

Hiring directly

Hiring a personal assistant/home helper on your own is less expensive. Costs typically run $12 to $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire, allowing you to choose someone who you feel is well suited for your mom.

But be aware that if you do hire someone on your own, there’s no agency support to fall back on if a problem occurs or if the assistant doesn’t show up. You’re also responsible for paying payroll taxes and any worker- related injuries that may occur. If you choose this option, make sure you check the person’s references thoroughly and do a criminal background check.

To find someone, ask for referrals through friends or search online at sites such as and

For more information on hiring in-home help, the Family Caregiver Alliance offers a helpful guide that you can access at

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit

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