I have an older friend, Beryl, who needs assistance in order to continue living in her home. She broke her hip two years ago and now has difficulty with bathing, housework and grocery shopping, to name a few of the tasks that we all need to do on a daily basis.

Beryl used to have a helper come to her apartment a few times a week. This arrangement was working pretty well.

Everything was going pretty well, that is, until the pandemic began.

Beryl became afraid of having her helper come into her apartment — despite the many safety procedures put in place by home health worker agencies. So, she canceled her helper. This eased her fears somewhat, but created other problems. Beryl wasn’t able to bathe, and her apartment quickly became a complete mess. Her daughter brought her groceries but didn’t always stick to the shopping list. 

Beryl called her care manager at SeniorCare and learned about “consumer-directed care.” Using consumer-directed care, Beryl would be able to choose and hire her own helper. The helper might be a friend or family member, easing her concerns about having an unknown person come into her home during the pandemic.

Consumer-directed care is available to people who have been been assessed and found eligible for a state-funded home care program. The consumer becomes the employer; is allowed to choose his or her home care worker (or workers); set the schedule; and assign tasks that fit specific needs that may not be allowed with a traditional home care agency, such as assisting with pets, certain cleaning tasks and assistance with unique medical care as the consumer trains the worker in carrying out these tasks.

A “fiscal intermediary” agency takes care of the payroll, tax withholding and other accounting tasks that are required of a legal employer. The FI agency is contracted and paid by SeniorCare. The rate of pay for the worker, who submits a weekly timesheet, is determined by state mandates. The consumer is responsible for the hiring, training, scheduling, and — if needed — the termination of the home care worker. 

The consumer chooses his or her own workers, but must follow some basic rules. The worker must be:

1. Legally authorized to work in the United States and have a Social Security number.

2. Able to pass a CORI screening.

3. Able to understand and carry out directions from the consumer.

4. Willing to receive training and supervision for all designated tasks.

Consumer-directed care is an excellent option for elders wishing to take more control of their care. If the consumer needs assistance with managing the responsibilities of being an employer, a surrogate may be brought into the picture. A surrogate may manage the entire program for the consumer or may assist with specific tasks. The surrogate can be a spouse, friend, neighbor or family member. The surrogate cannot be the worker.

For more information about consumer-directed care, please call SeniorCare at 978-281-1750 and ask to speak with an information and referral specialist or with your care manager if you are already a SeniorCare consumer.

Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., a local agency on aging that serves Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

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