A: These providers primarily deal with the activities of daily living (ADLs)—the things we usually do to take care of ourselves. These include bathing/showering, dressing/undressing, eating/self-feeding, transferring (getting out of bed and into a chair), ambulation (walking), and toileting (or taking care of incontinence).

The providers also support the ADLs through Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)—the stuff that makes the ADLs possible. For example, eating is an ADL, but how did the food get onto the plate and in front of the person who is eating it? That process of shopping, cooking, and cleaning up is an IADL. IADLs also include things like using the telephone and technology that allow a person to remain independent in their own home.

Home care agencies are excellent resources for providing services for both ADLs and IADLs. They can provide staff to shop, cook, clean, provide companionship and more. Many agencies also have nurses to offer medication management.

Home care agencies often are staffed by certified nursing assistants (CNAs). CNAs undergo specialized training and certification, and if part of an agency, should undergo continuing education and training.

People often make the mistake of assuming anyone can provide these services and hire their next-door neighbor’s cleaning woman’s sister to take care of their mother. Please understand that taking care of an older adult is more than cooking and cleaning. Reputable agencies hire trained professionals, train them, conduct national background checks, are licensed/bonded/insured, and have backup plans in place. They are trained to identify and handle emergencies, and they have procedures in place to recognize problems and quickly correct them.