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Why Home Care Providers Are Increasingly Offering Companion Care Services for Seniors

Published on February 28, 2023 by Sharon Morrisette

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The course of home care is ever-changing, bringing a wealth of challenges and opportunities for providers to navigate in order to remain competitive, stay profitable, and enjoy year-on-year success.

One emerging opportunity, recently highlighted as a predicted home care trend for 2023, is the offering of extended companion care services for seniors. 

In this article, we’ll look at what companion care involves, its benefits for senior clients, and why home care providers are increasingly offering it as an additional service.

What is companion care?

What is Companion Care

Companion care provides a regular source of emotional support and companionship for seniors who are isolated and lonely but still healthy enough to continue living independently in their own homes or in a senior living community

It can also take the form of respite care – if a regular caregiver or family member needs to take some time off to recharge their batteries to avoid burnout – and also full-time, live-in companionship.

While companion care services may include practical assistance to make everyday activities more manageable for seniors – like providing transportation, light housework, and grocery shopping – it really is much more than that. It can be life-changing for those dealing with grief, loneliness, chronic illness, or simply wanting a more satisfying social life.

The key role of companion care is to provide seniors with a consistent source of social interaction, enjoyable company, and stimulating conversation – to encourage social engagement, support mental and emotional well-being, and prevent loneliness. 

As everyone’s idea of a ‘perfect companion’ varies widely, companion care services will look different for each client/patient. For example, one senior might want to be visited every day at home for a few hours to talk, share stories and hobbies, watch a movie, and share a meal. Others will favor having a companion caregiver just once a week to go for a walk with, to accompany them to social events (like the theatre, cinema, or community activities), to take them shopping, or to enjoy a meal out somewhere fancy!

Whatever form it takes, the primary aim of companion care is to help enrich a senior’s life through friendship and social support. It should cover all those little things that make life worth living – that are even better when shared with a friendly face.

The benefits that companion care can offer senior clients/patients

While senior clients/patients and their regular caregivers are likely to have a strong bond – particularly when home care providers excel at great client-caregiver matching – they may not always have enough time to spend together to cover the senior’s needs when it comes to social interaction.

This is why, for seniors who already require healthcare or personal home care services, a companion caregiver would be in addition to their regular nurse or caregiver. 

According to a report from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, one in three seniors feels isolated and lonely. This is a worrying statistic, given that the report goes on to say that: “Research shows that chronic loneliness can impact older adults’ memory, physical wellbeing, mental health, and life expectancy.”

Benefits of Senior Companion Care

So, the primary benefit that companion care can offer seniors is improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being – leading to a better quality of life – as a direct result of regular interactions with a companion caregiver.

In addition, companion care can provide that extra support needed for seniors to age safely in place for as long as possible, maintaining their independence, and limiting the need for them to move into assisted living.

Is companion care covered by insurance?

Many long-term care insurance policies now cover the cost of companion care services, typically for several hours a month, provided at home or in a senior care community. 

Private insurance policies generally cover a portion of skilled care services but not companion care.

Medicaid and Medicare programs and qualifications vary from state to state, so confirming eligibility with your state’s offices may be important for clients before starting companion care.

Six reasons why home care providers are increasingly offering companion care as an additional service

1. Improves the physical, mental, and emotional health of seniors 

As we mentioned above, social isolation and feeling lonely are prevalent among the over 65s – particularly those living alone – and are proven to be detrimental to their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging even reported that “chronic loneliness may shorten life expectancy even more than being overweight or sedentary, and just as much as smoking.”

Smart home care providers realize that they’re in a unique position to be able to address loneliness and improve the quality of life for their current clients/patients – and guarantee better care outcomes – through offering companion care services to those in need. 

This may be on a short-term basis for those recently out of the hospital and recuperating at home, or longer term for those who have lost their partner, have mobility issues, or have been flagged as high-risk by their regular caregiver.

2. Allows seniors to age in place and remain independent for longer

Just a few hours of good company, attention, and friendship a week can enrich a senior’s life in multiple meaningful ways and help them to feel valued, seen, and heard. 

In addition to the clear benefits of improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being, companion care is one of the most helpful care services in enabling seniors to remain happily independent in their own homes for longer. 

For home care providers, this is a win-win situation. Not only do they get to better serve their senior clients/patients and support their independence, but they can potentially keep these clients on their books for longer – rather than losing them to assisted living or other higher-level care communities.

3. Alleviates some of the pressure on family members

benefits of including family perspectives

Aging can be a challenging time for both the person who is getting older and their family members who witness the steady decline of their loved one into old age. It can be especially difficult for families living at a distance or those too busy to spend enough quality time with their aging loved ones due to the pressures of work, childcare, and so on. 

Home care providers understand that for these families, it’s a great comfort to know that their loved one has someone they know visiting regularly, helping with daily activities, preparing healthy meals, and ensuring they are getting out and about to social groups and events.

In other situations, a family member may be the full-time caregiver for an aging relative. In these cases, companion care services can provide some much-needed respite, significantly alleviating the pressures on the full-time family carer. At the same time, it can support seniors’ dignity and independence, particularly those who fear becoming a burden to their spouse or children.

4. There’s an increased demand from clients and their families

With the increasing rise of loneliness and isolation reported by seniors and their families, home care providers are being approached far more often to provide companion care in addition to their regular caregiver services. 

It is becoming a highly popular service as senior clients/patients are looking for ways to stay active in the community, enrich their social lives, and live their best life on their terms – which may not be possible (or enjoyable) on their own. Many want a companion to support and encourage them and help them rebuild confidence, especially if they are adjusting to losing a spouse.

This rise in popularity and demand is partly responsible for the 2023 trend of home care providers offering extended companion care services for their senior clients/patients – and has the additional benefit of increasing patient and family satisfaction and retention.

5. Opens up a new cost-effective revenue stream to expand services in 2023

Caregiver training

Of course, as a home care provider, you’ll always put the needs and safety of your clients/patients first – but there is an added advantage to offering companion care services that benefit your business’s bottom line too.

The great thing about companion care is that, in most cases, it requires limited additional training or qualification, so it can be a cost-effective addition to the services you already provide. You can use existing caregivers to provide these services, helping to increase their weekly hours and income – or hire new caregivers that can be easily onboarded and trained for other duties over time.

As a ‘hands-off/non-touch care’ for seniors who don’t require medical attention, the basic requirements for companion caregivers are compassion, excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, flexibility, and observational skills to monitor clients’ physical and emotional well-being. And possibly a driver’s license!

Each state has its own training and qualification prerequisites for companion caregivers – if they have any at all – so you’ll need to check out your state’s department of health requirements.

In addition to being able to add these services cost-effectively to extend their offering to current clients/patients, home care providers are increasingly finding they’re also attracting new clients/patients and families as a result. 

6. Provides growth opportunities for caregivers that can impact retention

In many cases, your current caregivers will be able to take on companion care roles in addition to their existing client list without needing extensive training. It’s still an excellent opportunity for them to develop their caregiver skills, try out a new role, and possibly mentor new hires that you take on in the future. 

For those caregivers seeking greater training and development opportunities, providing companion care for specific senior groups – for example, those with developing dementia – can help meet this need, increase engagement, and potentially impact retention. 

In addition, with the ongoing caregiver shortages, this can be an ideal opportunity to take on less-experienced new hires with the interpersonal skills needed for companion care – who you can then nurture and develop over time to help build a robust, performance-driven caregiver team.

How Smartcare Software can help

If you’re considering adding new services, like companion care, to extend your home care offerings in 2023, Smartcare Software can help.

Smartcare Software tools can support your efforts to extend home care services with minimum hassle for superior client outcomes, increased caregiver retention, and reduced admin overheads. 

Please get in touch with us for more details or request a free demo