Safe at Home VII: Clueless in Sun City Center

Published on: March 10, 2016


Seventh in a series

Jimmy Curtis

Jimmy Curtis

I was clueless when I became Mo’s primary caregiver. But that’s what happens when you meet your new neighbor lying in the parking lot. After Mo fell for eight consecutive days and was hauled to South Bay Hospital five times, I got a clue: Someone needs to do something — and do it fast!

That person was me. Mo had lost his wife, his only child was 1,500 miles away, and he ran away from his assisted living facility.After four months, Mo is flourishing. I found a loving woman who treats him like family and cooks him nutritious home-cooked meals. Now he is fat, happy, and safe at home. He no longer needs meds for high-blood pressure.

Meanwhile, my involuntary on-the-job training has served me well. Here’s how it should be done:

1. Determine your in-home care budget.

How much money is available for a caregiver? This will help you make important decisions about the number of hours you can afford. Talk with the individuals and other family members to nail down roughly how much money you can pool to pay for in-home care to get started. Then you can start looking at other options for ongoing care.

If ongoing care is necessary, you can consider cashing in a life insurance policy or annuity, selling a home or getting a reverse mortgage — but none of these moves will get you cash in a hurry.

The person may be eligible for some degree of in-home care coverage through health insurance, long-term disability insurance, Medicare/Medicaid or veterans’ benefits.

Mo has applied for aid and attendance benefits, since he is a World War II vet. Right now, I am leading the way through the maze of rules and regs. More on-the-job training.

Commercial providers charge $18-22 per hour with a 3-to-4-hour minimum per day. Mo needs 18 hours per day or 540 hours per month. One franchise operator said he could reduce the rate to $17 per hour or $9,180 per month. I use a part-time caregiver to provide relief on weekends at $15 per hour.

2. Plan an in-home care schedule

Once you know how much money is available for in-home care, and you have a sense of your loved one’s needs, draft a caregiver’s schedule. How many hours per day do you need (or can afford)? What times and days?

3. Start your in-home care search.

The main ways to find in-home caregivers include word of mouth, checking with online or newspaper classified ads, and using an employment agency that specializes in in-home caregivers.

The main difference between hiring independently and going through an agency is that agencies are usually more expensive but handle most of the paperwork, such as tax and Social Security forms. Agencies also screen employees. Plus, they apply a team approach. No need to worry about your one and only caregiver calling in sick.

4. Identify the right in-home caregiver.

When you’re working fast, a few things can help you make a good caregiver match. First, weed out caregivers or agencies over the phone if they don’t meet your scheduling or financial needs. Trust your instincts, ruling out anyone or any place you don’t feel good about. Narrow down an “interview” list and meet these people in person, with the person in your care if this is appropriate.

By blind luck or the grace of God (my choice), I found the perfect caregiver for Mo at half the price. It had to be divine intervention because I was clueless. Now that I have knowledge, and knowledge is power, I am prepared to help others in need. Feel free to contact me and I will try to help.

Jimmy Curtis is a retired journalist and an entrepreneur. He can be reached at or 813-331-3471.