I manage the affairs of my aunt, who is 78 and lives alone. She has home care workers visit every day, but she often refuses to answer the door. The agency then calls me at work to see if everything is okay, but I can’t do much as I live out of town. What can I do?
At our agency, we look after a woman who is 91 and lives alone in her condo. At first we had problems getting in, mostly because she felt insecure with strangers in her home. However, we quickly learned that she felt most secure with one particular employee. We learned the client was reacting this way to this particular person because of the way she presented herself. She wore urban clothes, had make-up on, was very respectful, and always asked what the client wanted, and so on.
We also discovered that the woman often forgot about our appointment times. To help her remember them, we:
- Made signs that said the time and name of the caregiver and attached them in strategic places in the apartment: near the bed (where she spends the majority of her time), on the fridge and on the front door. We even added a picture to these signs, to stimulate all three spher of her memory; time, space and person.
- Ensured our personnel were consistent in their arrival times to reinforce the woman’s idea of being visited.
- Developed a good relationship with the landlord and concierge, so we could count on them to open doors from time to time.
During each visit, each care worker followed a particular routine:
- Ring the bell (a few times).
- If no answer, call the client on the phone.
- If no answer, ask for the door to be opened (by the landlord, concierge, etc.).
- Call the family and the office to let them know.
- Once entering the apartment, knock on the door and call the client’s name to prevent startling the client.
- Always explain why you entered the apartment.
In this particular case, the client’s health has recently deteriorated, so we asked the family for a set of keys.
In your aunt’s situation, talk to her and to the agency to learn why she’s not answering the door. She may be uncomfortable having visitors in her home, may be forgetting the appointments, or have some other reason. Identifying the reason will help you devise an appropriate solution.