When I was a child, my grandfather was about my age now and still working as an insurance agent.

Often, I would go with him to collect premiums or check out claims. One home we used to visit was a woman who took care of a few veterans who lived with her. It is a little ironic that I was in this home at all because this woman was a Domiciliary Care Provider (Dom Care) for the Area Agency on Aging. This service is not used at all in our community, but it is a very valuable tool that we need to resurrect.

Dom Care is one of the few cooperative planning programs the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, Office of Mental Health, Office of Mental Retardation, and the Office of Income Maintenance. A Dom Care home is a private residence that can serve up to three people unrelated to the host family. The host family provides supervision, meals, assistance with personal care and laundry, routine transportation and medication distribution. There is a daily rate of compensation for the host family for each of the three people staying with them.

We drive by personal care homes all the time. They provide a communal living environment to many older adults and people with special needs. Staffing normally meets the regulatory requirements and the many of the staff genuinely care for the residents as if they were their own family members. All too often they are facing the needs of many and cannot give the attention to everyone that requires it. It’s not their fault; it’s a flaw of our system.

A Dom Care home is a real home. It’s a true, community-based living environment for individuals who can not live independently. These older adults get to live in their own communities and have the support they need to remain free of an institutional setting. Dom Care providers build relationships with these older adults and often give the older adult the feeling of being a part of a family. That sense of belonging alone is a tremendous gift. In an earlier article, we looked at the health risks associated with senior isolation. This model combats it on another level.

Who qualifies for Dom Care? Pennsylvania residents over the age of 18 who do not require skilled or intermediate nursing care, special hospital care and are independently or semi-independently mobile. The person does not have a family member capable of caring for them and they really cannot, or should not, live on their own.

They must meet one of the following criteria: they have difficulties in accomplishing daily living tasks independently; they have difficulties with social or personal adjustment; or they difficulties resulting from a disability. These categories are broad because they cover such a large spectrum of individuals.

I am hoping that at least one person reading this is asking, “how can I become a Dom Care provider?”

Well, if you are a 21-year-old Pennsylvania resident, you must reside in the home you are offering to host the person in, you can show that you have not been convicted of a crime related to assault or moral turpitude, and you are able and willing to work with the Area Agency on Aging to care for a person with age-related, physical or behavioral difficulties, you would qualify. You need homeowners’ insurance, character references and a physical, too. These are simple assurances for the safety of all involved.

If you do become a provider, you are not alone. Our office will be there to help you with coordination of services, care management and applying for services. We will support you as a teammate, not just the oversight body that makes sure your home remains “compliant.” Colleagues from Behavioral Health and the State County Assistance Office are on the team to make sure all the bases are covered.

Like all systems, there are rules and regulations. There needs to be an evacuation plan in case of a fire, along with household rules. These are not overly complicated expectations, and there is help available to get them all in place.

As I said early, we have no one taking advantage of this system currently. Our community has seen several personal care home closures in recent years. This means people can be moved from the community they know and love to some other part of the state because they have nowhere to go. If you are even considering being a provider, call us. This isn’t a high-pressure sale; we don’t even have an older adult lined up for the program. This is an opportunity to work with us to change the life a person forever. We need you on our team.

Jason Kavulich is the director of Lackawanna County’s Area Agency on Aging. For more information on services available or on becoming a dom care provider, call 570-963-6740.

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