Not all aspects of heath care are strictly medical. Many people who are receiving some type of health care also require personal care and general support, ranging from assistance with bathing and dressing to transportation to doctor appointments and caring for the home and chores. Good personal care and support are important aspects of care because they help people live more normal lives with dignity.

Personal care can be provided in a hospital setting, in a residential facility, at adult day care, and in the home. Caregivers for personal care are generally unskilled but nurses may offer personal care through the course of their medical duties. In addition to the practical nature of personal care, patients and older adults can also get companionship, security, and greater flexibility from personal care and support services.

What is Personal Care and Support?

Personal care and support services refer to aspects of care that do not involve skilled medical care but that do support a patient or resident by assisting them with things they cannot do alone or at all. There are many things that may fall under the heading of personal care and support, but here are some examples of common services offered as personal care:

  • Assistance with personal hygiene, including bathing and brushing teeth.
  • Help with mobility, such as getting around the home.
  • Assistance with dressing, eating, and taking medications.
  • Organizing making appointments for therapy or medical care.
  • Preparing meals.
  • Cooking and doing other household chores.
  • Running errands or assisting with errands.
  • Managing finances.
  • Transportation.
  • Providing, planning, or assisting with recreational activities.

Who Needs Personal Care?

Anyone who cannot fully care for themselves, maintain the home or yard, drive or use public transportation, or stay organized and on top of medical needs can benefit from receiving support services or personal care. This may include developmentally disabled adults, physically disabled adults, people who are temporarily disabled or sick, older adults, and adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Where Personal Care and Support Services Are Provided

Personal care services can be provided in any setting where someone needs it. In-home care is a common situation in which personal care is utilized. In-home personal care can be used to help an older or disabled adult remain living in his or her own home when the alternative would be to move to assisted living or a nursing home. It helps these adults to remain independent and comfortable in their homes for longer.

This kind of care is not just available as an in-home service. Adults who live in assisted living facilities also receive personal care. These types of facilities typically offer personal care as an optional service. Staff there may provide bathing and eating assistance, medication reminders, and other types of personal care as well as support services like laundry, cleaning, and transportation or help with grocery shopping.

Personal care is also an important aspect of care provided in medical settings. In a nursing home or a hospital, or any medical center in which a patient is staying for any period of time, staff members are available to provide assistance with personal needs, like bathing, using the bathroom, walking, and dressing.

Benefits of Personal Care

Beyond the obvious practical need for assistance, there are several benefits for adults receiving personal care and support services. Adults who cannot be fully independent gain more freedom when they get assistance with personal tasks. Relying on a personal caregiver allows them to stay at home longer if that is what they prefer. This kind of in-home care can be as-needed, regular, or even 24 hours a day to meet a person’s needs.

Personal care helps keep people safe. When an older adult tries to do household tasks that they are not really able to do, accidents often result. Personal caregivers also help ensure that people are taking their medicines correctly and attending all necessary doctors’ appointments. For those with very limited mobility, caregivers can help provide comfort and prevent bed sores.

Getting good personal care can improve a person’s mood and overall quality of life by making sure they can get the basic necessities done, such as bathing regularly and using the toilet safely and with good sanitary practices. Support services that maintain the home and yard help older adults feel good about their surroundings, while transportation allows them to still be able to go out and do things or socialize with friends.

Personal Care as Companionship

An aspect of personal care that is not always an obvious benefit is companionship. It is an intangible factor as compared to the practicality of chores and hygiene care, but having someone as a companion during the day can be a great benefit for many people who live alone. An older adult may not want to leave the home to live in a residential facility but may also struggle with loneliness. Having a regular caregiver, even for an hour or two a day can be a great benefit and an antidote to loneliness.

Selecting Personal Caregivers

Most people who provide personal care and support are not skilled workers, although some may have basic first aid or other type of health care training. Selecting caregivers or a service company is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your loved one gets excellent personal care. For individual caregivers, get a background check, check references, and interview each candidate thoroughly. For a service that provides caregivers, make sure they do the same for the people they hire, and ensure the agency is licensed or certified by the state.

To narrow down your options, allow your loved one to have a say. The person who will be receiving the care should be comfortable with the caregiver. Once you do hire a caregiver, stay involved and monitor the care to make sure it remains at the highest level of quality. People who provide care are largely compassionate and experienced, but people who need care are naturally vulnerable and it is important to monitor ongoing care.

Personal care and support are so important in overall health care. These services help keep patients healthy and happy and when used in the home also help the family caregiver get a break to rest and recuperate. Quality of personal care can vary a lot, but it is up to the loved ones of the person who needs care to ensure that the best caregiver is selected and provides the compassionate care that is needed.