In-home care or assisted living? Which is best for my aging loved one?
Most seniors do want to remain at home. In fact, according to AARP, 87% of seniors 65+ wish to age in place. And understandably so. They worked hard to pay for, build, and maintain that home for a number of years. They may have raised their family there. It is filled with memories and joy for them. There is a reason Dorothy chanted, “There’s no place like home.”
We so often hear families of our clients say that they “promised their mom or dad that they would never put them in a nursing home.” If this is you, we understand and respect that promise. However, there may come a time when you are unsure what is best for them. Sometimes placement is the safest option for an elderly adult. And the perception of “nursing home” that your loved one had in mind when they made this request is probably cliché and/or outdated. The reality is that there are a number of choices of lifestyle in senior community living today that are nothing like “nursing homes” of the past.
What should you consider when deciding whether living at home (with in-home care) is feasible for your loved one? Consider the following factors:
1. Physical Conditions
Are the physical living conditions safe? Ideally the home where the elderly person wants to remain should be set up for one-floor living, with access to a full bathroom that either is or can be modified for accessibility. Specialized equipment such as hand rails, grab bars and raised toilet seats can (and should) be installed to make things safer, and a Life Alert or a similar system should be used for emergencies.
2. Medical Conditions
Is the client mentally sound? Are they able to participate in their own care? If they have medical needs that require a skilled eye around the clock, placement will most likely be the best option for them. It is also important not to only consider what their condition is now, but do they have any condition that will cause their needs to increase dramatically in time?
3. Financial Resources
Pricing can vary greatly when it comes to both home care and community living. First, do research into what resources are in the community where your loved one lives, and their associated costs. Then, work closely with your loved one’s estate attorney, financial planner, and banker to come up with a sustainable plan for their care, whether in the home or a community.
4. Social and Community Aspects
One of the most important factors is social conditions, but it is perhaps the one most overlooked by seniors themselves. If an aging adult is living alone, they are at risk for social isolation and depression. Choosing to have your loved one in a community can decrease this risk, though not entirely eliminate it. Many seniors in communities are socially withdrawn as well.
If your loved one can age at home, make sure to implement a support system that ensures family and friends visit. Encouraging seniors to get out and enjoy activities they love is a great strategy.
When placement in a senior community is a good temporary solution
If you and your loved one’s care team do decide that placement in a senior community is best, it doesn’t have to be a permanent solution. Sometimes placement in a senior community can be a temporary solution. For example, if a senior has just suffered a traumatic situation (such as debilitating illness or injury), placement can be a good choice to allow additional planning for a safe home return. Choosing a community with excellent state survey scores and high resident/family satisfaction ratings will help ensure that your loved one has a positive experience.
If you decide that keeping your loved one at home is best, it is important to partner with a homecare agency that will listen to what your loved one’s needs are, match them with appropriate and compassionate caregivers who can meet theose needs, and work with you to manage situations that may jeopardize the aging-in-place plan. A reputable agency will come with referrals from their community partners and past clients.
No matter which decision you make, know that you have your loved one’s best interests at heart and they will only benefit from your careful planning and decision making.
About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here.