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Health & Longevity

Weighing the Pros and Cons Between Assisted Living and Home Care

Aging often means dealing with life changes that are emotionally and financially onerous. When the time comes to determine whether your elder loved one needs elder home care or assisted living services, it can be difficult for both of you to decide which service to choose. It’s as important to honor the senior’s feelings in this discussion as it is to face realities like your financial situation, the medical needs of the senior, and other factors in both your lives that determine what the ideal choice for you is. 

How to Choose Between An Assisted Living Facility and At Home Care Services 

Although challenging, it can be helpful to weigh the pros and cons of assisted living versus home care when making such a decision. Here are some things to consider to help make the process easier.

The Benefits and Downsides of Assisted Living Facilities 

Benefits of Aging in Assisted Living 

Assisted living facilities provide social, medical, transportation, and other services to a community of residents to grant assistance with certain daily tasks. They can be a tremendous help when dealing with problems associated with aging, like decreased cognitive ability and mobility. 

Safety and medical care are the most significant factors that cause many to seek assisted living over home care for their elderly loved ones. Assisted care facilities usually include amenities like ramps, grip rails, and access to equipment like wheelchairs and walkers to help residents enjoy greater mobility.  The trained staff at assisted living facilities can help seniors with chores, bathing, hygiene, meal preparation, nutrition, taking medication, and other essential tasks that may be hard for some people of advanced age. They can adapt to the changing needs of the senior as needed. 

These communities also provide security services with controlled access to the building and security personnel, minimizing the dangers of incidents like break-ins faced by seniors who live at home. The staff at assisted care facilities can also respond promptly to falls and other medical emergencies.

Besides injuries caused by falls and other health problems associated with aging, loneliness is a significant health risk for older adults. Besides providing services and amenities to make their daily lives smoother and safer, assisted living facilities offer many social opportunities for their residents. Seniors in these communities play games, watch television, participate in hobbies, and have conversations with other residents. Seniors in such communities can enjoy a sense of community and friendship with other residents, which can be a major boon to their long-term health and well-being.

Downsides of Aging in Assisted Living 

Despite all the benefits that assisted living facilities provide, there are drawbacks. The biggest of which is that they can be cost-prohibitive for some. The median cost for assisted living in the U.S. is $4,000 per month. This figure can go up when you factor in additional expenses like medication and medical procedures the senior may need over time. 

Although social services like Medicare and Medicaid may help, they cannot cover room and board. Some states may have alternative programs to help offset the costs, but these programs’ availability varies from state to state. The high costs of assisted living facilities are a big part of why many people prefer to age in place.

Some seniors may want to avoid assisted living facilities because they fear the loss of their independence.  Although they can offer much personal freedom by providing essential services, taking up residence in an assisted living facility can mean less independence than living at home. Most of these facilities have rules that limit visitation from those outside the community. Depending on each case, these communities may have limited entertainment, diet, and travel options.

Sometimes people want to be alone, no matter what age they are. Enjoying solitude every now and then can be normal and healthy. Depending on the needs of the senior and the capabilities of the care facility, privacy may be another concern. Some communities may not guarantee a private room, and some families may not be able to afford one. Some seniors may prefer more privacy than others or may not abide by rules for specific group settings.

Seniors living in assisted care communities also receive less individualized care than those living at home. The staff at these facilities have to take care of many residents every day, causing the treatment they give to be somewhat less individualized. 

The Benefits and Downsides of At Home Care Services 

Benefits of Aging in Place With the Help of At Home Care Services 

According to a 2018 AARP study, more than three out of four older adults in the U.S. prefer to age in place or remain in their homes through advanced age. Studies show that those who do tend to stay happier for longer.

There are several advantages to elder home care services. For one, the cost of assisted living versus in-home care is relatively high, making home care a desirable alternative for many. 

Many services provide personal care for seniors in their homes that can be far less costly and potentially provide more individualized care. Specialized equipment like adjustable home hospital beds can also be purchased for home use instead of relying on equipment provided by an assisted living facility. 

Seniors may also be able to receive support through their community. Community members can sometimes help with basic chores like taking out the trash or running errands, and some communities have volunteer programs to help seniors in various ways. Depending on the resources available in their community, some seniors may not even need an assisted care facility.

Those who receive elder home care services have more freedom to visit with family and friends, especially if they have to rely on close connections like this for their basic needs. This allows them to spend more time with friends and family and to have greater flexibility when negotiating a schedule for care that works best for everyone. Creating an elder home care plan can also help those not comfortable trusting strangers to help take care of them.

Downsides of Aging in Place With the Help of At Home Care Services 

Although home care services for the elderly may seem like the preferable option for many due to the comparatively lower costs, the reality is that seniors may need a variety of services that can add up. 

Those who rely on elder home care services have less access to the equipment they may need to maintain their health or mobility than those in an assisted care community. Although you can buy much of it for home use, it can be expensive. If necessary, the costs of maintaining equipment and hiring someone to help the senior use it in their homes can prove to be a considerable expense, especially if they need separate services for things like transportation and medical treatment.

Seniors who choose to age in place may not have access to other amenities and services typically available to those in assisted living facilities, like security. Home security features like 24-hour camera surveillance can be expensive, and while these systems can be very effective, they don’t usually involve on-site security personnel as some care facilities do.

Some services like Medicaid and Medicare can help cover these costs. That being said, the extent to which they are covered varies by state and may not cover everything. Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance companies in the U.S. are based on a highly bureaucratic system, and navigating it can be highly taxing for seniors and their families.

Consider also that taking care of older adults costs you time as well as money, especially if you’re taking care of their groceries, cleaning up after them, and performing maintenance and care tasks. Your time is important too, and if you don’t have the space in your schedule to provide necessary care for an older adult, it may behoove you to consider other options.

How to Choose the Ideal Form of Support as You Age 

When it comes to deciding between moving a senior to a personal care home or assisted living facility, it’s imperative that you have an open, honest conversation with the senior about their needs and your ability—as well as their ability—to take care of themselves long-term. Make sure to respect their feelings. Remember that whatever you decide, their lives will completely change in ways they will have to deal with daily. 

At the same time, be honest and don’t shy away from things that are hard to talk about. Suppose your parent or other older person in your life is experiencing difficulties that cause them to neglect important tasks at home, make it unsafe for them to leave their home alone, or experience increased isolation, for example. In that case, it may be time to consider starting elder home care services or moving to an assisted living facility.

Each relationship is unique, and you know your family member best. By assessing what services, equipment, and medical treatment they need, by working together, you can find the ideal way to take care of the seniors in your life that honors their emotional needs while ensuring their physical needs are met fully.

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