The number of U.S. citizens aged 65 or older is growing with each passing year and is expected to reach 80 million by 2040. Of that number, the percentage of people requiring additional care is also sharply rising. Long-term care facilities, already struggling in the wake of COVID-19, are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
It’s unsurprising that more and more families are choosing in-home elder care. Not only is it often less expensive than the alternatives, but it’s also beneficial for a range of different reasons. With that said, it’s important to understand that it may not always be the correct choice.
We’ll go over why you might want to consider allowing your loved ones to age in place and at what point you should reconsider.
The Benefits of Aging In Place
The clearest benefit of at-home care—aside from potentially costing less than residential care—is that it allows a senior to enjoy the comfort of familiar surroundings instead of being uprooted to a care facility. This also allows a person to remain independent, retaining much more control over their life than would otherwise be possible. For patients with dementia, the presence of familiar surroundings may help mitigate the effects of memory loss, if only slightly.
Given the horror stories we’ve all heard about senior living facilities throughout the pandemic, it should also go without saying that your loved one’s own home may be the safest environment for them. This is especially true if you contract the services of a professional caregiver who can help keep the home tidy. Said caregivers can also deliver better, more personalized care, as their patient is not just one of many in a facility but their primary focus.
Oddly enough, long-term care facilities can actually contribute to feelings of isolation. In a study conducted in 2020, the number of people in care homes reporting feelings of loneliness was nearly double that of community-dwelling participants. At-home care, it turns out, often feels far less lonely. Your loved one not only has the company of their caregiver but may also see friends, neighbors, and family without having to schedule visitations.
All of the above culminates in what may well be the most important benefit of all—the health and well-being of your loved one. Wellness, after all, is about more than medication and exercise. It’s about keeping one in a good place mentally and emotionally.
And that’s much more difficult to do if someone feels isolated, restricted, or forgotten.
Types of In-Home Elder Care
You have three options for in-home elder care, depending on your needs.
The simplest type of in-home care and the easiest to provide, companion carers do not typically possess any medical knowledge or training beyond the basics, nor do they provide medical services. Instead, they are exactly what their name suggests—companions who spend time with the senior citizen and keep them safe.
They may also provide additional services such as cleaning, transportation, groceries, and appointment scheduling.
Personal Care Assistance
Personal care assistance offers a similar level of service to what one would find in a care home. A personal care aide carries out all the responsibilities of an elder companion while also helping with hygienic activities and eating. This is typically best suited for mobility-limited seniors without any specific medical needs.
As is the case with companion care, most personal care aides are not medically licensed and possess only limited medical training.
Home healthcare typically involves an aide with at least a nursing certification, though some may hold even more advanced credentials. In addition to providing basic care for their patient, they also administer medication, provide physiotherapy services, and assist with medical equipment. It should go without saying that if your loved one requires specialized medical care that they cannot manage on their own, you’ll want to go with home healthcare.
Costs of In-Home Care
The cost of in-home elder care largely depends on your state and the type and amount of care you require. As you might expect, the costs can be negligible in some cases. In others, they’re far more significant than a long-term care home. With that said, given there are some commonalities between at-home care services, we can at least give you some idea of what to expect.
First, the vast majority of care providers charge an hourly rate, although some may offer discounts for month-to-month contracts. Most home care agencies in 2020 charged $24-$26 per hour. Again, this may be higher or lower depending on the level of care.
There’s considerable variance in the total monthly costs of in-home care, ranging from a little over $1000 for fully independent living to upwards of $17,000 per month for home healthcare.
By comparison, assisted living facilities cost roughly $4300 per month—meaning that they may be considerably more affordable in some cases.
How Can I Pay for In-Home Elder Care?
The good news is that most senior citizens qualify for Medicare, which covers in-home healthcare—though it offers no coverage for personal care assistance or companion care. Medicaid also covers in-home healthcare and may offer limited coverage of other in-home options depending on your state. Finally, Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a joint program between Medicare and Medicaid, exists as an option to cover both medical and non-medical in-home care services for senior citizens.
You’ll need to check your state’s legislation to determine which of these programs you qualify for. Medical insurance aside, there are a few other options you might consider when paying for in-home elder care:
- Veteran’s Benefits. If your loved one receives a VA pension, they may qualify for benefits such as Aid and Attendance. The beneficiary may use this monthly benefit to pay for care services at their discretion.
- Long-Term Care Insurance. Many insurance companies that offer long-term care services also make allowances for in-home care. However, we recommend carefully reading any insurance policies before committing to any plans.
- Life Insurance. Depending on the policy, you or your loved one may be able to qualify for an early payout on your life insurance. This money can then be put towards paying for in-home care and a range of other services.
- Reverse Mortgage. As a last resort, you may choose to borrow money against the equity in your home. This carries an element of risk, however. As such, we’d only recommend this if you have exhausted all other options.
Is In-Home Elder Care The Right Choice For You?
Generally, if you can comfortably afford in-home elder care, we believe it’s superior to any other option, full stop. The key phrase there is comfortably afford. If you have trouble making ends meet when paying for in-home care, you may have no choice but to consider an alternative.