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Home Care vs. Assisted Living

It can be challenging to know where to turn for help when an aging parent’s health begins to decline. Assisted living? Home care? Becoming a caretaker for them?

There are so many options for support in the senior care industry that it can become overwhelming, and it’s common for adult children and senior parents to struggle to settle on the best solution.

For some seniors, aging at home is very possible and the ideal solution. While for others, assisted living might give them more of the things they need to enjoy their golden years.

Whatever your situation (or the situation of a loved one) may be, it’s important to know the similarities and differences of both of these care options, in addition to the pros and cons of each.

What is Home Care?

Also called private duty care, in-home care is for older adults who want to receive care services at their home, enabling them to age in place (at least for the short term) in safety. Professional caregivers can help with anything from light housekeeping to personal care and meal preparation. This can be a good option for seniors in the following situations:

  • Seniors who require a moderate level of assistance
  • Seniors with nonmedical needs that can be met with a few hours of support each day
  • Someone whose home is easy to navigate safely with any mobility difficulties they may have

 

Home health care can be a temporary solution for an older adult while their loved ones search for the best assisted living community for them. It’s a great way to keep them safe and give their family time to make an informed decision about the next step in their life.

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living helps older adults maintain greater independence. In this type of care, residents typically have their own suite in a community with on-site caregivers available to offer support with activities of daily living (ADLs) around the clock. This provides them and their loved ones with peace of mind.

Assisted living is probably the best option for someone in these situations:

  • They’re dealing with mobility challenges that increase their risk of falling
  • They’re experiencing health issues linked to isolation, including depression or cardiac disease
  • Their security is at risk due to Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia (another important option to consider in this case is memory care and skilled nursing care)
  • They are living in a home that doesn’t have any safety features for their mobility
  • They are no longer driving and struggle to find affordable and reliable transportation
  • They struggle to keep track of their medication schedules

Pros and Cons of Home Care

In general, living at home and working with an in-home caregiver means hiring someone to help an older person on a daily or near-daily basis. A professional caregiver might visit or move into the house and provide supervision and support with various tasks. The goal is to make staying at home as safe as possible. Assistance can include meeting transportation needs, providing companionship, being there “just in case,” and helping with toileting, dressing, and more. But there can be some drawbacks to this type of care:

CONS:

  • Modifications might be required for safety and/or mobility
  • Full-time care can be expensive
  • Some health issues cannot be dealt with at home
  • Home maintenance could become an issue
  • Fewer opportunities to spend time with other people, leading to social isolation

 

PROS:

  • Staying in the comfort of their own home
  • Receiving one-on-one care tailored to their specific needs
  • Control over who is providing the care
  • Consistency of attention from a particular person
  • Flexibility with care

Pros and Cons of Assisted Living

For some, staying at home isn’t a safe option. The decision to move to an assisted living community is a challenging one, but doing good research beforehand is half the battle. As you’ll see below, there are very few cons, but also major advantages to making the move.

CONS: 

 

PROS:

  • Variety of health care services
  • On-site staff members and medical professionals
  • Around-the-clock assistance with personal care, such as dressing, grooming, and toileting
  • A wide array of outings, social activities, and recreational activities
  • Delicious, balanced meals and healthy snacks prepared on-site
  • Assistance with medication management
  • Family can focus on relationships instead of caregiving
  • The level of care can be adjusted as needed
  • Private living space with safety features such as grab bars, step-in showers, and an emergency call system
  • Laundry, housekeeping, lawn care, snow removal, and maintenance
  • Phone services and utilities included
  • Transportation services

 

Oftentimes, people don’t realize how much work goes into living at home. With assisted living, seniors are allowed to really enjoy the golden years and do the things that matter most.

It’s not uncommon to feel some anxiety about moving to an assisted living care community, but people often find that there are a lot of great benefits to doing so. We frequently hear people saying, “I wish I’d moved here sooner!”

Financial Considerations of Both

For some seniors and their loved ones, the most important issue to consider when deciding between staying at home or moving to an assisted living nursing home is the finances.

Many people assume assisted living is too expensive for them, but that isn’t always the case. Others believe that what it cost in the past to live at home will be the cost of staying at home in the future, and that is not always the case either.

It’s good to have at least a general overview of the expenses associated with each option. If in-home care is chosen, an around-the-clock caregiver will need to be hired, so pay attention to the annual cost of hiring this person. However, we know that determining costs accurately can be difficult. For example, if the senior is living independently at the moment, the best that can be done is to guess just how expensive it will be in the coming years (keep inflation in mind!)

There are also secondary factors to consider when calculating the cost of living at home versus living in assisted living. For instance:

  • Is there family living nearby that can help?
  • Will there be costs associated with selling the current home?
  • If choosing to stay home, are there any home safety modifications that need to be done?

 

Everyone’s considerations are different, so it’s important to take time to assess the situation and look at the costs of each. Take a look below for this information!

The (Hidden) Costs of Continuing to Live at Home

Many people and their older loved ones assume it’s cheaper to remain in their homes even as it becomes difficult, so they avoid moving into an assisted living community. They might even live in a home that is fully paid off and not have to worry about a mortgage, but there are many other hidden costs to remaining in that private home:

  • Utility bills, including cable television and internet
  • Home security systems
  • Emergency alert systems
  • Snow removal and yard care costs
  • Property tax and homeowner’s insurance
  • Replacement and repair of appliances
  • Homeowners Association fees
  • Car maintenance costs or transportation service costs
  • Grocery shopping costs
  • Home exterior maintenance and repair
  • Interior maintenance and repair

 

The Biggest Cost of All: 

Family members might be able to handle the support of their older loved one if they only need a few hours of help each week, but as their needs increase, it can become a full-time responsibility that is more and more complicated than the family can handle without medical professional help.

This can result in bringing in overnight or around-the-clock care providers who charge high hourly rates for home care services. Plus, now you need to think about all of the personal care and health supplies to keep up with as needs change.

All of these medical care-related items, on top of the overall cost of care, can add up rapidly.

The Average Cost of Assisted Living

Much like moving into any other type of senior living community, such as independent living or memory care, moving into assisted living will have the following fees:

  • The base rate monthly cost
  • Additional charges as care is upgraded
  • Personal care supplies
  • Housekeeping and laundry fees (if not included)
  • Food costs (if not included)

 

When exploring assisted living costs, call different places in the area and get pricing information from each community. Take the list above with you and ask if there are any additional fees.

Some communities will only tell you the base cost of monthly residency and bring up other fees later. Asking the right questions can help you or your loved one make an informed decision that is right for everyone.

Final Question to Ask: How Much Assistance Does the Individual Need?

Despite the financials, there is one vital and determining factor of home care vs. assisted living: how much assistance do you or your loved one need?

We all need different levels of support at varying times in our lives. One 80-year-old might be more independent and self-sufficient than another person in their mid-60s. The important thing to know is how much assistance the individual needs now and how that may change down the road.

To understand how much assistance a person needs, start by making a list of everyday things they might need help with. Then, do the same for weekly and monthly tasks that have become difficult to do alone.

  • Is this person able to cook for themselves every day?
  • Do they handle their own medications?
  • Are there any healthcare needs that require consistent assistance?

 

Asking these questions and writing down the answers will help you better understand the needs of you or your loved one. Now, you can assess who is available to help.

  • Does a child or grandchild live with the individual and can assist with daily activities, like grocery shopping or giving medication reminders?
  • Is someone nearby to help with weekly needs or to run errands?
  • Is the person fairly independent but needs more social interaction?
  • Take a look at the help that is already available. Are all needs and wants being met in the current situation?

 

For some people, this simple task of listing needs and looking at what needs are met will shed light on the situation to make a decision obvious.

If those daily tasks are not being met, assisted living is more likely to provide the needed support. If just a few weekly or monthly needs are falling through the cracks, staying at home and getting help or hiring a caregiver could be better.

Assisted Living vs. Home Care: Which is Better?

There is no answer to this. The real question is WHICH IS BETTER FOR YOU!

If you’re having a tough time deciding whether you want to continue to live at home and make adjustments, or if you would prefer assisted living, take a look at the following questions:

  • Do you need assistance getting around?
  • Will your home require modifications?
  • Who will help with caregiving?
  • What is your lifestyle?
  • How is your health?
  • Which is more affordable in the long run?

 

It can help to write down your thoughts on each question and ask your closest loved ones to do the same. They might raise issues you hadn’t considered and give you more to think about when making your decision.

Making informed decisions when it comes to senior living arrangements, especially for long-term care, is crucial for your happiness and your estate.

Finally, remember that there is no right or wrong answer – it only matters what the best decision for you and your family is. Your health, happiness, and safety should be the essential factors, and whatever you choose, make sure it’s the right choice for you.

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