According to an AARP-published study conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for The United States of Aging, about 90 percent of seniors prefer to live in their homes. Their desire to stay in the home they love and remain near their family and friends make having an in-home caregiver a better option for adult children who want to find trustworthy care for their parents.
The memories that surround seniors who can remain in their own homes help ease some of the negatives of aging while remaining close to family can help seniors pass on wisdom, family traditions, and advice to the next generations.
When Will My Loved One Need Help?
Age isn’t the biggest factor when it comes to knowing when your loved one needs an in-home caregiver. Some people can live well into their nineties with little or no help, while others’ abilities to take care of routine household tasks and personal hygiene wane early on, some as young as sixty.
Health and mobility are the biggest factors that determine whether a person needs extra assistance to live at home. For instance, a person who is paralyzed may need in-home care from his young adulthood on, while a spry 85-year-old who has never seen a doctor in her life may be able to mop circles around her 45-year-old daughter, who suffers from an old volleyball injury.
Mental health, too, can be a factor in knowing whether a senior loved one is ready for help. Knowing the difference between forgetfulness due to ADHD (yes, seniors, too, can have this condition) or stress and that caused by Alzheimer’s or age-induced dementia is sometimes difficult.
Don’t hesitate to get several professional opinions before you conclude “Dad’s just getting old and forgetful.” Sometimes medication side effects and other conditions can give rise to dementia-like states. In those cases, a simple adjustment in medication can make all the difference in the world.
When It Comes Time, Which Should I Choose—Assisted Living or Home Care?
Seniors are just like anyone else—they enjoy their freedom. The problem comes in when Mom or Dad needs a helping hand with cleaning their home, preparing meals, driving, grooming, personal hygiene, shopping, and other everyday tasks.
Just because they need a helping hand, though, doesn’t mean they need to go to an assisted living facility. There are options. If your loved one, like the majority of seniors, wants to remain in their home, you have several alternatives.
- Get help from neighbors: If a little help now and then is all your loved one needs, perhaps a trusted neighbor can come in to take care of those tasks. In tightly knit neighborhoods, this is often the best solution. Younger people who have benefited from the neighborhood elders’ advice and help as they grew up often are happy to give back to those who have been such an integral part of their formation.
- Find friends that will help: If your senior loved one is a member of a religious community or other charitable group, there may be fellow members who will be glad to pitch in with a helping hand. More able friends, too, may volunteer to help their ailing companion.
- Find community organizations to help out: Several community organizations, such as Meals on Wheels and publicly funded elder transport teams, can provide low-cost help with meal preparation and delivery, as well as transportation. Check into these resources to see if any of them are available near your loved one.
- Have family members take turns helping out: If most of your loved one’s family members live nearby, enlist their help to take turns helping out their aging parent. Those who don’t live nearby may want to pool their funds to hire in-home help.
- “Senior-proof” the home: As people age, they may be fully functional, but lack some of the agility they had in their youth. You can help out your loved one by removing hazards, such as loose rugs and creaky stepstools and replacing them with senior-friendly ones. Grab bars in bathtubs and showers, as well as shower seats, can also help. Consider installing laundry facilities on the same floor as the main living space, so your loved one won’t have to risk falling down the stairs to do his or her laundry.
- Use remote monitoring: With today’s technology, seniors who are reasonably mobile can get by with remote monitoring. For those who are capable of self-care but live alone, a simple device with an emergency button to press in case they need help may be all that’s necessary. For those who need help remembering to take their medication or to eat, a device that sounds an alarm when it’s time to take their medicine may be the best bet. Other devices can track the movements of a loved one from sensors implanted in the person’s shoe soles, while still others track usage of appliances to make sure the person is following a normal routine.
- Hire an in-home caregiver: For those who just need a break from caregiving chores or for those loved ones who need a full-time caregiver, a trustworthy in-home care service can be a lifesaver. Whether your loved one needs a companion to remind him to take his medicine and sit down for a good chat, help with household tasks, or personal care, an in-home care facility can provide what your loved one needs.
Yes, But How about In-Home Care’s Safety versus Assisted Living?
Many concerned family members worry about their loved one’s safety with in-home care. Sure, they’ll keep an eye on their loved one, but what if something happens? The truth is, in a year-long study by gerontologist Justin Blackburn and his team, those seniors who used in-home care outlived those who went into nursing homes. 77.7 percent of at-home seniors were still alive after a year, compared to 76.1 percent of those in assisted living facilities.
You needn’t worry. A reputable at-home care provider will know when to call for medical help. In fact, because the caregiver is providing one-on-one care, as opposed to institutionalized care in even the best nursing homes, your loved one may be able to get help faster when needed with an in-home caregiver.
But How about the Cost?
In most cases, in-home care is less expensive than that given in an assisted care facility. Rather than a staff of highly paid nurses and other medical professionals, your loved one will only require a non-medical caregiver. Rather than having a ‘round-the-clock medical staff available, your loved one will only have medical care when needed.
Furthermore, in some cases, home care may qualify for reimbursement from Medicare or other government agencies. Ask your home caregiver or your loved one’s doctor for information on receiving this assistance.
What Services Do Other Senior Care Options Provide?
There are a wide variety of institutionalized care options, each of which has its own set of pros and cons. Here are the most common ones:
- Group homes or boarding homes: Seniors will move out of their home into a group living situation, usually with nine to eleven other seniors. Although they will receive help with dressing, bathing, and using the toilet, they won’t have the privacy they would have in their own home. In most cases, these homes do not provide medical care.
- Subsidized housing: Seniors with low or moderate incomes can take advantage of state and federal programs that will help subsidize housing. In some of these facilities, your loved one may have help with meal preparation, shopping, laundry, and housekeeping. Though companionship is rarely an issue at these facilities, many seniors balk at some of the facility’s rules, which may not allow pets or outside gardening. Although a senior will usually have privacy in a subsidized housing facility, since they live in their own apartment, these complexes, like group homes, do not provide in-house medical care. Rent is usually cheap and priced on a sliding scale by income.
- Assisted living: Most seniors in assisted living facilities have their own apartment, yet can receive help with cleaning, meal preparation, and transportation. Many assisted living facilities have a wide range of activities for residents. Some facilities provide on-site health services. Assisted living facilities are usually quite expensive, requiring residents to pay for rent and utilities, with extra fees for add-on services. Again, many of these facilities have rules that prohibit pets, gardening, or other activities seniors may enjoy.
- Retirement communities: Though prices are sky-high, seniors can move from independent living to skilled nursing care as needed. These communities usually have a wide variety of amenities. Plan on a large down payment plus monthly fees which will vary according to the services your loved one needs.
- Hospice: For those who have a life-limiting condition, hospice facilities provide comfort care, as well as counseling for the person’s loved ones. In most cases, medical interventions are for comfort only.
- PACE (Program for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly): A government-administered program, PACE allows people to remain in their homes and receive care from the program’s own personnel. Though this program does allow seniors to stay in their homes, it yanks patients away from their own doctors and caregivers, requiring the person to accept those the program provides.
- Nursing homes: Also called skilled nursing facilities, these homes provide residents with healthcare providers on a 24/7 basis. Even the best facilities, however, are understaffed. As a result, seniors sometimes don’t receive care when they need it, even with nurses—even doctors on site. Food is often as institutionalized as the care.
Though you should consider all these options, you need to keep in mind your loved one’s preference. If they choose an institutionalized facility, accept their decision. But make sure to keep a good eye on them. Take them outside of the facility often so they can talk freely. Offer them other options in case they change their mind. In some cases, seniors think they would like to live among other seniors, yet the care they receive or the rules they must live under make them miserable. Be open to a change of heart on their part. Always give your loved one a way out.
The fact is, most seniors fear the loss of their independence and going into a nursing home more than they fear death itself, says a study by the EAR Foundation. Furthermore, most institutionalized care programs are costly, unless your loved one has government assistance or long-term care insurance.
An In-Home Caregiver: A Compassionate Choice
With an in-home care provider, your loved ones can experience all the independence they crave, yet have assistance with tasks that are too difficult for them. There will be no limitations as to pet ownership, gardening, or playing music at midnight if they like—so long as it doesn’t disturb the neighbors! You can visit anytime you like to check in on your loved one.
Although an in-home caregiver can’t provide 24/7 medical care, they do know, from experience, when it’s time to consult a healthcare provider. The caregiver can take your loved one to get the help he or she needs or call an ambulance as needed.
Consider your loved one’s wishes. If they want to stay in their home, try to make it happen for them.
Choose Your Care Provider Carefully
Do, however, vet your choices carefully. Make sure that the caregiver has years of experience in providing care to their clients. Ask for references from both seniors and their adult children.
Look for a caregiver whose philosophy of aging aligns with yours and that of your loved one. Someone who isn’t convinced that at-home care is the most natural alternative won’t be a good fit for a family who believes that elders are a gift to the next generation, a fountain of wisdom and inspiration. Choose a caregiver who treasures your loved one’s independence and respects their worth.
To learn more about the benefits of an in-home caregiver, contact the caring staff at San Diego Compassionate Caregivers today.