What is Geriatric Care and How Does it Compare to Home Care?
You’re looking for reliable elder care for your aging parent. Perhaps Mom or Dad was recently discharged from the hospital. Or your loved one may have trouble walking, talking or remembering directions. Aging naturally diminishes physical and mental abilities, and aging parents may be at risk for a host of health issues: high blood pressure, stroke, dehydration, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Whatever the case, you find yourself searching for what Mom or Dad needs. One popular term you’ll likely to come across is ‘geriatric care,' and it's worth knowing everything it encompasses.
Defining Geriatric Care
Geriatric care is a general term describing the management of healthcare for aging individuals. It’s important to know it includes both medical and non-medical/personal care services. Examples of medical geriatric care include services like occupational therapy, physical therapy, dialysis and IV therapy.
Examples of non-medical geriatric care include more services that would fall under home care, like personal care (help in the bathroom), driving, meal preparation, fall prevention, social care and more.
Where Can I Find Geriatric Care?
Many locations provide some sort of geriatric care. It's important to note that not everyone will use the term "geriatric care," but the following locations offer the services included in geriatric care:
- Doctor’s office: Routine medical exams, diagnosis and treatment
- At home: Non-medical home care provided inside a senior’s home
- Long-term care facilities: Assisted-living centers and nursing homes for round-the-clock medical and personal care
- Adult daycare facilities: Medical, rehabilitative, cognitive and social services during daytime hours
- Hospitals: For severe illness requiring hospitalization
- Long-term care hospitals: For extended stay at the hospital to recover from major conditions like a stroke or a severe injury
- Hospice: For the elderly who are reaching end-of-life; the goal is to manage comfort during the last stage of life
You're probably familiar with many of these options, but the point is to reinforce that these common options can fall under the broad umbrella of geriatric care.
When to Get Geriatric Care
As you can see, geriatric care is quite common, but many don’t think about it until an aging parent incurs an elongated hospital stay. Then, when Mom or Dad’s needs evolve to the point where they need assistance throughout the day, geriatric care suddenly becomes focal to proper planning.
“When you’re in the hospital, you’re in a crisis,” said Jeannie Vestrum, director of program development for Visiting Angels. “ But geriatric care involves so much more than an isolated crisis. I certainly think that geriatric care should take place during a routine doctor’s visit,” said Vestrum on planning for the road ahead.
Other times, referrals come from geriatric doctors, nurses, clinics, senior centers and public health providers. “[They understand] the unique needs of the elderly, the changes that naturally occur and how to meet those needs,” said Vestrum.
You may be meeting with a geriatric care manager. This person works with you to create a long-term care plan that’s realistic and sustainable. A licensed nurse or social worker will typically fulfill this role. Know that geriatric care managers have earned a professional license to be your dedicated resource. They can help you navigate the many solutions within geriatric care.
Home Care for the Elderly
While already stated above, it is essential to emphasize the critical, non-medical side of geriatric care. Home care is a massive component of it. This vital service puts a caregiver inside your parent's home. A move into an assisted-living facility or nursing home is a costly, often unwelcomed change because an unfamiliar setting threatens to erode your senior’s quality of life, especially if they’ve been diagnosed with a disease like dementia. “We care for a lot of patients with dementia,” said Vestrum. “Anytime you take someone with dementia and move them somewhere, it’s very stressful.”
A quality home care agency will deliver ‘person-centered care’ to your elderly adult, according to Bonnie Reid, VP of program development for Visiting Angels. Person-centered care focuses on exploring “abilities, interests and life experiences” of the senior. Whether it’s a sports team or a musical talent, your loved one would be encouraged to talk about it.
Home care fulfills the desire to age in place. "They can stay at home to care for a pet, stay in the neighborhood for social connections and remain in a safe community," said Reid. Per the joint report by the Home Care Association of America and Global Coalition on Aging: “Nine out of ten Americans 65 and older want to stay at home for as long as possible, and 80 percent think their current home is where they will always live.”
“When you provide home care, the majority of the population will be geriatric by nature, so it can almost become a specialty,“ said Vestrum. Some home care providers can fulfill both medical and non-medical support, while others specialize. It just depends on the home care agency. For example, Visiting Angels’ professional caregivers provide non-medical, personal and social care. “It’s the day-to-day custodial care that people need to stay comfortably and safely in their own homes. Helping people with bathing, grooming, social care and meal preparations,” said Vestrum.
Additionally, home care may lower your senior’s exposure to bacteria and airborne illnesses associated with hospitals, some assisted-living or nursing homes. Home care can also dramatically reduce the risk of a hospital readmission. Proper recovery means staying out of the hospital for the month after discharge. “Elderly adults have a much lower chance of recovery if they are re-hospitalized,” per Visiting Angels.
Integrated Geriatric Care Team
When the time comes, your elderly loved one may need help on multiple levels: regular medical support, along with social and personal care. It’s useful to partner with a trusted geriatric care manager. Together, you’ll create an integrated, long-term care plan that prioritizes your loved one’s well-being. A geriatric interdisciplinary team includes doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists and hospice physicians.
“It’s very common for [home care] providers to work with hospice care workers,” said Vestrum. “It’s multiple layers of care along with family [caregivers].”
Paying for Geriatric Care
Should you determine your aging parent requires geriatric care, you'll naturally wonder how best to pay for it. Look into the Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which is a Medicare and Medicaid program that pays for geriatric care in the home, the community and the PACE center for the aging. PACE centers meet state and federal safety requirements. The program mitigates costly nursing homes or other care facility expenses. Qualified individuals are 55 years or older and live by a qualified PACE center. You can find PACE in your area here.
Hospitals, home care, nursing homes and assisted-living centers may also accept long-term care insurance, Medicare, qualified low-income senior programs and —when applicable— reimbursements from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Vestrum. Carefully explore all options for payment. It’s wise to research and talk with a geriatric care manager.
Still unsure how you can afford home care for your aging parent? Discover the ultimate guide on paying for home care.