Understanding the Different Kinds of Senior Care Available

Finding the proper care for an aging loved one can be a daunting task without knowing the pros, cons and costs for each option. Many adult children feel torn between handling the daily tasks of caring for their parents themselves or relying on professionals.

In some cases, a loved one is challenged with health issues and requires assistance around the clock.

In other cases, seniors just want to stay right at home, but can have trouble standing up to walk to the bathroom or cannot drive themselves to the grocery or to a doctor’s appointment.

The truth is that our loved ones have options.

The U.S. population is aging and average life expectancy is increasing, and more than 80% of older adults indicate that they would prefer to “age in place,” according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

To fulfill that wish, options for senior care now range from the 24/7 care in a designated facility that we’ve long been familiar with — all the way down to something as simple as a professional stopping at your loved one’s home once or twice a week to help with things like bathing, light housekeeping or transportation.

We’ll explore each option below:

Home Care Services

Many families opt to keep their aging loved ones at home. They hire professionals to come to the person’s house to prepare meals, provide medication reminders and assist with bathing, clothing or other physical activities.

As of 2014, there were an estimated 12,400 home health agencies nationwide, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Forty hours or less per week of home care services is less expensive than assisted living facilities, home health care or nursing homes, according to payingforseniorcare.com, an information website established by the American Elder Care Research Organization.

It is a more convenient option for seniors who want to stay in their own home but need support to live independently.

Home Health Care

Doctor’s orders are needed to start this kind of care.

Like home care, a professional comes into your loved one’s home to provide services. However, in this case, it’s specifically for skilled health care.

That includes services like wound care, IV therapy, injections and monitoring of serious illness or unstable health status.

Home health care costs an average of $127 per day, or $46,332 yearly, according to a survey from Genworth. That makes it one tier more expensive than home care.  

Retirement or Independent Living Communities 

Retirement communities, also called independent living communities, are another option for your aging loved one.

This living situation is ideal for someone who can handle their daily activities independently but wishes to live in a peaceful environment around other seniors, without the responsibility of maintaining a house. 

They are often apartment units and the complexes offer activities and amenities for seniors to enjoy their golden years.

The cost of retirement communities varies based on geographical locations. For example, the monthly average is $2,303 in Alabama; $4,002 in Massachusetts, and $1,859 in Illinois, according to SeniorHomes.com.

In many cases, the monthly rate includes services such as housekeeping, transportation and dining. 

Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are housing options for seniors that provide meals, medication management, transportation and assistance with dressing and bathing. Many assisted living facilities provide extra care for seniors battling Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression and other age-related illnesses.

More than 835,000 people nationwide reside in assisted living facilities, according to the National Center for Assisted Living. Roughly 70 percent of those residents are women and just over half are age 85 and older, per the NCAL.

Assisted living is often a good option for seniors who need help but still enjoy privacy. There are opportunities to socialize, require little to no home maintenance, and can often cost less than nursing homes.

However, the downside of assisted living is that it doesn’t provide the same extensive medical care as a nursing home. Medicare also does not cover assisted living facilities.

According to the NCAL, the national median monthly rate for a one-bedroom assisted living facility unit is around $3,600 — or $43,200 annually.

Nursing Home

An estimated 1.47 million seniors age 65 and older are living in nursing homes, according to the National Care Planning Council.

Nursing homes are great for elderly people who have health issues that require 24-hour nursing care. They usually can’t be cared for at home but also don’t need to be in a hospital.

Nursing staff will provide meals, medical care, as well as physical speech and occupational therapy. Staff is encouraged to develop relationships with the patients, but that doesn’t always happen.

Nursing homes aren’t always permanent homes. Some people get the help they need and go home when they recover; however, most residents live there permanently so they can receive ongoing care.

The average cost of a private room at a nursing home is $253 daily, which adds up to $$92,378 annually, according to a survey from Genworth.

The key to selecting a good nursing home is considering what’s important to your loved one; such as meals, physical therapy, religious connection or hospice care, per the National Institute on Aging.

You should also visit the homes, ask questions about the conditions, and seek recommendations from friends and social workers.

You Have Options

The reality is that you and your loved one have options.

Regardless of which method of care you feel is best for your loved one, keep in mind, task-oriented care — the type of care that involves professionals completing tasks and then leaving to service another person in need — can still leave your loved one feeling lonely.

Make a concerted effort to understand what your loved one truly needs. The best resources can help you do that.
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