Four Senior Care Options for Your Loved Ones

older and younger person holding hands
November 3, 2017
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Most seniors want to live independently, in their own homes, for as long as possible—maybe even until they take their last breath. Some are fortunate enough to be able to do that. But for many other seniors, health challenges can prevent this dream from being a reality.

Figuring out what kind of care your parents or elderly loved ones need as they age can be one of the most difficult decisions you ever have to make. You want them to have as much independence as possible, but not at the risk of their health and well-being.

When it comes to health care choices, there are a lot of things to consider. Here are three of the biggest factors:

  • Your loved one’s health. If your loved one is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, you are obviously going choose a different kind of care than if they only have mobility issues or minor health complaints. The first situation usually requires around-the-clock care and assistance, while the latter may be more of a “care as needed” situation.
  • Caregivers’ availability and health. Are family members able to assist with care? If so, how much time and at what level of commitment? In addition, as any caregiver can tell you, watching over a loved one is one of the most rewarding, yet incredibly taxing, jobs you can ever take on. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 44 million Americans serve as caregivers, yet most of them are physically or emotionally unprepared for this role. One of the greatest factors in a caregiver’s decision to seek additional help is that their own health is beginning to suffer, either due to stress, depression, anxiety, or one or more physical ailments.
  • Senior care is not cheap. Home care can range from $16-27 per hour. Assisted living costs range from $2,600-$5,800 per month; while nursing homes average $227 per day (nearly $7,000 per month) in some states. Of course, Medicare/Medicaid and long-term care insurance may come into play here. But often, there is some out-of-pocket expense that needs to be considered.

The Choices

Here is some important information on the different elder care choices available.

Non-Medical Home Care

Is your loved one dealing with minor mobility issues? Or are they hard of hearing or have problems with eyesight, which limits ability to get around via car or public transportation? Or do you simply want to have someone check in with your loved one because you are unable to get out of work early every day?

Non-medical home care is an excellent option in cases such as these. Employees from home care agencies are able to come to your loved one’s home and help with personal care, cooking, laundry, cleaning, or shopping.

This type of care gives the caregiver peace of mind that their loved one’s needs are being met if a family member cannot visit them regularly.

These types of services are usually paid for out of pocket—insurance or Medicare will rarely cover them.

Home Health Care

Home health care agencies provide in-home nursing care as well. Sometimes, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other similar services can be provided at your loved one’s home, too.

In addition, skilled and licensed nurses can help your loved one bathe, take medications, care for wounds, and aid in recovery from surgery, injury, etc.

This is a great option if your parent or loved one is still able to live independently, but has some acute or minor health conditions that prevent them from getting around as well. Remember, these nurses only stay for a few hours, not all day and night, so your loved one must be able to take care of themself the majority of the time.

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Assisted Living/Nursing Home Care

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are two of the most common options on the spectrum of senior housing.

Assisted living is a housing facility that provides some medical care, while nursing homes are medical facilities that also happen to provide 24/7 housing. What you choose really depends on your loved one’s health.

A close friend of mine moved her mother into an assisted living facility a few years ago when she started showing signs of dementia. She would forget people’s names and faces, and often left her stove or oven running all night. It was dangerous to let her continue living independently, but she was by no means totally incapacitated.

At the assisted living facility, she had a private room and had all of her meals cooked for her, got occasional nursing care (such as the delivery of medications), and was able to participate in countless activities—even field trips. She remained there for three years, until her dementia became so advanced that she needed round-the-clock care. At that point, my friend moved her mom to a nursing home.

Nursing homes are for adults with serious medical needs. According to some reports, an estimated 50 percent of the residents have dementia, and more than half spend their time in bed or in a wheelchair. Almost all residents in nursing homes require substantial medical care from nurses and other health professionals.

Hospice

Hospice care provides support for people who are terminally ill. The focus is not on treating or curing, but rather on making the patient’s remaining days as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

This is the best choice for patients who have exhausted all available treatment options for diseases such as cancer, or who are in the end stages of other long-term conditions.

In Summary…

All too often, elderly long-term care decisions are made at times of extreme stress and family turmoil. As a result, a lot of guilt and sadness is involved.

Don’t let that happen to you. Talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members while they are still healthy, and of sound mind, about their wishes—and about how they plan to pay for their living arrangements when they’re older. Doing so puts the power in their hands and alleviates a lot of the guilt associated with this process.

When it comes to long-term care choices, you can never be too prepared for the future.

References

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