Whether you’re planning ahead for your own future or making a care decision for an aging parent, making a choice about senior care isn’t always easy.
Most care options for seniors fit into one of two options: in-home care or assisted living.
How do you decide which is the right fit for your family?
There are many things to take into consideration when making this important decision, but first things first – what is the difference between senior care options?
What is In-Home Care?
In-home care is an option for seniors who have decided to age in place.
In-home care providers can help seniors who live alone in their own homes or offer additional assistance for adults in shared-living situations.
Offering services with daily tasks ranging from light housekeeping, laundry, errands, and shopping to meal preparation, managing medications, and transportation, an in-home caregiver brings the aging senior the help they need during a predetermined amount of time per day for an agreed upon rate.
What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living provides these same services to seniors, but in a community living environment with 24-hour care for a monthly rate. These communities also usually offer additional activities and amenities.
In-Home Care vs Assisted Living
Factors that may help you determine what type of senior care is the best fit for you or a loved one include the level of care needed, cost, and quality of life.
Perhaps you just need a little help around the house with some cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. Or perhaps you need full-time care to help manage medications, meal preparation, and hygiene needs.
The average cost for in-home care runs from $14-$24 per hour, or a daily rate of $112-$192, depending on your needed level of care.
At this rate, you can expect to pay approximately $3,500 a month if you need full-time (40 hour per week) care in the comfort of your own home.
When budgeting for in-home care, it is important to keep in mind that you still have the continued costs of paying for:
• Yard and home maintenance
Many families are trying to offset the cost of in-home care by moving mom or dad into their own homes. These sort of “shared living” situations - when multiple adults live in the same household - are on the rise. According to AARP, more older adults are moving in with their adult children than ever before.
Moving mom or dad in with their adult children can help reduce the amount of hours that an in-home care professional is needed.
Perhaps an in-home professional will only be needed during the hours of the day when adult children are at work, leaving care duties to family members at night and on weekends. It could completely remove the cost of in-home care if a there is a stay-at-home adult family member willing to provide full time, day and night care for an aging parent or parent-in-law.
Most assisted living communities or facilities offer aging adults the opportunity to retain their independence with private living quarters, such as a studio, 1- or 2-bedroom apartment.
Like in-home care, assisted living can be customized based on your specific needs. That can range from a little help with chores, medications, personal care/ hygiene matters, or errands to full-time assistance.
Assisted living offers around-the-clock care and peace of mind in knowing that, should an accident occur, there are trained professionals on hand to assist you.
While the average cost of assisted living comes in at an – expectedly – higher daily rate, it does typically include housing costs, meals and snacks, and utilities. Many assisted living facilities also offer access to on-site activities and amenities to help aging adults stay connected, engaged, and entertained.
Seniors who move into an assisted living community can typically stay there, no matter what changes with their mental or physical health. That provides peace-of-mind knowing they won’t have to leave the community, staff, and friends they’re familiar with, even if an unexpected health event means they require more help.
There’s one final issue to consider when it comes to choosing a senior care option:
The Isolation Factor
Some seniors can feel very hesitant about leaving their homes to join a senior community.
But assisted living communities offer one major benefit that is often missing from in-home care or shared living situations: combating isolation.
According to a recent study by the National Council on Aging, approximately 17% of Americans over the age of 65 are isolated because they live alone.
Social isolation – defined as disengagement from social ties, institutional connections, or community participation – can have a severe negative impact on senior health.
Loneliness and social isolation lead to a higher risk of mortality in adults over the age of 52.
In a study on senior isolation, AARP found that the most common interventions for senior isolation took place in community – rather than in-home – settings.
Their findings indicate that senior community settings afford opportunities to:
• Reduce loneliness and resulting depression
• Increase the size of social network
• Improve the quality of support systems
• Increase the frequency of social contacts
Moving mom or dad into your home may reduce the financial cost of caring for an aging parent, but it doesn’t always alleviate isolation and loneliness. If you or your spouse work all day, your aging parent could be left with little to no company while you’re away. On nights and weekends, adult children can often be too overwhelmed with their own to-do lists, home maintenance, and caregiver duties to plan social and enrichment activities for the aging adults in their care - especially if they still have young children living in the home, too.
While there are adult day care programs that offer some opportunity for seniors who age in place to socialize, living in a community gives seniors the opportunity to socialize regularly and forge friendships that can improve not only quality of life but also physical health.
What’s the Right Care Choice for Your Family?
Whether you’re trying to make a decision about your own care needs or find the right solution for an aging parent, there are many factors to consider.
For many families, cost is the biggest factor in choosing between shared living, in-home care, or assisted living communities.
For other families, quality of life and care is the deciding factor when making a care choice. Knowing that you and your spouse - or your aging parent - is well cared for around the clock and living in an environment designed for connectedness and enrichment can be worth the price of an assisted living community.
Only you can decide what the right care choice is for your family. Gather all of the information you can, tour assisted living facilities nearby, and interview in-home caregivers to decide what’s right for you.