Deciding whether home care or assisted living is the best choice for you or your loved one requires a great deal of research and reflection. To help you get started we’ve put together five key questions to guide you.
Where do I feel comfortable?
Let’s start with some basic definitions. Assisted living services are usually provided in residential community settings for older adults who want to maintain some independence while having access to care on-site. Help with activities of daily living such as medication management, bathing, dressing, and escorting are available on an “as-needed” basis. While residents have their own room or apartment in a building or complex, organized social, cultural, and educational activities make this an amenity rich environment that also includes community dining.
Candiece Milford, Managing Director of Marketing at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, says, “Assisted living is an excellent option for people who want to prepare in advance for age-related changes while still maintaining independence… and it means you have access to care right in your apartment delivered by staff you get to know and enjoy for the remainder of your life.”
Home care means that a professional caregiver supports you or your loved when and where you need them. Though home care is non-medical, your caregiver can do all the tasks and activities offered in an assisted living community and you have the option of choosing short-term support (like after recovering from an illness or hospitalization) or long-term help for ongoing care.
Gwen Harris, MA, FT, Care Manager at Seniors At Home, says, “Home care enables older adults to remain where they are the most comfortable – at home with their belongings and with a feeling of connection to their lives and past.”
How much can I afford?
Crunching the numbers will be an important consideration in making your choice, especially depending on how much care you need. In an assisted living community, monthly costs cover rent, access to care staff 24 hours a day, all three meals, utilities, as well as activities, outings and transportation to medical appointments. This makes it a generally more affordable option if you need care around the clock.
If you opt for home care, you will pay your caregiver hourly. Therefore, if you require care only a few hours each week, it can be more affordable—but costs can mount if you require several hours of care each day.
To compare the costs of assisted living and home care, it is helpful to list what all your monthly living and care costs would be in each scenario. Click here for a useful senior care cost calculator.
Where will I be safe?
Our homes are not usually designed with the needs of older adults in mind. Common features of family homes include steps, narrow hallways, and hardwood floors—all of which can pose a safety risk to older adults who are more vulnerable to the consequences of a fall.
For those who wish to remain at home, there are safety modifications that can be made, and having a caregiver present can provide families with peace of mind. Use a Home Safety Checklist to ensure you or your loved one are as safe as possible at home.
Assisted living communities often appeal to families of older adults who are worried about their loved one’s safety. Candiece says, “Safety is literally designed and built into an assisted living building. Apartments are designed architecturally to address the needs that come with age-related conditions, and staff are on-hand to help with any care needs.” She also notes that staff are trained to protect residents from other dangers such as fraud or elder abuse.
Where will I feel most independent?
Often at odds with our need for safety as we age is our desire to remain as independent as possible. Gwen says that when she sits down to consult with families making this decision this is the most common cause of disagreements between older adults and their loved ones.
“While their loved ones tend to focus on safety, most older adults just want to have as much control as they can on how they live,” says Gwen.
Home care enables this autonomy and can provide transportation so you can come and go as you please, while still having someone there to look out for your safety at home.
Gwen also states that home care works especially well for those whose most important consideration is independence, and says, “With a caregiver to assist you, you have full autonomy over your own schedules and routines.”
That’s not to say that assisted living means surrendering all independence. Candiece proposes that instead, it offers a different kind of freedom. She says, “Activities and outings are all coordinated for you, transportation is provided, and staff are always looking out for you. Not having to worry about everyday chores, in a safe environment, means you can focus on enjoying life.”
Where will you be happy?
There are many practical aspects to consider when planning for the future, but it is also essential to remember the emotional side of the equation. It is especially important that if you are planning care for your parent or loved one that they are given a voice in the decision.
Gwen advises to ask what is important to your loved one and to really listen. Is it independence? It is safety? Is it being at home? Or having community and enjoying social interaction?
Gwen says, “First consider what is important to you or your loved one, and what brings you joy—then build a care plan around that. The bottom line is that you want to be happy, wherever you are.”
Candiece also points to the inherently social nature of assisted living and to peer-to-peer support that can be especially hard to find in our later years. “You meet others who have gone through similar experiences and losses,” says Candiece. “There is a lot of sharing and support that naturally happens around a communal dinner table.”
Finding the right solution that all family members can feel good about may take time.
The good news is that if you are struggling, there is professional support that can help. Seniors At Home’s knowledgeable care team offers family consultations to help you and your family members talk openly, address concerns and questions, and come up with a plan for the best course of care that everyone can feel good about.
To learn more about home care, assisted living, or how we can help, call us today at 415-449-3777.