An increasing trend toward receiving care at home has allowed many aging Americans to live more independently and comfortably. This can improve their overall quality of life and may be more affordable than living in a nursing facility. However, this is not the right solution for every elderly person. Some people will need more sophisticated and intensive care to handle a physical or mental condition, while others will need regular monitoring. This can be very expensive, as well as impractical if the elderly person does not have family members who are available to assist with their care. It generally works only if the elderly person does not have an acute condition and only needs some limited assistance with certain activities of daily life, such as preparing meals, getting exercise, or monitoring chronic conditions.
Home care will probably involve the services of more than one provider.
Home care services can involve a combination of services from several different providers. These may include individual aides, community organizations, adult day care programs, and loved ones who are prepared to fill the gaps. Services can cover personal care and nutrition, as well as health care, housekeeping, shopping, and transportation. You can enlist a geriatric care manager to help you develop a specific plan if your loved one or you need to coordinate various types of services from different providers. An elderly person and their family should be aware that home care may be only a temporary solution. Their condition may deteriorate to a point at which home care is no longer feasible, so you should prepare for the possibility of institutionalized nursing care if it becomes necessary.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Care
Staying in their home or in the home of a family member can greatly enhance the dignity and comfort of an elderly person. Crafting their own plan for care also allows them to determine the scope of services and exclude any unnecessary services. Home care tends to be much less expensive in most cases, assuming that family members are available to help and that the services required are not overly sophisticated. You may save half or more of the total costs that institutional care would require.
Home care does have certain drawbacks, though. Family members may feel stress from the burden of making decisions for a loved one’s care without professional advice. Also, the elderly person may find that independence is a double-edged sword, since they may feel isolated by staying at home rather than being around other people or engaging in social activities. While home care provides initial savings, the costs may increase as an elderly person’s condition worsens or as family members become less able to help. Family members should be aware that the costs of any services may not capture the full costs of home care. Hidden costs may include time missed from work to care for the elderly relative, transportation costs, and the costs related to maintaining the elderly person’s home rather than selling it.
Home Care Considerations
May increase comfort and dignity
Greater control over services and scope
Often less expensive than other types of care
May stress family members
May be lonely
May become difficult and costly if conditions change
May include hidden costs
Quality of Home Care
If your loved one needs medical or nursing care, you should not entrust them to an ordinary caregiver. Instead, you should make sure that they receive care from an agency that is certified by Medicare and any home care licensing agency in your state. An elderly person’s doctor can provide advice on whether home care is feasible, considering their needs and limitations.
Other types of home care, such as assistance with eating, dressing, bathing, and walking, are usually less complicated to arrange. Assistance with the activities of daily living may be more effective in a home environment than in an assisted living facility. Rather than a single staff member being responsible for many residents, the caregiver who comes to the home will be responsible for only one elderly person during their time there. Family members likely will be more involved in the process, which means that they can recognize and respond to problems sooner than they could if their loved one lived at a facility.