Many seniors prefer to “age in place,” living out their later years in their own homes, especially when faced with the outdated concept of old “nursing homes.” However, today’s seniors can enjoy a wide range of choices in what his or her life will look like in the years to come, including options for still-active seniors who simply want to downsize, or seniors with medical conditions that would benefit from easy access to medical care. Below are three considerations in this decision, and the pros and cons of staying at home or moving to a nursing facility.
1. Access to Care
While access to care at home is definitely a possibility, it’s important to consider how much care a senior will need, and when he or she will need it. There are agencies that provide a range of services, from assistance in daily tasks (such as preparing meals, taking medication, grooming, etc.), to simple companionship, to more intensive medical care. You can even arrange for physical and occupational therapists to come to the house to provide therapy on a regular basis, helping maintain quality of life for as long as possible. Care services can range from a few times a week, to daily, or even overnight. Many agencies also offer “palliative care,” meaning someone coming to stay with a senior for several hours to allow a caregiver personal time to run errands, make appointments, or just take a break. In-home care can be substantially more expensive than care in a facility, but there are pros and cons to both choices.
Nursing homes are probably the most convenient way to ensure you or a loved one will always have immediate access to medical-grade nursing care, although it’s important to review what a potential facility offers, since it can vary. Some facilities provide the additional benefit of offering a range of care options, allowing residents to move around as needed. For example, a resident may need knee surgery, so for the six weeks of recovery, he or she can move into the facility’s rehab wing, then return to his or her permanent room once they’ve recovered. These types of residences offering continuous care are helpful for couples, where one member may need more medical care at any given time, allowing the other member to visit easily and maintain most of his or her regular daily routine.
A senior often prefers to remain in his or her home where they have created so many memories and where they are familiar with the location of all necessities, furniture, light switches, and restrooms. A drawback, however, is that a once-manageable home can easily become difficult to maintain, with lawn care, cleaning, and chores for a large home adding up. There are ways to safety proof a house that can make life easier for a senior, including ensuring that all rugs and carpets are removed or tightly secured, furniture is out of traffic ways, and handles and bars are installed in bathrooms to help with mobility. If a senior is living alone, some wearable safety technology can allow them to contact help with the touch of a button if for some reason they cannot reach their phone.
Some seniors, especially those in the beginning stages of dementia, can find change especially confusing and upsetting. Moving into a new living facility can cause substantial frustration and worry. There are several ways you can ease the transition, including visiting the facility ahead of time, and also having familiar people along during the move (ideally, you can have two people helping the senior, one to fill out the needed forms and one to attend to the senior).
For more active seniors, downsizing to an apartment in an independent living community can be a major change but can also offer freedom from maintenance and chores. Today’s senior facilities often offer hotel-like amenities, and plenty of shared space for entertaining friends and family who may come to visit. More senior-only apartment complexes are popping up across the nation, creating the ideal environment for getting to know new, like-minded people and get involved in clubs, activities, and groups.
The bottom line is that the more care a senior requires, the more expensive the care. However, it’s important to remember that in-home care can often outpace care facilities since providers often charge by the hour. Depending where a senior is on the spectrum of care, different options might make the most sense.
For a ballpark on cost, 2015 averages show:
- Home Care Aide Cost: $20 per hour or $160 per day
- Assisted Living Cost: $119 per day, approximately $43,000 a year
- Skilled Nursing Home Cost: $220 per day, approximately $80,000 a year
Whether the final choice is to stay at home until the very end, or to try out a new locale, there are many great topics to consider and discussions to have. It’s an incredibly important decision to make for yourself or a loved one, and thankfully, there are numerous free resources and options to seniors. Finding the best solution can take come work, but feeling safe and cared for is invaluable and worth the time, energy, and money.