Home Care Options for Elders

Although there are many benefits to home care options, they are not always the most practical or feasible.

There are many benefits, both financial and health related, to opting for home care options for the elderly. Indeed, in recent years, home care has become a more and more popular choice for the elderly that need health care outside of a medical facility. Some studies have even show that up to one half of all residents of nursing and elderly care facilities could live at home, independently, if they had access to affordable home care options. Indeed, there have been yet other studies that report that those who can and do choose home care options live with better emotional and physical health.

There are certain characteristics of an elderly person who would benefit from home care options. For example, if an elderly person only needed assistance with getting physical exercise one or two times a day, a home care option may be the best option for that person. As well, elderly that only need assistance with things like preparing meals and bathing could benefit from the freedom that home care options provide.

However, not all elderly people can benefit from home health care. The more serious the condition of the person, and the more intensive and dynamic a person's needs are, the less likely it is that home care is the right choice for that particular individual. For example, if a person needs help to take several types of medications each day, and also requires help with other daily treatments and therapies, that person probably would not benefit from a home care option. In general, the more complex and intensive a person's needs are, the less likely it is that a home health care option is the best choice.

What Exactly is Home Care?

As the name implies, home care is an all-encompassing term that includes medical and other services that are given to an elderly person that either needs partial or full care. Home care options often make it possible for an elderly person to remain at home instead of going to a nursing home or an extended recover center.

Home care can include services such as:

  • Personal care. This includes assistance with the personal needs of the elderly person, such as bathing, grooming, moving around the home, exercising in and outside of the home and dressing.
  • Health care. The health care provided in home care options can be provided by nurses or even doctors sometimes. Health care can include treatments, medication, physical therapy, monitoring medical conditions and maintaining medical equipment that is installed in the home.
  • Diet. This includes things like cooking, shopping for food-stuffs, meal planning and even assistance with meals outside of the home.
  • Housecare. Home care often goes beyond the physical and medical needs of the elderly person receiving the care. It often includes homecare services such as cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, repairs and home paperwork.
  • Safety. Safety services are often provided in home care options. These services will include things like getting around town, telephone calls at various times of the day to check up and response teams when needed.

Looking through the list of potential services that could be offered, it is probably pretty clear that not every person that opts for home care will require all of these services. As well, not every community of home care providers offer all of these services. Often times, the elderly that opt for home care may need to go through multiple agencies and companies in order to get all the home care services that they require. In addition, sometimes public institutions, like community agencies, will be required to fill in some of the gaps, like providing something for the elderly to do during the day.

Advantages of Independence

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious advantage to home care is the sense of independence that an elderly person will have that would probably not be present if that same person were enrolled in an extended care facility. In addition, the family members of the elderly person will be better able to manage and review the care that the elderly person gets, tailoring the services to the specific needs of the person.

However, this second advantage points out one of the drawbacks to home care, namely that it is much more hands on for both the elderly and their families. Instead of trusting to a care facility to provide the necessary services, the family members must find and get the care that is needed by the elderly individual. This could mean contacting many different home care providers to find the one that meets your needs, or even contracting with many providers, each of which would provide some essential services. These decisions will probably be made without the help of any professional, which means more research and planning on your end.

In the long run, it is ultimately up to the elderly and their families to decide whether or not the advantages of home care outweigh the disadvantages that come along with it. If you feel that staying at home gives you the best chance of living a healthy and fulfilling life, then you should probably place a premium on home care and really see if the disadvantages and costs could make it impossible for you to remain at home. However, if you think that a elderly care facility would provide you with the mental and social stimuli you need to enjoy life, then you should consider that option carefully.

Saving Money

Elderly care has become a prime market for many people in the business world. Depending upon where you live, long term care in an elderly facility could run between $30,000 and $100,000 a year. However, if you own your home outright (meaning no more mortgage payments), home care could run you substantially less, up to 90% less. These savings come by specifically tailoring the services you need and not paying for unessential services that you would probably get at an elderly facility.

However, keep in mind that as we age, our bodies will most likely continue to deteriorate and require more services. So, although your home care started off cheaper than the care at an elderly facility, as more services are required, this balance could shift and you may end up paying more for home care in the long run. For example, if you depend on family members for certain parts of your home care, they may be missing work and wages in order to fulfill their duties to your home care.

The Level of Care

Living in the comfort and familiarity of home is very appealing, but will you be sacrificing in terms of the level of care that you will receive by electing home care. Would you, for instance, receive better and more reliable heath care by opting for a elderly care facility?

Health care. If your home care service provider is certified by Medicare and your state's own care licensing agency, then you should feel confident that the health care you receive in your home is up to the level of care that you would get in an elderly care facility. Keep in mind that many independent home care providers may not be licensed or certified, so always be sure to check about the provider you choose.

Non-health related care. Much of the time that is spent in home care is non-medical in nature and involves more day-to-day activities like getting dressed, bathing, toileting, eating and getting out to exercise. There are many strong arguments that these non-medical services are much better provided in home care versus elderly care facilities.

Just like in schools, the ratio between caregivers and the elderly often makes a huge difference on the quality of life that you can expect to experience. Elderly people working one-on-one with their caregivers often feel more comfortable and better able to enjoy experiences than when there is one caregiver responsible for a number of elderly people. In addition, unlike in elderly care facilities, you will be able to pick and choose who you would like to provider you with your non-medical care. Often, finding someone that you "click" with can mean the difference between being happy in your later years versus becoming depressed.

Always Keep in Mind That the Home Care Option Can End

As your body ages, the needs of your body will change as well. Often times, home care providers are only able to do so much at your home and they will sometimes recommend that you be moved to an elderly care facility in order to meet your specific needs. As well, people with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia often find that home care is not an option at some point when it becomes too difficult to remember who is who.

Steps for Planning Your Home Care

Generally, there are two steps that you should take when planning your home care options:

  • First, survey both the home care options in your area as well as the elderly (residential) care facilities that you may be able to enroll in. Seriously consider the costs and benefits of both, taking into consideration how your family will adapt to your choice.
  • Second, consider your future. If you already have early signs of Alzheimer's disease, you may want to second guess a home care option in favor of a elderly care facility where they will be able to take care of you and watch you more carefully.

After you have assessed your options, talk about it with your family. You may be surprise to find out just how much they are willing to do for you. After all, they are your loved ones.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified health care attorney to help navigate legal issues around your health care.

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