Home Care Options for Seniors

There are quite a few home care options for seniors with special health care needs that can be met outside of a medical care facility. While the costs associated with home care often seem prohibitive when compared to nursing home care, resources are available to help pay for home elder care. Many of the benefits of home care are dificult to quantify, such as the emotional importance of remaining connected to one's community. In fact, 89 percent of respondents age 55 and older stated their desire to remain in their current residence as long as possible, according to a 2000 survey by AARP.

This article explores the options for home care, for whom it's best suited, and related information to help you and your family make an informed decision.

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 in their own home (or the home of a loved one). Home care options often make it possible for seniors to avoid going to a nursing home or assisted living center.

Home care can include services such as:

  • Personal Care - Involves assistance with personal needs such as bathing, grooming, moving around the home, exercising in and outside of the home, and dressing.
  • Health Care - May include treatments, medication, physical therapy, monitoring medical conditions, and maintaining medical equipment that is installed in the home.
  • Diet - Includes cooking, grocery shopping, meal planning, and even assistance with meals outside of the home.
  • Housecare - Often includes homecare services such as cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, repairs, and home paperwork.
  • Safety - These services will include things like getting around town, telephone calls at various times of the day to check in, and response teams when needed.

Often times, elderly individuals who opt for home care may need to go through multiple agencies and companies in order to get all of the in-home care services that they require. Additionally, sometimes community agencies or other public services will be required to fill in some of the gaps, such as providing something for the elderly to do during the day.

When Home Care for Seniors Makes Sense

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 example, someone who requires specialized help with daily treatments and therapies may not be a good fit for home care. In general, the more complex and intensive a person's needs are, the more likely it is that a long-term care facility would be more appropriate.

But there are plenty of home care options for the right individuals. For instance, an elderly person who only needs help getting physical exercise once or twice a day, preparing meals, and bathing could indeed benefit from the freedom that home care options provide.

In-Home Care and the Advantages of Independence

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious advantage to home care is the sense of independence that an elderly person will have in their own home. In addition, the family members of the elderly person will be better able to manage and review their care, tailoring the services to their specific needs.

However, this second advantage points out one of the drawbacks to home care, namely that it's much more hands-on for everyone involved. Instead of entrusting a care facility to provide the necessary services, family members must find and manage the care. This could involve meeting with and even contracting with several home care providers, each of which would provide some essential services. This requires more research and planning on your end.

In the long run, it's ultimately up to the elderly person and their loved ones to decide whether or not the advantages of home care outweigh the disadvantages.

Saving Money on Elderly Care

Elderly care has become a prime market for many people in the business world. Estimates vary depending upon where you live, but a private room in a nursing home costs more than $90,000 per year on average based on 2016 figures. However, if you own your home outright (meaning no more mortgage payments), home care could run you substantially (as much as 90 percent) 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 care 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, this balance could shift as more services are required. 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 Home Care for the Elderly

Living in the comfort and familiarity of home is very appealing, but the level of care available at home -- whether it's health care or non-health related care -- may be limited.

  • 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 care you receive in your home is on a par with what's provided at an elderly care facility. 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 spent in home care is non-medical in nature and involves more day-to-day activities like getting dressed, bathing, and getting out to exercise. These non-medical services may be 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. 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 several elderly people. Also, unlike in elderly care facilities, you can pick and choose who you'd like to provide you with non-medical care.

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 may recommend that you be moved to an elderly care facility in order to better meet your 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. In these situations, you may need to consider specialized Alzeimer's/dementia care facilities.

Steps for Planning Your Home Care

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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.

Considering Home Care Options for Seniors? An Attorney Can Help

Choosing which type of elder care -- home care or an outside facility -- is typically not a legal matter. However, your decision may be partially based on state and/or federal regulations governed by a particular law. Reach out to an experienced elder law attorney near you if you need legal expertise as you compare your options.

Next Steps

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

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