At one point or another, it’s something we all need to think about: where’s the best place for our aging loved one to live? While staying at home is usually ideal, alternatives like assisted living facilities and nursing homes can be helpful for certain situations. There are numerous variables to consider, including your loved one’s health condition, personal preferences, and proximity of family members. For instance, the amount of professional care needed—whether a few hours per day or round-the-clock assistance—will impact where your loved one will be best served. The range of support available nearby, other accommodation options, and the status of your loved one’s home ownership or rental agreement also play a part. And, of course, there’s also financial matters to think of.
Cost is a major factor when caring for an aging loved one. Insurance plans like Medicare or long-term care insurance are helpful; yet equally important is finding the most cost-effective choice for your loved one. Finding the best solution that allows them to live happily and safely, within their means, will ensure that your loved one has a better quality of life. Understanding the benefits and costs associated with each option can help you make the best decision for your aging loved one.
Comparing the Costs
The majority of older adults in nursing homes arrive there after a period of hospitalization. Benefits of nursing homes are the round-the-clock care offered during a patient’s recovery—and when their health improves, the patient is often relocated to an assisted living facility or to live at home again. While nursing homes are generally regarded as something to postpone for as long as possible, they are sometimes the most cost effective choice for providing older adults with 24/7 professional medical care. Nursing homes range greatly in price—between $50,000 and $200,000 per year—depending on the location and quality. However, hiring full-time (day and night) professional care at home is estimated to be approximately twice as costly. If your aging loved one requires medical attention 24/7, a nursing home might be the most financially sound option until their condition improves.
On the other hand, assisted living offers a nice alternative for older adults whose families don’t live close by, and who prefer to be in a community setting. Assisted living facilities offer a lot more privacy and independence than a nursing home, yet still provide on-site medical staff and services. The built-in community of older adults, meanwhile, can be a big help in preventing isolation and reducing depression. On average, assisted living facilities cost around $35,000 per year for basic health care. However, if your loved one’s health deteriorates, this option can become very expensive: some assisted living facilities will quote a moderate price for basic health, but it raises significantly when health conditions change. If your aging loved one needs only basic care, doesn’t have nearby family members, and isn’t already a homeowner, an assisted living facility may be a worthwhile choice.
As the most desired option among older adults, aging in place comes with multiple benefits. Research shows that most older adults are far happier living at home, and plan to continue to age in place. This option also happens to be much cheaper than the above alternatives for older adults who need just basic care. To ensure your loved one is properly cared for, home care agencies in your area can provide professional staff and services that are both affordable and flexible.
For example, home care aids are a very cost-effective way to give your loved one the support they need while living at home. Usually costing between $18 and $25 per hour, home care aids can help your loved one with basic tasks like cleaning, cooking meals, and managing medication. You can also hire physical therapists, nurses, and personal companions to make regular house visits to your loved one. At the same time, local aging organizations and senior centers offer programs that your loved one can attend frequently—this lets them spend time outside the house, experience new activities, and get all-important socialization. If your aging loved one needs just a few hours of basic help per day or per week, aging in place isn’t just the most comfortable and reassuring option, but can also be the most affordable.
Between the benefits of personalized care and cost savings, living at home helps many older adults stay healthier and happier for longer: figuring out a way for your loved one to age in place might create a long-term positive influence on their overall health. Some professionals even suggest that no matter the level of medical attention required, home care can work out to be cheaper, because it can be personalized. And the reality is that the majority of older adults don’t need 24/7 professional medical attention—this only applies to a small percentage.
When it comes to aging, everyone is dealing with a unique situation. What might be right for another family might not be right for yours. Staying flexible, adapting to new situations, and checking in with your loved one about their preferences are essential to making the best choice. At the end of the day, it’s about finding a way to best serve our aging loved ones given our respective circumstances—after all, we all deserve proper care, comfort, and a place to call home.
To better understand how to help your loved one age in place, Institute on Aging offers a variety of resources and programs for you and your family. Connect with us today to discover more.