home care vs assisted living

Home Care vs Assisted Living: Balancing the Needs of Your Aging Family Member

As the American population continues to age — more and more baby boomers are moving into their 70s and 80s — families are increasingly tackling the challenging question about how to most effectively meet the needs of aging and potentially medically fragile family members, many of whom want to remain in their family homes for as long as possible.

We will Discuss in this Article

Home Care vs Assisted Living

Share This Infographic On Your Site

Options for Care for Seniors

Often, the question about where senior members of the family should live and how to care for them comes down to carrying for them in one of the following settings:

  • In their home with some level of intervention and assistance
  • In the home of adult children or another family member with some level of assistance
  • In an assisted living facility
  • In a nursing home facility
  • In a dementia-care facility

People frequently assume that the services that they or a family member can receive from home health care perfectly mirror the services that assisted living facilities provide.

In reality, the differences between them become quickly apparent when attempting to make an apples-to-apples comparison.

Experts in the industry are quick to caution that having a care assistant provide in-home care and providing the same type of care in under the auspices of assisted living differ dramatically.

These differences shape which clients are best suited for home health care and which clients would do best in an assisted living facility.

All assisted living facilities are created equally. There are substantial differences in quality, as well as in the range of services that are offered.

Differences Between In-Home Care vs Assisted Living

Generally, assisted living facilities are meant for older individuals who may not be able to live safely and independently in their own homes, but they’re still able to function at a relatively high level.

Difficulty with some of the following issues often lead seniors to explore assisted living options:

  1. Mobility issues
  2. Difficulty with stairs
  3. Inability to maintain their lawn
  4. Unable to shovel snow
  5. Difficulty with small tasks such as changing light bulbs, hanging pictures, etc.

Senior adults that need relatively little one-on-one care often do well in an assisted living facility. However, they should be aware that assisted living facilities are not set up to address more significant medical concerns.

Assisted living facilities are often good choices when:

  • The senior’s health is relatively good and expects that to continue
  • The senior requires little one-on-one assistance
  • The senior wants or needs the assurance of a safe living environment
  • Transportation is difficult or impossible
  • The senior needs help with cleaning or cooking

A situation that works for an individual at 80 may no longer be the correct choice at 90 — and this may require a relocation to another facility, such as a nursing home, that has more care options.

Instead, assisted living facilities are largely targeted at individuals and families who are looking to ensure that their family member is in a safe living environment where help is available when needed.

For example, an assisted living facility may offer peace of mind to families whose loved ones live in cold and snowy climates.

Instead of having to venture out in a snowstorm to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, the client simply walks down the hallway to a dining facility that is full of healthy and nutritious options.

Choosing Home Care or Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are intended to provide peace-of-mind and reduce potential risks. Seniors considering assisted living as an option will find the following benefits:

  • Opportunities for socializing
  • Sharing meals with friends
  • Taking part in activities with other seniors
  • Opportunities for group outings
  • Flexibility to get help with only the needs they have
  • These facilities may also be great options for seniors who are suffering from loneliness or depression in their own home, which is one of the most frequently overlooked, but potentially physically and psychologically detrimental challenges for many older Americans.

    The best facilities ensure that these activities align with individuals’ preferences, as well as their individual abilities and needs.

    Flexibility and options are extremely important; however, assisted living facilities may not be the perfect answer for all seniors.

    While assisted living is the perfect choice for some seniors, home health care may better suit the needs of others.

    Home health care may be a great alternative for seniors who still want to remain in their own homes, and who need a little bit of assistance to make their wish a reality.

    Home health care often works best for seniors in these circumstances:

    • Seniors whose family members are geographically remote
    • Seniors whose family members are unable or unwilling to care for them
    • Seniors whose medical needs require one-on-one assistance
    • Seniors who require regular medical attention
    • Seniors who need a nurse or provider that has expertise in a certain area

    Even with home health care, there is a broad range of needs that the medical professionals may be able to address like cancer, diabetes, or dementia.

    The flexibility and duration of services is a factor in deciding on home health care. Home health care provides services:

    • For short-terms such as during rehabilitation
    • For short periods such as a few hours per day
    • Overnight care or daytime only care
    • 24/7 care
    • Palliative care
    • Hospice care

    This flexibility to adjust to different clients’ needs is one of the greatest benefits of choosing the home health care option — and yet, it is something that families may overlook when making care decisions.

    Stress, lack of information, and financial worries may complicate the decision-making process when it comes to making decisions for types of care.

    Homecare and Assisted Living: Pros and Cons

    In addition to the issues mentioned above, there are other differences that set the two care options apart. There may also be a dramatic gap in the cost of in-home care vs assisted living.

    These gaps, however, are not universal and may depend on a wide range of factors that are not easily captured in a single article or assessment.

    The Cost of Assisted Living

    Although assisted living costs vary significantly based on the area of the country where one lives and the services that the facility offers, most assisted living facilities offer similar options such as:

    • Monthly costs on average of $5000 per month
    • Fixed fees based on services needed
    • Pay as you go
    • Package plan services

    The costs can be very affordable when choosing the best plan for services according to the senior’s medical and personal needs.

    But What About Costs for Home Health Care?

    Alternatively, home health care is generally billed on a per hour basis. If the patient does not need extensive services, home health care may be cheaper — since you or your family are only contracting for only the services that you directly need.

    However, the costs can quickly spiral, particularly if the medical problems you or your loved one are facing are complex or likely to change over time.

    It’s important to consider that both home health care costs and assisted living fees generally must be paid from a patient’s pocket.

    While health insurance doesn’t generally cover home health or assisted living costs, there are a few resources that may help with costs including:

    • Long-term care insurance policies
    • Veteran’s Administration
    • Family investments
    • Reverse mortgage
    • Medicare
    • Medicaid
    • Annuities

    Important Conversations to Have

    No matter what option a patient and family ultimately choose for their care it is important that families have conversations about these options — and that these conversations realistically address the older family member’s true health situation.

    Consider having a care meeting for your loved one including:

    • Seniors needing assistance
    • Adult children or other family members
    • Regular health care providers
    • Potential future health care providers

    It is often difficult to admit that a mother or father is aging or experiencing challenges. But, burying one’s head in the sand will not help the situation — it will only delay the inevitable decisions that need to be made, while ultimately compromising your loved one’s quality of life.

    Transparency will help ensure that the right decisions are made. It is important that you and your family members are comfortable with the staff who are going to be an integral part of your life moving forward.