Whether you like it or not, America’s senior population is set to outpace the number of children in the United States. In fact, one in five people throughout the nation will be of retirement age by the year 2030. By 2035, US Census data predicts that there will be approximately 78 million residents over the age of 65–most of whom will face unfamiliar challenges and shifts in their quality of life.
As we age, we’re forced to make some difficult decisions about how we live so that our changing needs are met. While AARP reports that at least 76 percent of Americans would like to remain in their current residence as they grow older, aging in place isn’t always possible or recommended in every situation. On the other hand, there may be benefits specific to in-home care that senior communities can’t offer in the same way.
Ultimately, there’s no one right decision that will apply to every senior. The choice about whether to remain in your home during your golden years or whether to opt to move to an assisted living facility is dependent upon your individual wishes and requirements. What’s more, there are pros and cons associated with each scenario. Let’s delve into the specifics of each option to ensure you have the information you need to make the right selection when the time comes.
The goal of in-home care is to ensure a senior can continue to remain in a familiar environment (like their own house or that of a family member) while receiving the care that they need. When you decide to remain in your home as you age, you’ll need to take proactive steps to ensure your mobility, safety, social interaction, and overall health are prioritized. This may involve making modifications throughout the property that will allow an elderly person to access what they need while preventing the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
While many seniors rely on support provided by a friend or relative when they choose to remain in their homes, familial caregivers may not always be available. Not only can this result in social isolation, but it can also represent a health and safety threat to the senior. Therefore, home health care services may be required to supplement or even replace the role of the familial caregiver. In-home care programs can offer necessary assistance for daily tasks of living, transportation, and even companionship, all of which become essential as patients age.
The costs associated with in-home care can vary quite a bit, depending on how frequently a senior needs assistance and to what extent. It’s also important to consider that in-home care doesn’t cover home maintenance, meal preparation and provision, and other essential duties. That may not be a concern for families who live in close proximity to their aging loved one, but seniors who live in relative isolation should consider the hidden costs and complications associated with this option. That said, in-home care can allow seniors to live independently and in a comfortable environment for a longer period of time–and for many, that may be well worth it.
Even though many seniors would prefer to age in place, others would welcome the change that comes with moving to an assisted living facility. With assisted living, residents live in individual rooms or even small apartments. While this does require getting used to a new environment, it also means that seniors will no longer have to take care of their own home maintenance or navigate unsafe stairwells. Not only is facility maintenance and cleaning included in costs of assisted living, but so are transportation, meals, social activities, and other enriching opportunities that can provide physical, emotional, and mental stimulation.
According to Aging.com, there are nearly 30,000 assisted living centers throughout the United States. The majority of assisted living residents require help with some daily tasks, but they do not always need specialized or round-the-clock care. While these residents may not be ideal candidates for independent living communities, they don’t necessarily require constant supervision, either. That said, care levels can easily be increased as needed, since seniors are already in a facility that offers these services. This can remove the added burden from familial caregivers and provide peace of mind in knowing that their loved one will be safe and cared for.
Of course, there are drawbacks to these situations. Seniors may not always receive individualized attention due to the number of residents in a facility, nor do family members have any say in the quality of the staff. In addition, getting used to community style living can be challenging for older people. While socialization is important as we age, the transition may prove difficult for many seniors. In some cases, moving to an assisted living facility may be more expensive (but may be comparable, in other scenarios). What some loved ones may not realize is that assisted living residents can be “involuntarily discharged” from their housing with very little notice for any number of reasons; while relatively rare, the lack of control may not sit well with some family members. However, more frequent monitoring and amenities may be a viable trade-off.
In the end, deciding between in-home care and assisted living won’t be easy. As with any living situation, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Once you figure out your unique priorities, however, you can start to do some research on the programs available to you and assess which ones will align most closely with your needs as you age.