How Can I Keep Mom and Dad at Home?

senior living communiity

As older adults age, their need for home care may become greater. Many adult children of aging parents face pressure to take on a caregiver role as their loved one approaches the latter stages of life. Many wish to keep mom and dad at home, but it’s important to understand all the factors involved when you take on the responsibility, because becoming a caregiver can be more emotionally and financially taxing than you’d think.

Home Accessibility

Making changes to the home to make it more accessible is often necessary when taking on a caregiver role. It can be a very expensive component of the process, depending on the needs of your loved one.

Fall Prevention

If your loved one is at-risk or experiencing falls, making the home a safer place to navigate is very important. Check the handrails in and around your house to make sure they are secured and that they go all the way up the steps. Inspect the carpets around the house. Any loose carpeting or throw rugs should be removed or taped down to prevent skidding. In addition, tuck any electrical cords away from walkways.

The bathroom is one of the highest-risk areas for falls in the house. Consider putting grab bars in the shower and around the toilet, since this is the best way to promote accessibility and prevent falls around the bathroom.  

We do not always think of all the fall risks around the house until we are faced with them. 

Emergency Care System

An older adult may also want to consider an emergency contact service. Providers offering these services include Life Alert, Bay Alarm Medical or MobileHelp. They typically charge a one-time activation fee, as well as a monthly fee. While costly, these services are known to save lives and provide peace of mind.

Home Care

Whether considering a professional or having a family member step into the caregiver role, in-home care is often an older adult’s first step before looking into Long-term Care communities.

Family Support

Whether it is for emotional support or a place to stay when they can no longer live alone, older adults depend on family for support. Gitlin and Schultz detail the trajectory of care, from sporadic care to end-of-life care, in their book Family Caregiving Roles and Impacts*. As older adults age, their caregiving needs evolve:

  • First, they may only need accompaniment to doctor’s appointments or help with light errands, this is referred to as the “Awareness” phase.
  • Next, a caregiver may notice a need to help monitor symptoms or medications, manage finances, and hire and coordinate care providers. This is called “Unfolding Responsibility”.
  • Then, the older adult may experience functional decline. This brings about “Increasing Care Demands”. During this stage a family caregiver must monitor behavior and location, as well as providing specialized care (e.g. giving injections).
  • Lastly, the “End-of-Life” is the stage during which the caregiver sees the most stress and responsibility.

We live in a society that normalizes family in a caregiver role, but not all are up to the task. The process of aging can not only cause increasing stress on the senior, but on the family caregiver as well.

Some find that becoming a caregiver takes away from the experience of being a husband or wife, brother or sister, or son or daughter; especially in the later years, this can be emotionally draining. Many people rest easy knowing their loved one is cared for around the clock by professionals at a senior living community. They know they can visit as a family member, instead of a caregiver, whenever they want and continue that role through the end-of-life stage. In other words, a Senior Living Community allows a family member to remain just that – a family member!

In-home Care

According to a Genworth survey, the fastest-rising long-term care cost is not for the skilled care at a nursing home or assisted-living facility, but for in-home services.

In 2021 a home health aide working just 20 hours a week would cost around $2,142 a month. The survey denotes that 44 hours is the average amount you can expect a professional in-home caregiver to be at your home. This would cost upwards of $4,713 a month. Perhaps most striking, home health aide costs in the Philadelphia area are expected to increase 15.9% in the next 5 years.

Aside from the cost, there are other challenges with in-home care as well. For one, aspects of in-home care are not always as black and white when it comes to insurance and Medicare coverage; especially when compared to a long-term care community. Also, in-home care services do not always let the family members off the hook. Family members may still need to check in with the older person daily to monitor when the aides are not around. Compare this experience with a long-term community where residents receive care around the clock.

Alternatives to In-home Care

Now that we see how maintaining an older adult at home can add up financially, how do senior living communities stack up? Assisted Living (or Personal Care) service level rates are comparable to those of an in-home caregiver for an average amount of time. This rate, though, would include rent, utilities, apartment maintenance, three meals-a-day and onsite emergency assistance. Most importantly, Assisted Living provides peace-of-mind knowing that your loved one is being taken care of 24/7.

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