Written by Josh Horsman
In the modern age of medicine, scientific research and new medications are helping us to live longer and stay healthier well into later life. However, for many of us, there will ultimately come a point, as you may have experienced with your own parents, where we can no longer live independently. This can mean a range of things. For some, only basic help is required to live a normal life, while others require 24hr care. Wherever they lie on this spectrum, there is a decision for the individual and their family to take. Do they stay in their own home and receive care there? Or do they move into an assisted-living facility?
This decision is not one that is easy or that can be taken lightly. It is a key moment in life that will determine the environment in which someone spends their later years. For some one option may best suit their needs and for another, the other.
Whether this choice is something you are currently debating or just something that is on the horizon for the future, the best thing you can do is to be well-informed about both options.
To that end, here’s our guide to both assisted-living and in-home care:
Assisted-Living facilities offer a supportive, permanent living-situation for seniors where they typically live in their own apartment or room in a purpose-built complex shared with other seniors and supported by 24/7 care staff. Residents are usually provided meals, dedicated medical care and activity programs daily as part of the cost.
For seniors who require 24/7 care, assisted-living represents a more affordable option than alternative care plans, and loved-ones can take comfort in the fact that these facilities usually take care of almost the every need of the seniors they look after, all included in the cost.
Seniors living in assisted-living also benefit from the vast resources that such facilities have at their disposal. Because they are equipped to cater for residents with a range of health conditions, they can adapt their care to provide for the needs of residents even as they change with age or the progression of medical conditions.
Assisted-living facilities are also incredibly social environments, providing company as well as activity programs which enrich the lives of residents and also have significant health benefits through countering loneliness and depression.
A further benefit of assisted-living facilities for family members of residents is that they gain peace-of-mind through knowing that their loved-one is cared for 24/7 and that the weight of responsibility for care does not fall on their shoulders. This means that they can prioritise their relationship with their loved-one and enjoy simply spending quality time with them in the knowledge that their other needs are taken care of.
The main drawback of assisted-living is that, while care is available round-the-clock and resources are available that residents would not have in their own homes, care is not as person-centred. When staff have many residents to care for, they obviously cannot provide tailored, one-to-one care that they would get from hiring a carer in their own home. The turnover of staff may also compromise the consistency and quality of care.
Committing to moving a loved-one to an assisted-living facility is also an extremely financially costly decision and this can put a burden upon family members. While home-care can be tailored according to the times of day the senior may actually need it, assisted-living obviously requires 24/7 care to be paid for making it a less cost-efficient arrangement.
Understandably, many people have reservations about moving into an assisted-living facility and would prefer to remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.
In this case, in-home care, where a hired caregiver comes into the home and provides one-to-one daily care, is the alternative to assisted-living. These carers help an older adult with typical aspects of daily routine which may have become difficult for them to perform independently. These could include: bathing, dressing, preparing meals and transportation.
The one-to-one nature of care is perhaps the biggest benefit of in-home care. The carer and the senior will build a relationship and understanding of each other over time and the carer is likely to be able to be more attentive to changes in condition and detect any health concerns quickly. The care is also personalised to the individual needs of the senior rather than standardised for multiple people.
Being able to stay in the familiar environment of their own home is another obvious benefit of in-home care. Especially for those with dementia and other cognitive conditions, adapting to a new environment can be an extremely stressful and confusing process.
For family members, in-home care is an attractive option because they can have the power to decide who cares for their loved-one and they can find an individual who meets their specific requirements and know that it is that person alone who will be responsible for the provision of care. This provides the opportunity for a stronger relationship between family and carer, helping all parties to stay informed.
Cost is also an important factor in any decision regarding care and in-home care also represents a financially prudent option. Care can be tailored to the hours and times where it is needed and this ensures that spending can be controlled and targeted.
One major disadvantage associated with in-home care is that constant input is required from family-members in order to manage and oversee the caregivers, hiring and making alternative arrangements where necessary. This can put significant stress on to family, particularly if there are not several people to split the responsibilities involved.
There are also scenarios where costs could be comparable to even outstrip those of assisted living. For example, 24/7 in-home care may be required which would obviously incur significant wage costs, or expensive modifications may be required to the individual’s home in order to accommodate the declining health of the senior. These costs may ultimately mean that assisted living becomes the more financially viable option.
Lastly, a huge benefit of assisted-living facilities are the social environments they provide which counter the loneliness, depression and related conditions which often plague older people. Especially for seniors with limited mobility, in-home care often fails to provide the incentive to socialise and spend time outside of the house. Social interaction has been proven by scientific research to be a key factor in preventing the decline of both physical and cognitive health.