When you’re trying to figure out what’s best for a senior loved one, it’s important to understand all the options available. The senior care market only seems to add more options as the senior population grows, which is a good thing for seniors, but does make figuring out the best option for a loved one a little more difficult.
Which option is best for your loved one will depend on a lot of different factors and every family will have to figure out for themselves what they feel is best. But to help you make an informed decision, here are some of the most important details on how assisted living and aging in place differ.
The Benefits of Aging in Place
For most seniors and their loved ones, the appeal of aging in place is clear. Most of us would prefer to live out our lives in the comfort of the home we know and love. But there are a few additional, important benefits that choosing to age in place can offer:
- It’s affordable. Aging in place comes with its share of costs, but the cost of assisted living is generally much higher. You may have to invest in home modifications and you’ll have to deal with repairs, real estate taxes and any remaining mortgage payments like you always have, but the annual cost will still likely be lower than moving to assisted living.
- Seniors who age in place can stay in their own community. If your loved one is close to their neighbors, has a church community close to where they live, or has any other organizations or friends nearby, moving them to assisted living could put more distance between them and their community. Leaving behind friends is painful and making new friends from scratch isn’t easy. For some seniors, the value of their local community is hard to quantify.
- A home has usually been personalized. If your loved one has lived in the same house for many years, they’ve probably made changes over time to make it their own. Maybe they added a garden, painted it in their favorite colors, or put a soothing water feature in the backyard. It’s natural to want to stay in the space they’ve worked hard to make their own.
- In-home care is widely available. For seniors that need the kind of care assisted living provides only some of the time, in-home care can often be a solution that fills that need without requiring a move.
- It’s what most seniors want. Nobody wants to push their loved one into a living situation they don’t want. And nearly 90% of seniors want to live out their lives in their own homes.
For a lot of families, making aging in place work is a worthwhile goal, but it’s not the best choice for everyone.
The Benefits of Assisted Living
Assisted living offers more independence than a nursing home, but more care than a person receives living on their own. For a lot of seniors who have difficulty with many of the day-to-day tasks of living, an assisted living facility is the best option. They offer a few distinct benefits that a senior can’t get from aging in place:
- Assisted living facilities provide constant care. While you can hire an in-home care professional for certain hours of the day, assisted living facilities have staff on site for 24 hours of every day. If your loved one needs help with a lot of basic daily activities, like getting dressed or going to the bathroom, having someone available at all hours is important.
- They offer a built-in community. Some seniors already have a strong community, but others find themselves drifting away from social connections as transportation becomes more difficult or friends pass away. Assisted living facilities offer a community of their own for residents to become a part of so your loved one can make new connections.
- They offer activities and events. Assisted living facilities routinely schedule fun activities and events for residents. This can range from tai chi classes to movie nights to trips to local landmarks and museums. All these options make it easy for seniors to stay active.
- Specialty assisted living options are growing. As the assisted living industry grows, so do the types of assisted living options available to seniors. You can find pet-friendly assisted living, eco-friendly assisted living, and assisted living on a college campus, just to name a few options. Savvy people in the industry are working to build assisted living facilities that bring people with common interests together and provide seniors with the kind of community they most value.
A lot of seniors may be resistant to assisted living, but if they need the level of care assisted living provides it may well be the best choice for them. And many seniors find they like it more once they move in than they ever expected to.
How to Decide Which One’s Right for Your Loved One
Now you know some of the main differences between the two options, but you still need to figure out which one makes the most sense for your loved one. Here are a few steps you can take to help you figure it out:
- Talk to your loved one’s doctor. They can help you understand not only what needs your loved one has now, but how their needs are likely to change in the next few years. Knowing what’s coming can help you make a more informed decision about what to do now.
- Consider the resources your loved one has at home now. Are there family members or close friends in the neighborhood? Is there good public transportation in the area for when they can no longer drive? Some neighborhoods and communities are better suited for aging in place than others, so surveying what’s available to your loved one now can help you figure out how well it matches their level of need.
- Research your local options. In addition to considering the resources your loved one has at home, also look into what their assisted living options in the area are. You can find details and reviews for both assisted living and in-home care agencies that can give you a good idea of what your options are.
- Figure out what you can afford. Assisted living is expensive enough that money’s got to be a consideration. In some cases, insurance or Medicaid can help and many people are able to leverage their home to pay for assisted living. Compare the costs of your different options and determine which one makes the most financial sense for you.
- Have a family meeting. In most cases, this shouldn’t be a decision made entirely by one person. Talk it over with your loved one and the rest of the family and weigh your options together.
The decision likely won’t be an easy one, but the most important thing is to make sure you do what’s right for your loved one. Consider your options carefully and make the best choice you can.