As our parents and other relatives get older and begin to experience declining health, we struggle with how best to care for them. The two most common choices are to take them to an assisted living facility or to make plans to care for them in their home.
The cost of these two choices is obviously very different. The expense associated with skilled care in either a nursing home or an assisted living home is a major barrier for many families who would prefer to have their loved one receive that level of care.
Yet the home care option isn’t as cheap as it may first seem. There are a number of hidden costs that you may not think about with home care. Making sure you capture all these considerations is essential for making an accurate comparison of the two options. Staying at home is likely to still be less expensive, but you will still need to make provisions for certain expenditures.
Part of the reason you may be investigating nursing homes is that their home may be unsafe for them, due to mobility or vision limitations. If you choose to make home modifications that permit them to stay in place there, the cost can be significant.
A very common solution is a stairlift. Older folks with arthritis, paralysis from strokes, or simply issues with balance will find their home stairs nearly impossible to navigate. A stairlift can easily be added to an existing home and will provide safe, reliable movement to and from an upper level.
Doorways can be another modification. Most older homes have narrower doorways that cannot accommodate a wheelchair, especially if they involve an immediate turn down a hallway. Check with an experienced contractor about this upgrade as well.
Depending on the level of assistance required by your relative, you may need to have plans for around-the-clock care. This can be handled fairly easily in larger families, where there may be adult grandchildren as well as adult children and their spouses. But if there are fewer people available, it can be very difficult to get coverage all 168 hours of the week.
It is usually easy to find someone who does this type of work affordably, but the cost can really add up if the person needs to be able to administer drugs or perform other medical actions. When you hire, you should thoroughly vet all candidates and thoroughly secure valuables before a worker starts. Good fences make good neighbors, after all, so the best thing to do to avoid a problem is to put valuables out of sight.
Persons who are living with home care have probably developed some type of physical limitations that preclude their independent function. Consequently, the daily routines of meal preparation, exercise, and cleaning are difficult for them. Should the resident be unable to take care of their nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and physical fitness without help, other plans will have to be made.
Many communities have senior feeding programs that provide meals to homebound elderly citizens. There may also be therapists available who can visit and help with some therapeutic exercise. And of course, there are cleaning services who can help with home upkeep. The issue is not the availability of this assistance but rather the cost, so it should be planned.
There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our loved ones, at any age. It isn’t difficult to know when someone needs help, but making the right decision about how to help can prove to be very challenging indeed. As long as you can provide for their safety, health, nutrition, and happiness, there is no wrong answer. The important thing is to understand the costs ahead of time and to make sure that there are sufficient funds available to maintain a strategy indefinitely and not experience a traumatic disruption down the road.
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