Home Care, Assisted Living and the Six-Headed Eldercare Beast

Multiple care options exist for elderly individuals who require assistance with day-to-day needs but who are not so impaired that nursing home placement is recommended. These care possibilities include nonmedical home care, continuing-care retirement communities and assisted living facilities. Today's article will briefly discuss each of these alternatives, as well as the interrelated set of challenges faced by caregivers and caretakers that I've termed the "Six-Headed Eldercare Beast."

Nonmedical Home Care

Many seniors of advanced age are committed to living in their homes despite deteriorating health and decreased mobility. This has led to the creation of the nonmedical home care industry, geared toward allowing the aged to remain in their residences. Unfortunately, the downsides of this type of care are rarely discussed.

While cost savings are generally the primary reason for choosing nonmedical home care, the forgotten expense is senior-proofing the home. Homes are often filled with built-in "booby traps" such as stairs, which can become increasingly difficult to navigate with age. Another issue with at-home care is that many states do not allow nonmedical caregivers to touch an elderly person or administer their medications.

Continuing-Care Retirement Communities

The next step up from at-home care is typically a continuing-care retirement community, which offers a variety of living options—from independent living to assisted living to nursing care—all within one community. Such a living situation can allow Mom or Dad to stay within one facility, moving from one type of residence to another as their health care needs change.

The solution sounds great on paper, but it can be pricey. There are approximately 2,000 such communities nationwide. Their entrance fees can run from $100,000 to $1 million, and the monthly fees commonly range from $3,000 to $5,000 or more. Additionally, many seniors overlook the financial risks they take on when signing a contract to move into these communities. If the company goes bankrupt, residents could potentially lose their entire investment.

Assisted Living Homes

Assisted living homes are frequently billed as a type of Shangri-La that will take care of all of a person's eldercare needs, from meals to housecleaning. Since these facilities arrived on the scene back in 1981 as a midpoint between home care and a nursing home, they have steadily grown in popularity. Unfortunately, no legal definition for "assisted living" exists, so it can be difficult to understand what you're getting with a given facility in terms of the standard of care.

Eight out of 10 assisted living homes are for-profit organizations, so they are out to make money for their investors. This means they may charge extra fees when residents' health decline and they need help with getting dressed, taking medication or bathing. Residents may also be asked to leave should their health care needs change, if they are considered "disagreeable" or if they cannot afford the facility's costs and need to rely on Medicaid.

The Six Major Challenges of Eldercare

Selecting the right living situation for an aging parent or relative can be a difficult prospect, and caregivers need to keep multiple factors in mind when deciding upon the best solution. Those factors make up what I call the Six-Headed Eldercare Beast, and you should watch for them when navigating the eldercare maze:

  • Money challenges: When it comes to protecting yourself against the financial abuse you may encounter with eldercare, it's important to trust your instincts. There are also practical steps you can take to help safeguard your money.
  • Medical challenges: Health care is a chief concern for the aging, and several potentially dangerous medical mistakes can arise in long-term care. It's crucial to keep an eye out for these issues, as they are easy to overlook.
  • Psychological challenges: Unfortunately, many older Americans are leading increasingly isolated lives, which can lead to depression and a diminished quality of life. They may suffer from their own personal neglect, or they may be the victim of abuse by a neighbor, family member, friend or acquaintance.
  • Social challenges: In many instances, the person who requires care may live far away from their children and other family members. Relatives may also have differing opinions regarding their senior relation's long-term-care needs.
  • Environmental challenges: The environmental eldercare concern revolves around where the elderly person lives, or should live. This often creates considerable internal conflict for the senior, as well as conflict within the family.
  • Legal challenges: There are many issues in navigating eldercare that can cause pitfalls if not properly documented and understood. Few caretakers stop to consider the legal aspects, but it's important to do so.

There Is a Silver Lining

The silver lining amidst the storm clouds of eldercare is that information and experts are available to help guide you through the process. But before you can avail yourself of their assistance, it's vital that you become aware of the multifaceted issues, common myths and prevalent mistakes surrounding the eldercare industry.

In future articles, I will delve into the six categories of challenges presented above. I will also offer options and solutions to help you make informed and wise decisions for the senior family member who is depending upon you to be their best advocate.