We only want what's best for our senior loved ones, but all too often, we are just unsure of what that really entails. Do you move your aging mother to an assisted living community, or do you hire a home health aide so she can stay at home?
The latter option, called aging in place, is often the preferred choice. According to a 2011 survey from AARP, about 90 percent of adults age 65 and older said they want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Plus, this long-term care route has plenty of advantages:
It's more affordable
While the price tag shouldn't be the only factor swaying your long-term care decision, it's important to consider what options you have within your budget. According to 2010 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, using home health aide services costs $21 per hour on average. Meanwhile, the mean monthly payment for an assisted community is $3,292.
You would need home health aide services for 40 hours per week to come close to that price. Depending on your loved one's health status, you may only require this type of care a few hours per day or when you're not around. Additionally, this reduction in cost has extended benefits, the executive director of the National Aging in Place Council, Marty Bell, told The Nation's Health.
"There are a lot of people who argue … that if enough people could be taught to age in place, and it's available to them, that it can really bolster the sustainability and strength of the Medicaid and Medicare program," Bell said. "So it's kind of a win-win for the individuals and the society as a whole."
Aging in place provides a sense of community
Your aging parent has spent a lifetime building family relationships and likely years bonding with neighbors. Removing older adults from their long-time homes can make them feel like those connections have weakened. According to research published in The Gerontologist, the majority of seniors want to age in place because of the attachment and familiarity they feel with their home and communities. While moving to an assisted living community provides opportunities to make new friends, older adults may rather maintain already-existing relationships.
It fights isolation
That sense of community provided through aging in place does more than make seniors feel comfortable. It is also integral for fighting feelings of isolation, a dangerous trend among seniors. Researchers from the University of Chicago found a link between loneliness and high blood pressure in older adults. The study authors noted that feelings of loneliness can occur even when a senior is surrounded by people - such as at an assisted living community. This further demonstrates the importance of the familiarity and sense of community provided through aging in place.
This is not to say that assisted living communities aren't a great option for long-term care. It all depends on your senior loved one's personality and needs. Have an open discussion about long-term care options so everyone's voice is heard.