- Aging & Longevity
Elder Care - Choices and Options
Senior care and elder care are growing problems in the United States today. In general, people are living longer, and when they get to the point that they can no longer live alone, they often have to leave their homes or turn to family members or adult care agencies. I know from experience this can be a heartbreaking experience. The families are faced with some tough decisions. To see your mother or father leave a home they’ve known and loved for years is truly painful. Of course, it’s tragic for the senior citizen, but it’s also sad for the entire family. In many cases, the senior’s home has served as a “gathering place” for family functions and celebrations over the years, so it’s like the concept of “going home” is gone forever. Fortunately, today there are several choices in adult care and elder care. Each type of senior living has its advantages and disadvantages. With my grandmother and both my parents, I’ve had experience with in home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. I hope this information helps you make a prudent choice for elder care.
In Home Care
If your senior citizen doesn’t require specialized medical care, he might be able to stay in his own home by taking advantage of in home care. Elderly home care might be the best option for everyone involved. It’s usually much less expensive than assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and the senior gets to stay in familiar, comfortable surroundings. If you have enough family members and friends who are able and willing to share the responsibilities, that’s wonderful. If not, you can hire outside help for senior home care.
There are many agencies that provide in home care. If the elderly care agency is reputable, they do a thorough background check on the adult care givers they employ. You make an agreement with the agency for them to send someone to your senior’s home. Depending on the specific elder care agency, the caregivers might do laundry, cleaning, and cooking. If the caregiver doesn’t work out for some reason, most agencies will allow you to try a different one. Don’t be shy about this. Some personalities just mesh better than others do, and seniors can be pretty selective about who takes care of their personal needs. It’s best to take on any caregiver on a trial basis.
Hopefully, the agency or caregiver will meet with members of the family to discuss elderly care options and show you ways to make the home environment more senior-friendly and safe. These might include installing grab bars, de-cluttering, and/or removing tripping hazards like throw rugs and long electrical cords. This is also the perfect time for you to discuss exactly what you expect of the caregiver.
We used in home care with my dad, and we went through three caregivers before we found one who was acceptable to my father. Yes, it was frustrating and even a little embarrassing, but we “bit the bullet” and honored Dad’s wishes. We were glad we did, as the third caregiver worked out wonderfully.
Another option to in home care is to hire a private sitter. Some of these adult caregivers are unskilled, while others might be LPNs or even registered nurses. Of course, the more skilled the adult caregivers are, the more they charge. If your senior citizen just needs someone to help with bathing or running errands, you don’t need to pay the extra cost of a skilled adult care giver.
Before you hire any type of in-home adult care, you need to assess the needs of your senior realistically. What can he do for himself? What can family members help with? Do you want 24-7 adult care? Or would just a few hours a day of elder care suffice?
Assisted Living Facilities
Another choice in adult care is assisted living facilities. Some of these are very nice. My mom was in one for two years, and it was beautiful. It looked like a large plantation home, and it was situated on a small lake. The grounds were landscaped, and there were outdoor sitting areas. The inside was furnished with antiques and quality reproductions. Senior citizens had the choice of a room or suite. The rooms had a bedroom, a bathroom, and a small kitchen. The suites had a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. Many assisted living facilities offer these same options.
With most assisted living facilities, residents are allowed to use their own furniture. This makes their new room feel homey and provides a sense of familiarity. Most senior citizens are happier when they can keep their most precious belongings. And a big part of adult care should be about the happiness of the recipient.
The better assisted living facilities provide regular entertainment and activities for their residents. These might include games, live music, special speakers, and arts and crafts. Some assisted living facilities even take the residents on day trips. Activities are important in keeping senior citizens involved and stimulated. In some assisted living facilities, guests can have their own automobiles and keep a pet.
Most assisted senior facilities have a common dining room. Meals and snacks are served there. If a patron is ill or doesn’t feel well, he can have his meal in his room. Some facilities also provide a private dining room where patrons can entertain guests. Mom’s had one, and it was a nice place for family members and friends to share a meal with her when visiting. Visitors are usually charged a small fee for a meal.
The disadvantage of assisted living is mainly cost. They are expensive, and they’re not covered by most insurance policies. Assisted living facilities are not covered by Medicaid, either. Prices for senior facilities in my area average about $3,000 per month, depending on how much assistance your senior needs.
Another disadvantage with senior assisted living is that they do not provide nursing care. They’ll help with bathing, dressing, feeding, medication monitoring, and some other aspects of senior living, but they’re not nursing homes. If your senior needs more adult care than that, assisted living is probably not an option.
My mom had Alzheimer’s, and once she began trying to escape her assisted living quarters, she had to be moved. They could not take the responsibility for her safety any longer. We had to find another place for eldercare. We found a wonderful assisting living home that included an Alzheimer’s wing. The unit was locked down, so Mom could no longer escape. She didn’t require medical adult care, so this was a good option for us. This assisted living home was just down the street from me, so it was easy for me to make regular visits.
Another choice for adult care and elder care is nursing homes. Typical nursing homes are bare-bones adult care, as far as any luxuries are concerned. Nursing homes do, however, provide medical care. If your senior citizen needs more care than assisted living facilities provide, nursing homes might be your only choice.
Nursing homes often get a bad rap, but some are well run and well staffed. My grandmother was in one that was run by the Presbyterian Church, and we were always impressed with the care she received. On the other hand, my nurse-daughter has worked in a couple of nursing homes that were terrible. Patients were often neglected, and some were over-medicated. Nursing home abuse and neglect are very real, so you need to monitor the situation carefully and regularly.
If you feel that your senior needs medical adult care, visit several nursing homes before making a decision. Nursing homes near your residence would be convenient for you, but is it the best choice for your senior citizen? Don’t let location be your only criterion for choosing nursing homes. When visiting prospective facilities, observe the patients. Do they appear well kempt? Are they kept active? Are entertainment programs provided? Is the facility clean and well run? Is there an adequate number of staff members? Schedule a meeting with the nursing home director, and don’t be bashful about asking questions. You might want to meet with the activities director, too, to get a better idea of provided activities. It’s not a bad idea to have a meal at the facility, either. Food and nutrition are usually very important for senior citizens. Some seniors don’t have much appetite, and getting them to eat properly can be a problem. If the meals provided aren’t very palatable, the problem will be compounded. If there are certain foods your senior won’t eat, is the nursing home willing to make substitutions?
The disadvantages of nursing homes have been covered. Advantages of nursing homes include round-the-clock medical care. Another advantage of nursing homes is that they’re covered by Medicaid. If your senior citizen has a special extended care insurance policy, nursing home expenses might also be covered by that.
Choose Elder Care Carefully!
Elder care is something we might all have to face sooner or later. Before making a choice with any type of senior care, weigh your options carefully. Where would your loved one be happiest and best cared for? It’s prudent to investigate any adult care givers, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes first. Don’t make a rushed decision – unless an emergency requires it. Even then, however, you can always move your loved one to another facility once you’ve had a chance to do some research. I’d also like to add this: wherever you place your senior citizen, stay on top of the situation. Even if you’re sure he or she is receiving excellent care, it’s not the same as being with family members and close friends. Even the best adult caregivers are strangers to your loved one, so be sure to make regular visits, and encourage other family members to do the same. Make sure you do the right thing. Remember that you’ll actually have to live with your elder care choice for a long time.
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