One of the most delicate and stressful issues you could ever encounter as a caregiver to an elderly parent is deciding between aging in place vs. assisted living.
As much as we want to see our beloved seniors live independently for all their lives, we have to acknowledge that such a setup may not be suitable forever or for everyone. So, the sooner you prepare for the issues that may arise with your parent getting older, the better chance you have at offering them the care they need. It can even mean helping them move into an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
This article will show you the pros and cons of aging in place and how it compares to the benefits of assisted living. We will also provide a summary of how to choose between various care facilities for the elderly. Finally, we will highlight a few suggestions on how to help aging parents stay in their home arrangements for as long as possible and experience the most pleasant retirement period, free of stressful incidents.
Pros and Cons of Aging in Place
Your parents’ home is the place where they spent many years raising their family and filling it with beautiful memories. That’s why it’s natural to see themselves there as they get older.
Among other benefits of aging in place, it’s worth highlighting that:
◦ Above all else, it is deeply tied to feelings of independence and privacy;
• It’s the ideal option for people who are in generally good physical and mental health or don’t require professional supervision;
◦ It can be a feasible option if the house is properly equipped for this;
• It doesn’t take the senior away from the community they are already familiar with;
◦ Costs may be lower (property taxes, maintenance) than an assisted living or nursing facility. As the world’s aging population has increased, it’s more difficult to ensure proper pensions or jobs for the elderly, so it’s harder for seniors to support themselves.
When it comes to disadvantages or risks associated with aging at home, keep in mind the following:
• You or another close relative must take the role of the (long-distance) caregiver;
◦ Safety concerns. Some issues can be fixed, like making the living spaces more accessible for elderly people, while others cannot;
• Special healthcare needs. If your parent is diagnosed with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, they will need a great deal of medical care and supervision. If they have a degenerative disease like dementia, it’s recommended to move them out sooner. That way, it’s easier for them to adjust to a new environment;
◦ Loneliness and isolation — they can be prevented in some cases.
Available Care Facilities for the Elderly
If aging in place is not a feasible option in your parent’s situation, don’t let it demoralize you. There are many alternatives to look into, such as:
• Assisted living facilities;
◦ Nursing homes;
• Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO) — if you live in a house with a large backyard, you can install a modular home to have your elderly loved one close to you and ensure their privacy at the same time;
◦ Congregate housing — It is a shared housing among several residents. They have hired staff who provide services like meal preparation and cleaning. It is sometimes confused with an assisted living facility;
• Retirement communities, also known as independent living communities;
◦ Adult foster care homes;
•Life care centers;
◦ Having the elderly parent move in with their children or vice versa.
Moving forward, we are going to focus on the first two most common alternatives to aging at home. It’s a frequent mistake to confuse assisted living with nursing homes, so we are going to make a clear distinction between them.
Benefits of Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living communities help seniors who are generally active to maintain a social lifestyle. They provide assistance with specific tasks they can’t do themselves.
Leaving your own home for a facility that takes care of elderly people implies giving up on some independence and privacy. On the other hand, it can compensate by providing a safe and supportive environment where your parent will receive the physical care they need, as well as mental stimulation and companionship.
Benefits of Nursing Homes
Nursing homes, properly named “skilled nursing facilities”, are there to take care of seniors who require specialized assistance — usually if they are dealing with serious health issues like neurodegenerative diseases. They usually cost more than assisted living due to the higher level of care.
Unfortunately, nursing homes have a history of improper and even abusive conditions. However, public lobbying and federal reforms have resulted in significant improvements on many levels. Nursing homes now have better-trained staff, more flexible schedules, and more engaging activities for their residents.
Having said that, you should do your research thoroughly before deciding to take your parent to any specific facility.
How to Make the Choice Between Aging in Place Vs. Assisted Living. When to Start Planning
When referring to whose decision it is to make the call, there are two possible scenarios:
→ If your parent is mentally stable and capable of weighing their options, then they have to decide on a course of action (even if it may be the opposite of how you see things or what is genuinely best for them);
→ If they are not able to make a sound decision (due to cognitive impairment), then it’s your duty to step in as their advocate.
No matter who is ultimately in charge, you need to do your best in raising the topic in an honest and open manner. Avoid making assumptions about what they want for their future. Also be careful not to make any promises that you’re not sure you can fulfill.
Here are some conversation starters:
• Is your parent happy where they live?
◦ What are their current needs and preferences?
• What issues are they facing at home?
◦ Do they see themselves in their existing home indefinitely?
• If moving out became a necessity, what would their priorities be in finding an assisted living facility?
If your mother or father wants to stay in their own home, you need to evaluate their living spaces. See how you can make them safer and more accessible. For example, falls are some of the most common and dangerous risks for the elderly, but there are tweaks you can make around the house as well as technology to employ to prevent them.
If you are considering moving out, make sure to visit and inspect a few facilities before making a decision.
Here is where you can find more information about care facilities for the elderly and the regulations in any specific U.S. state:
How to Help Aging Parents Stay in Their Home Stress-Free with CareAlert
There are other issues to consider when deciding on a new possible home for your parents. For instance, as a middle ground between assisted and independent living, you may want to contemplate the benefits and drawbacks of having your parents move in with you. But we will tackle this topic and similar ones in the future.
For now, we hope this article can be your starting point to help you and your elderly loved one navigate and embrace change together. Remember that the choice you make is very personal to you and your parent. No one else can make that call.
Eldercare technology like elderly monitoring systems makes aging in place easier and safer, as it can help your parents with their everyday tasks. CareAlert’s AI-based elderly monitoring system, in particular, can keep a discreet eye on their surroundings and daily habits. It will let you, the caregiver, learn about any unusual behaviour.
Our devices are also compatible with independent living facilities. You can install a CareAlert device in your loved one’s private living space, and it can be an additional tool for you to keep in touch with them. Furthermore, it would make you feel more at ease by not having to depend entirely on the staff to provide you with information on their health and wellbeing.