According to the last U.S. Census report in 2010, 11 million adults age 65 and over (28%) lived alone, and the likelihood of solitary living only increases as people get older. If your elderly relative is living on their own and not to the point of needing a care facility, it’s important to ensure that they aren’t isolated.
U.S. News & World Report has reported the effects of isolation, including an increase in chronic illness and depression and even a higher risk of death. While living alone doesn’t inevitably result in isolation, it can certainly contribute, especially if the person has few personal contacts and rarely takes part in social activities.
In addition to the risk of isolation, as a caregiver you should be aware of safety concerns for elderly individuals living on their own, such as slips, trips and falls. Seniors living alone may also struggle to manage their day-to-day needs, including housekeeping, errands, meal preparation and personal hygiene.
The Benefits of In-Home Care
Although you might think the solution is a move to an assisted living community, AARP reports that nearly 90% of people over age 65 want to stay at home for as long as possible. You may find that an in-home care provider may be the best option, especially if your loved one is relatively independent and high-functioning.
A visiting hired caregiver can help with chores and errands, from cleaning and grocery shopping to picking up medications and preparing nutritious meals. Nonmedical home care services provide regular visitation and can even evaluate environmental issues in the home. This type of arrangement could alleviate stress for adult children who are unable to visit their aging parents regularly.
An article from Precision Home HealthCare describes some of the benefits of in-home care:
- Affordability: Home care costs significantly less than a nursing home and in most cases is less expensive than an eldercare home or traditional sitter.
- The comfort of home: The feeling of being at home, where they are comfortable, can promote recovery after an illness, injury or surgery.
- Personalized one-on-one care: Your relative should have the complete attention of the caregiver while they are in the home.
- Independence: A home setting allows them to remain engaged in their daily activities and with friends and family.
- Keeping families together: Families are a great source of support, and home care allows relatives to visit without worrying about restrictive visiting hours. Caregivers can also help keep family members in regular communication with one another.
- Peace of mind: It’s often impossible for family members to provide the level of care that their loved one requires. An in-home caregiver can help you feel secure that you’re providing the care Mom or Dad needs.
Types and Costs of In-Home Care
If your loved one prefers being at home, the cost of care might be worth it. Although more long-term-care insurance companies are covering nonmedical home care, it’s primarily paid for by the families or the seniors themselves. While costs are different in each state, prices typically run between $10 and $30 per hour, according to writer and advocate Carol Marak on the Home Health Care Agencies website. But don’t let those prices alarm you, as not everyone requires full-time care. Marak estimates that 22 percent of her company’s eldercare clients use hired caregiver services for four hours or less per week, and 20 percent use them between four and eight hours per week.
A part-time hired caregiver can be a good solution for seniors who want to remain in their homes, but a time may come when both nonmedical and home health care services will be needed. For those who are unclear about the differences in these, here’s an overview:
- Home health care: Typically chosen when a person leaves a hospital, skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation center after an inpatient stay. Home health care helps seniors with monitoring medication changes and in regaining their independence through physical or occupational therapy.
- Nonmedical home care: Best for individuals needing help with activities of daily living like meal preparation, housecleaning and laundry. Such caregivers also provide transportation to and from doctor appointments, shopping and errands.
Individuals who are recovering from surgery generally need both home health and nonmedical home care services. Both services primarily focus on safety and well-being, but hired caregivers also establish and maintain a relationship with the elderly person. Because of the nature of their work, they can dedicate an amount of time that may be impractical for an adult child managing career and family responsibilities.
What Will Medicare Pay For?
Medicare and private insurance will pay for some in-home care services, such as visits from nurses, speech pathologists and occupational therapists. In March 2014, The New York Times reported that Medicare officials had updated the agency’s policy manual, the rule book for everything that Medicare does, to erase any notion that improvement is necessary in order to receive coverage for skilled care. Unlike in the past, Medicare now pays for eldercare nursing services and physical therapy, as well as additional services for those with chronic conditions like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. The change affects patients in both traditional Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans and includes home health care and in-home services from skilled professionals. For additional information about Medicare coverage of in-home care services, click here.
The Bottom Line
If you would like to learn more about the types of in-home care and what they cost, you may find the following resources helpful:
- Senior Care Costs/Aging Care Calculator (Paying for Senior Care)
- The Senior Care Guide: Cost of Senior Care (Care.com)
Unfortunately, sometimes staying at home is not the best answer. Two other options to consider are assisted living communities and residential care homes, which I’ll cover in a future article.