Assisted Living vs. Home Care: How to Decide What’s Right for You
Last Updated: July 8, 2019
When you, a parent or spouse is ready for more care, it’s important to consider all of your senior care options — and to decide whether you want that care in an assisted living community or in your own home.
This is a lot to consider, so we’ve put together a list of six things to factor into your assisted living vs. home care decision. Read through these tips:
1. Do you have help close by?
If you have caregivers, family or friends nearby to help you, staying at home may be a fine choice. If your family lives too far away to help on the spur of the moment, it may be safer and less stressful to rely on the 24/7 on-call help in assisted living.
2. How much does home upkeep cost you?
Even if your mortgage is paid off, home maintenance is an ongoing expense. To do a valid cost comparison between assisted living vs. home care, add up the yearly expenses to maintain your home (appliance replacement, lawn care, roof repairs and septic tank maintenance, for example). Include the cost of safety upgrades like grab bars, a ramp or a stair lift. Add that number to the cost of live-in care and compare that total to assisted living rates in your area.
3. How much help do you need?
On average, you’ll have someone at home 44 hours a week, year-round. If you need someone for fewer hours, in-home help may be a better deal than assisted living. If you need more care, or if full-time care is more expensive than assisted living in your area, assisted living might save you money.
For some people, seeing familiar neighbors, hosting family and friends, and enjoying peace and quiet at home is ideal. For others, meeting new people and participating in assisted living social activities is a great mood boost.
6. Which costs less, assisted living or home care?
The cost is roughly the same in many parts of the country, according to the most recent Genworth Cost of Care survey. The national median assisted living cost is $43,200 per year; homemaker services cost $44,000 and home health assistance, $45,700. But there are some big differences by state. The home care numbers are based on full-time care services (it becomes a lot less expensive if you only need a home caregiver for a few hours a week, as we explain in the next section). You can click here to see assisted living rates for your state as well.
Finally, there are factors that are harder to fit into a checklist, but they matter a lot. One is what your loved ones are telling you (or are hesitating to tell you). If they’re truly worried that living at home is no longer safe and can’t be made safe, that’s a big sign it’s time to move. The other is how much staying in your home means to you. If it’s the key to your happiness and your family supports the idea, it can be worth the effort and money to make it work.
For free expert help navigating your options, please call (866) 592-8119 to be connected with a local Senior Care Advisor.
So you’ve decided it’s time to find senior care, either for yourself, a parent or a senior loved one – but how exactly does one get started? You can get a sense of what you’re looking for by reading the online reviews of communities in your area you plan to tour.
Read on as we explain how online review sites can help you figure out what it is you’re looking for and then how you can go about finding communities that meet that criteria:
1. How online review sites can help you find senior care.
Arguably, the most valuable part of senior living review sites is the feedback from families and residents. These people have gone through the same experience you are now undertaking and reading about their experiences with communities will help you determine a) what you are looking for and b) whether or not a particular community has it. Consider:
Evaluation criteria: A third of the reviews on SeniorAdvisor.com are from families and residents, so you can get a real feel for what it’s like to live at a community or to have a loved one there. The other two-thirds of reviews tend to be from people who toured the community. These reviews can be immensely helpful as you’re beginning your search as tour reviews tend to mention what a family’s dealbreakers were. For example, if a community is great, but the family had to rule it out because it didn’t have a pool, you can still look into the community if having a pool is not important to you. Reading these reviews as you begin your search will also help you determine what your dealbreakers are.
Hear from families you can trust: At SeniorAdvisor.com, we know that it is extremely important to people searching for senior care that the information they find is truthful and reliable. This is why we work to verify that the reviews on our site are the genuine, first-hand experiences of reviewers. Nearly 100% of the reviews on our site are currently verified by SeniorAdvisor.com or by the community as current, prospective or past community customers. To check whether or not a review you are reading is verified, look for the purple checkmark stamp by the reviewer’s display name.
Stay informed during your search: As you begin to tour and eventually decide on a care provider, you’ll want to keep an eye on how things are going at the community. At SeniorAdvisor.com we provide an option to subscribe to reviews. Simply enter your email address and you will be instantly notified any time a new review for that community is posted. If you are a caregiver who has moved a loved one into a community, this feature provides you with another avenue to make sure your loved one is still in a good environment. If you are planning ahead for the future, this feature allows you to stay updated on the communities you initially considered to be potential fits for yourself or your loved one.
2. Using online review sites to create a list of senior care options.
Online review sites like SeniorAdvisor.com are a great place to get started finding options for yourself, a parent or senior loved one. SeniorAdvisor.com allows you to search for a specific area, then narrow your options based on your care needs. For instance, after you visit SeniorAdvisor.com, you can enter your city and state in the search box and then press “Go!” and that’s it.
The next page will take you to a page that lists all the care options in that city. By default, the communities are sorted to be the most useful to searchers like you – the communities with higher ratings and more reviews show up first. On the left, you’ll see a pricing box that gives you an idea of how expensive senior care is in that city compared to other cities in the United States.
Now you’re all set to get started using online reviews to help you in your search for senior care.
Get referrals from family and friends. What, if anything, have they heard about this community? Have they placed a loved on there before? Would they recommend it?
2. Are the environment and location right for your senior loved one?
Cleanliness and upkeep. What does it smell like? Besides the obvious places, do you see a lot of dust or dirt? How is the lighting? What about temperature? Observe the upkeep of the floors, ceilings, windows, and electrical fixtures – do they look clean and safe? Ask about housekeeping options.
Location, location, location. Is the community too far for family and friends to visit? Depending on your loved one’s age upon moving in, consider how long he or she may plan to live there. During their more active years, they’ll go out and engage in the city or town in which the community is located – will your loved one be happy here?
Safety and security. How secure is the building? How and when are doors locked? How can your loved one let someone know when they need help? Will your loved one be able to navigate easily between their room and common dining and activity areas? Are there common indoor and outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy themselves? Are these areas safe and secure, and designed for the elderly to get around without injury?
3. Is your loved one eligible to live in this community?
Determine the aging and care restrictions that may affect your loved one’s eligibility. Is there a minimum age for accepted residents? Are your loved one’s specific medical needs adequately addressed here?
Make sure you understand how the pricing system works. Is it all-inclusive? Make sure you understand what is and isn’t included – for instance, therapy sessions, medication, transportation, meals, and more may or may not require additional fees. Determine what is covered by insurance, and what forms of payment the community can accept.
Move-out criteria. Find out what type of notice is required if your loved one leaves. Additionally, what actions could be cause for eviction of your loved one?
What are the rules on grandchildren and pets? Are they allowed to visit? If so, are there limitations on visiting hours? Can they spend the night? If your loved one has pets, can they move in, too? Are there any size or breed restrictions?
4. What are your loved one’s care needs?
Ask about the staff. Inquire into the training and licensing required for staff to be hired. Are there CNAs, doctors, nurses available or on call? What is the caregiver: resident ratio? How is medication distributed? How does staffing change at night?
Depending on your loved one’s age and health, consider how long they will reside in this community. It can be difficult for everyone when a move is required, so consider Aging in Place for a younger and healthier loved one. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that offer Aging in Place may be the best fit for an active loved one whose care needs may increase as they age.
Determine the type of care and housing option your loved one needs. Is your loved one fairly independent, but looking to thrive in an environment with other active peers their age, with access to community amenities and a doctor on call? Independent living may be for them. On the other hand, if your loved one needs assistance with some daily activities such as eating or grooming, they may require assisted living. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, consider memory care. Finally, if finances are a limiting factor, you may need to look into senior apartments (for more independent seniors) or skilled nursing facilities in your area.
5. Will your senior loved one to fit in with the resident culture and lifestyle?
Assess resident demographics. What is the average age of the residents? Are there mostly couples or single residents? If religion is important to your loved one, will they find like-minded individuals here? Are there enough men or women for your loved one to feel comfortable?
Besides care needs, consider other factors that contribute to your loved one’s overall satisfaction and quality of life. Are residents well-groomed and happy? How do they interact with each other and with multiple levels of staff? Do you like the other residents? How about the staff? Are there clubs or activities that will interest your loved one?
Get a feel for the resident culture. Take a look at the activities program to see if they cater to a more or less active lifestyle and whether that lifestyle will work for your loved one. Ask if you can have a meal with some residents to see what the dining experience is like. Will your loved one “click” with the other residents?
Meet with the caregivers and staff that would be interacting with your loved one, not just the marketing or sales team giving the tour. How do they interact with the residents and with each other? Does your gut tell you that they would be kind and caring to your loved one while attending to their needs?
We hope this post eases the burden of getting started in your search for senior care. Let us know in the comments below if these questions helped you during your search!
What You Need to Ask About Senior Community Staffing
Last Updated: June 17, 2019
When you’re helping your parents find a senior community, there’s so much to consider — the condition of the buildings and the services available, location and prices. Perhaps the most important element, however, is the senior community staffing. After all, these are the people who will be helping your parents and senior loved ones each day.
According to a recent SeniorAdvisor.com survey of adults with parents in senior care, here’s what you need to ask about senior community staffing before you sign on:
1. How do staff members treat others?
You can see this for yourself when you visit (ideally, more than once, at different times of day), but you can also ask staffers what they like about their co-workers, ask the residents what they like about the staff and ask other visitors how the staff treats them and their loved ones.
2. How do staffers protect residents’ dignity and privacy?
Are the staffers trained to call residents by their names rather than by generic nicknames like “honey” and “sweetie?” What are staffers trained to do if a resident demeans or harasses others?
3. What are the health policies for staffers?
Are employees required to have yearly flu shots and tuberculosis screenings? What’s the official policy on staffers coming to work if they are sick and what’s the actual practice?
4. What background checks do staffers go through?
Ideally, the senior care community will screen all potential hires through state and national law-enforcement databases. In some communities, a yearly check is required for all current employees.
When I recently asked a group of people what they wish they’d known when they started looking for senior care for their parents or senior loved ones, I heard a lot about the importance of daily communication and routines.
Finding an assisted or senior living community with a schedule your parents like — and one that will keep you updated about your parents’ wellbeing — is easier if you ask these questions at each community you visit:
1. How are family members kept informed?
Will an assisted living community’s staff give you regular updates? If so, how often and what information will they share? If you have new information about your parents’ care to share with the staff, who should you contact?
Other questions you may want to ask include:
Are there holiday celebrations?
Are there special events for residents’ birthdays?
Does a beautician regularly visit the community and if so, how can your parents book appointments?
How often are excursions planned to local attractions and shops?
What’s the housekeeping and laundry schedule?
2. What does a typical day look like?
When you’re seriously considering a community for your parents or senior loved ones, you’ll want to get answers to very specific questions about senior care routines to make sure they’ll be a good fit.
Things to ask include:
Are there daily fitness and social activities?
Are there snacks available outside regular meal times?
Can residents start their day at a time of their choice?
Is lights-out a fixed time or do residents have a choice?
What’s the meal service schedule?
If the staff will administer meds or remind your parents of their medication schedule, who oversees that schedule and ensures it’s followed?
3. When can family and friends visit?
Are there set visiting hours and if so, what are they? Do visiting hours change on holidays, residents’ birthdays or weekends?
Other questions to ask include:
Are there private areas outside resident rooms where family members and friends can gather for social visits like birthday parties?
Are visitors allowed to take residents out for the day or for overnight visits, and if so, what’s the process for notifying the community staff?
Can your parents’ visitors join them in the dining room for meals?
This is a long list of questions, but the answers can help you find the best possible match for your family’s needs and wants.
What to Ask About Personal Care in Senior Living Communities
Last Updated: June 3, 2019
Here’s a topic you may not think about while you’re helping your parents or senior loved ones find a senior community: beauty and grooming. Salon services and spa treatments may seem a little frivolous compared to certification and the community’s menus, but a little help with self-care can help seniors feel better and enjoy richer social lives while maintaining their health.
To find a senior living community that supports these goals, ask these questions about personal care services:
1. Are other grooming services available?
The community salon may also offer men’s beard trims and women’s brow and lip waxing, along with special-occasion hair and makeup. Some communities also have onsite spas where residents can choose from a variety of massage and skin care treatments.
2. Can residents get manicures and pedicures?
Mani/pedis aren’t just for looking good. Our nails can thicken as we age, which makes DIY nail care more of a challenge. Pedicures — even without nail polish — are a must for seniors with foot problems and those who don’t have the dexterity to do their own toenails. Proper nail care and regular trims can reduce the likelihood of calluses and ingrown nails that can lead to an awkward gait or pain. Diabetics can also benefit from regular foot care and nail trims, as long as the nail technician understands the special needs of diabetic feet.
3. What’s available in the neighborhood?
If a community you otherwise like doesn’t have an onsite salon or doesn’t offer the services your parents want, ask if there are salons nearby and transportation available to get your folks there. Most communities offer regularly scheduled group transportation to local shops. You may also be able to hire a taxi for your folks to enjoy a spa day or a touch-up at the salon.
What if your parents have a barber or stylist they’re devoted to and they wouldn’t dream of switching but it’s hard for them to get out anymore? If the community they want to move into has a salon onsite, you may be able to hire your parents’ preferred beautician to come to them — with the community’s approval. This won’t be the cheapest option, because you’ll be paying for the salon service plus gas and travel time, but it might be worth it.
4. Where do residents get their hair done?
Many senior communities have on-site salons. Depending on the size of the community, the salon or salons may be open daily or just one or two days a week. If there’s a salon on site, ask to see a service list with prices. Most salons offer haircuts for men and women plus color, permanents and styling options.
Busting Senior Care Myths: There’s No Privacy in Senior Communities
Last Updated: May 27. 2019
For many families, there comes a point in time when adult children begin to worry about their senior parents’ safety and social isolation at home. Parents often respond, saying they don’t want to give up their privacy by moving into a senior living community. The notion that life in a senior community is like living in a fishbowl is a myth we’re happy to bust. Most senior living communities today cater to baby boomers with high expectations for quality of life — including a balance of privacy and social activities.
Let’s take a look at the privacy options for residents in different types of retirement communities:
Privacy in Assisted Living
Many senior living communities offer a continuum of care that lets residents transition to assisted living without a major move. Whether your parents are in a continuum-of-care community or a freestanding assisted living center, you can expect the same types of apartment layouts — though, in assisted living, private quarters usually have kitchenettes instead of full kitchens.
As with senior living, residents have the option to take part in social activities or enjoy some solitude. However, assisted living residents may get visits from staffers each day for help with medication, personal-care tasks and any other support they need for their health and safety.
Privacy in Independent Living
Independent living communities offer just about the same level of privacy you’ll find in an apartment complex or residential neighborhood — but with many more amenities.
Most of these communities offer a range of apartment styles, so each couple or resident has a private space that’s just for them and their guests. For example, NewForest Estates in San Antonio, a SeniorAdvisor.com Best of Assisted Living award winner, offers eight floor plans ranging from studio to two-bedroom apartments, all with full kitchens for when you don’t feel like dining with a group.
Privacy in Nursing Homes
So far, we’ve talked about senior communities where each resident has his or her own apartment or bedroom. Privacy levels in nursing homes are different, for two main reasons. One, residents and staff interact much more frequently for personal care and medical administration and care. Two, semi-private rooms are less costly than private rooms and Medicaid will not pay for private rooms “unless medically needed.”
Even with these potential barriers to privacy, nursing home residents have the right to:
Be informed about treatments and decline them if they so choose
Choose which activities to take part in
Decide their own sleep schedule
Keep their belongings in their own personal space, even within a shared room
Make private phone calls and send emails privately
Nursing homes are also supposed to take residents’ roommate preferences into account when placing people. A good roommate can enhance your parents’ sense of privacy, so if your parent has trouble co-existing peacefully with his or her roommate, try to help them reach a reasonable solution. Talk with the staff about your options, which may include switching rooms.
Privacy in Senior Group Homes
Residential care — or senior group homes — are similar to assisted living but are set up like single-family homes rather than traditional senior communities. This is a style of care that’s gaining ground in some parts of the country because it allows for private space and fosters close bonds between caregivers and residents.
In these small homes for seniors, which are often located in or near residential neighborhoods, people who are most comfortable in small groups may feel right at home. Typically, each resident has his or her own bedroom and possibly a private bathroom but the rest of the home and yard is shared space. Meals are served family style.
Want to know more about senior community options in your area? Speak with SeniorAdvisor.com’s experts at: (866) 592-8119.
Whether due to a move to an assisted living community or the decision to live with senior roommates, many seniors will find themselves living alongside other seniors after years of only living with family. For most, it’s been decades since they had a roommate that wasn’t their spouse or lived with anyone that wasn’t immediate family.
Getting accustomed to living alongside other people again – many of whom will have different habits and lifestyles – can understandably be a challenge.
If you’re a senior facing the prospect of living with other seniors for the first time in years, or if you’re concerned about a senior loved one’s ability to make the transition, these eight tips can make a big difference to how successful you are.
1. Be aware of any noises that you make.
Anytime you live in close quarters with someone else, you have to make an effort to be aware of and minimize the noise you make, particularly at night when everyone is sleeping. Be conscientious and willing to work with other seniors anytime they ask you to keep it down.
2. Be friendly.
You’re always going to have a better experience living alongside people you’re friendly with. Start conversations with your neighbors and roommates. Some of them may become close friends. Others won’t, but you’ll still benefit from having a friendly relationship with them.
In an assisted living community, make a point to also be friendly and kind to the staff. They’ll play a big role in what your experience living there will be like. If you treat them with cooperation and respect, you’re much more likely to develop positive relationships with the people you depend on.
Communication is the secret to success in any type of relationship. Naturally, it’s one of the most important ways to stay on good terms with other seniors that you live with.
When you first start living with someone new, have a conversation upfront about your needs and priorities. Talk about any problems that arise and always be polite and diplomatic when you do so. Most people will try to be accommodating if you approach them with politeness.
4. Get involved.
Seniors living in assisted living can participate in classes and outings that the community offers, like a tai chi class or taking more trips to nearby museums. If you moved into someone’s home as a roommate, be willing to make suggestions. Maybe you could all benefit from adding a backyard garden or you can find ways to get more involved in the neighborhood.
In either scenario, if you’re treating the place like it’s not your own home, you won’t ever be comfortable and happy there. If you’re willing to put in a little effort to make it into a place you enjoy living, you’ll both grow closer to the people you live with and settle into seeing your new living quarters as a home.
5. Give others privacy.
If you’re an introvert who regularly needs your own privacy and space, this tip may come naturally. If you’re an extrovert, it may be something you need to make an effort to do. Recognize that there may be times that you want company but the people around you would prefer time to themselves.
If your roommates express a desire to be alone, let them be. If they have a space in their room they request others treat as off limits, respect their wishes. People often desire a space that feels personal and all their own, which is hard to make work and something to be aware of when living with other people.
Communicate when something’s bothering you but also listen when someone lets you know something’s bothering them, or just when they want to talk about their struggles.
Do your best to avoid any reactions when something they have to say to you isn’t something you want to hear. Part of living with other people successfully is being open to understanding what they feel and think.
7. Practice empathy.
You may sometimes find it challenging to understand where your fellow residents or roommates are coming from, but remember that any senior you live with has lived a long life full of different experiences from your own.
Do your best to be kind and sympathetic. Remember that someone who’s especially difficult may be someone that’s really suffering. That’s not an excuse for being a bad roommate, but it often doesn’t require much of you to provide some allowances to others who are having a rough time.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, try to share some of what you have with those around you. If you cooked a big, delicious meal and have plenty to go around, offer some to your roommates. If your family visits you and brings a bunch of homemade cookies to your assisted living residence, offer some to the people around you.
Sharing’s a great way to earn goodwill and as an added bonus, you’re that much more likely to be the beneficiary of similar sharing from the people you live with.
Getting used to a new living environment is hard and having to live with other people often doesn’t make it any easier. In some cases, however, roommates can become like a second family – which is why it is important to use these tips for living comfortably with others to make the experience a great one for all.
One of the biggest benefits of the growth in the senior population in the last decade is that when you have more people facing the same set of challenges, you have more minds actively searching for solutions.
Seniors today have an array of senior living options available to them and one option that’s growing in availability is senior cohousing.
Cohousing is a concept that has been around but has picked up steam in recent years as a great solution for many seniors. A cohousing community is designed to ensure that each family unit that lives there can enjoy privacy and have a space of their own, while also being able to take advantage of shared spaces.
In senior cohousing, people are able to live in their own home independently, while regularly seeing their neighbors in a shared dining area, garden or library.
Senior cohousing communities have been described as “intentional neighborhoods.” They’re designed both with the potential accessibility needs of seniors in mind and with the goal of ensuring that the people living there have lots of opportunities to interact and become a close-knit community.
The Benefits of Senior Cohousing
Cohousing has a lot of appeal to seniors.
For many, the idea of being surrounded by friends who you only have to take a few steps to meet up with for dinner or who keep you company while you garden sounds much better.
Senior cohousing has some distinct benefits in comparison to other senior living options:
Community members can help with different responsibilities based on their unique skills. The more people you have in a cohousing community, the more skills they bring with them. A member who’s a great chef will be a hit at the potlucks and could even give lessons to other residents wanting to learn how to cook. One that’s good at fixing plumbing problems can pitch in whenever someone else’s faucet springs a leak. Everyone can contribute in their own way and ease some of the burdens on their neighbors.
It offers more privacy than senior living. Senior living puts you in close quarters with the other residents. Senior cohousing provides residents with their own house or apartment.
It’s more affordable than other options. It typically costs much less than assisted living and for many seniors will cost less than keeping your current home or apartment since it means cutting down on the space you have (and have to maintain) and makes common spaces shared.
It’s safer than living alone. The fear of falling down in your home and being stuck there for hours is another concern that seniors never need to think of again in senior cohousing. When you have neighbors who expect to see you every day, they’ll notice right away if there’s a problem you need help with.
Provides seniors with a community. This is the biggest benefit for many people that are drawn to senior cohousing. You have friends nearby who it’s easy to share activities and time with. Seniors that live alone face a real risk of loneliness. Senior cohousing virtually eliminates that concern.
Sharing resources can save money. Banding together for community meals will cost less than each person paying for groceries for one. Sharing a community is also more cost-effective and easier to maintain than each person having their own.
You have control over the community’s activities and design. A key component of senior cohousing is that every resident has a say. The founding members of a cohousing community are directly involved in the design and in deciding what’s included. For people that move into established cohousing communities, they’re able to chime in on the details of how it’s run and any changes that get made. Every resident has a voice.
The Downsides of Senior Cohousing
If that all sound pretty idyllic to you, there are a few factors you should keep in mind before deciding senior cohousing is the life for you:
First off, it doesn’t offer the same level of care as assisted living
While the community-focused aspect of senior cohousing means that residents can often get help from their neighbors for smaller needs, your fellow residents can’t be expected to offer the level of care that assisted living staff and in-home care aids offer
Your options for senior cohousing are limited
Ways to Find a Senior Cohousing Community
If you think senior cohousing may be the right move for you or a loved one, you can check the senior cohousing directory to find the list of senior cohousing communities in the United States.
Some of the communities may well already be booked up, but you can still check them out and inquire about a waiting list or the possibility of expansion. Other communities on the list are in the process of forming so you may be able to get in on the ground floor and be actively involved in how they turn out.
If there aren’t any communities available yet in your area and you think there may be enough interest to start one, you can find resources on creating a cohousing community here. It’s a big undertaking, but every cohousing community that exists now does so because someone decided to get the ball rolling. If senior cohousing sounds like the best possible future for you, then the ball’s in your court.