Senior Housing Options Compared

Senior Housing Options from HelpGuide.orgarticle by Perry Hua with edits by Wayne Caswell

The goal when choosing housing is to pick an option that best matches your financial, physical, medical, and social needs. The earlier you assess your current and future needs, and the more you know about the options available, the easier it is to make a decision. Here’s a list of options showing their advantages and costs, starting with the most expensive first.

Nursing Homes

No one plans to live long-term in a nursing home, because it’s the most expensive option, but nursing homes may be the only option for residents who need constant medical monitoring and help due to medical problems. Skilled nursing services are provided 24 hours a day, and this option is very restrictive. It often means a high loss of independence for the senior resident and can quickly deplete their financial resources. Medicare can cover short-term rehabilitation in a nursing home while seniors regain their strength after suffering from an illness or injury, but this government insurance program does not cover long-term care. Medicaid, however, will cover long-term care, but this program is designed for the disabled or poor and often requires that the senior’s assets are spent down to the point that they qualify.

Advantages:

  • Constant medical monitoring
  • 24 hour assistance
  • 3 meals per day

Social impact:

  • Social activities available
  • 24 hour trained staff

Independence: Very restrictive

Payment sources:

  • Private Pay
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid

Cost: $5,000 – 8,000 per month

Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are meant for long-term care of seniors who are no longer able to live on their own, assisting them with daily tasks that can include things such as medications, meals, housekeeping, and other day-to-day activities. Seniors live in private apartments, where trained staff are available 24 hours a day. There is also an option for seniors with Alzheimer’s, with more assistance provided.

Advantages:

  • Trained staff 24/7
  • Nurses on staff
  • 3 meals per day
  • Scheduled transportation
  • Private apartment

Social impact:

  • Private apartments with 24 hour trained staff
  • Social activities available with other residents

Independence: Moderate restrictions

Payment sources:

  • Mostly private pay
  • Some take Medicaid

Cost: $2,500 – 4,000 per month

Independent Living

Independent living communities are designed for seniors who need little or no help with daily living activities. Staff may help with housekeeping, laundry, and meals, but other than that, seniors are on their own and allowed to maintain an independent lifestyle in private apartments. This option is best for seniors with little to no medical problems. They may still contract for in-home care if needed, but some communities restrict the amount of care provided (e.g. feeding disabled patients in the dining hall) so as not to disturb other residents. The number of meals provided will depend on the resident’s personal plan.

Advantages:

  • Lots of independence
  • Less social isolation
  • Supervision from staff
  • Often less expensive than other options
  • Private apartments

Social impact:

  • Plenty of peers and activities around

Independence: Least restrictive

Payment sources:

  • Mostly private pay
  • Some U.S. government funding

Cost: $1,500 – $3,500 per month

Aging-In-Place

Over 90% of seniors prefer to age in place in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home where they know their neighbors and community. It’s a good option for those with a support network of friends and family, where they’re still mobile enough to get around on their own, and where the neighborhood is safe. Some obstacles can make aging-in-place difficult, including decreased mobility, increasing effort to keep up physical health and the home itself, and the inability to get out and socialize, because isolation can cause loneliness and depression. Options to help with aging-in-place include: maid & yard service, home modifications with universal design features, home health aides, remote monitoring products & services, and adult day care centers.

Maid, Yard, and Meal Services

A typical problem for seniors living alone is losing the ability to do tasks around the house that they once could do without help, including maintenance, grocery shopping, and preparing meals. That’s where maid, yard, and meal services–commonly called homemaker services–can come in. Such services take care of things like housekeeping (washing, laundry, cleaning, plant care) and meals (planning, preparation, serving).

Advantages:

  • Allows seniors to stay in their homes
  • Best for seniors who have little to no medical problems
  • Interferes very little with current lifestyle

Social impact: No social impact

Independence: No restrictions

Payment sources:

  • Private pay
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid

Cost: ~$20 per hour

In-Home Care

Seniors living at home may need professional help that extends beyond friends & family as caregivers. Licensed home health aides can visit daily or several times a week to give help with activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, walking, and dressing, as well as meal preparation, simple housekeeping, medication, and moving around. Beyond that, skilled nursing services can provide medical care. With professional help, family members can be involved as much or as little as they wish, and this can be a big help since caregiving can be taxing at times. Most home health aides and skilled nursing services are paid per hour (so most only work part-time).

Advantages:

  • Allows seniors to stay in their homes
  • Service provided when needed

Social impact:

  • Personal home health aide to connect with, especially when there’s no family caregiver

Independence: No restrictions

Payment sources:

  • Private pay
  • Some take Medicaid
  • Some take Medicare

Cost:   $20-40 per hour for home health aides

Adult Day Care

An adult day care is a program of activities that helps to promote the well-being of seniors through social and health related services. Basically, it’s a place for seniors to spend the day and where they can find a lot of activities to take part in. Activities can range anywhere from arts, crafts, music, mental stimulation, exercise, and social events. Adult day cares are only open on weekdays during daytime hours, and meals are provided for.

Advantages:

  • Safe, fun environment to spend the day
  • Meals provided throughout the day
  • Helps to improve the mental and physical health of seniors
  • Gives family caregivers some respite and downtime
  • Some day care centers offer transportation to and from the center

Social Impacts:

  • Lots of entertainment for seniors
  • Lots of peers to connect with

Independence: Few restrictions

Payment sources:

  • Private pay
  • Medicaid

Cost: ~$64 a day

Home Modifications

Physical limitations don’t have to be obstacles to aging-in-place, because it’s relatively easy to change homes to accommodate special needs. Builders, remodelers, and certified aging in place specialists are starting to recognize the profit potential in designing products and homes with Universal Design principals that can accommodate people of any age, height or ability, and cities like Austin, TX are starting to require that new homes be ADA compliant, even if older homes aren’t. That means including features like ramps, lifts and elevators that are just as useful for someone in a wheelchair as for a young mom with a stroller, or a road warrior with wheeled luggage. (Browse through our many articles on Universal Design.)

Advantages:

  • The cost savings versus being forced into a nursing home can literally save the family’s estate.
  • Can avoid separating couples if one would otherwise need to be in a nursing home.
  • Can improve home value as long as it’s tastefully done

Social Impacts:

  • Add these design features now to allow people with disabilities to visit
  • Removes worry about a future injury or disability

Independence: No restrictions

Payment sources:

  • Private pay
  • Medicare
  • Some long-term insurance policies are starting to cover this since it lowers their cost

Cost: Varies greatly from a few hundred dollars to several thousand when doors need to be widened and new bathrooms installed because all bedrooms were upstairs.

Remote Monitoring

There are all sorts of tech solutions that allow family members to monitor the health of their elderly loved ones from afar. They range from Internet video calls to personal emergency response services (PERS) and various medical and environmental sensors that can track activity and vital signs.

Advantages:

  • Track trends, identify danger signs, and respond to emergencies
  • Peace of mind for the seniors and their family
  • Enable telehealth and telemedicine services
  • Remote doctor visits save money and travel time

Social Impacts:

  • Helps reduce or avoid isolation

Independence: No restrictions

Payment sources:

  • Private pay
  • Insurers are starting to cover this when it lowers their cost and improves care

Cost: $10-20/month for PERS, $25-50 per remote doctor visit

 About the Author

Perry Hua is a writer and entrepreneur, looking to expand his horizons in the healthcare industry as well as improve his writing skills in the meantime. Currently, he writes for websites focused on nurse assisting and dental assisting. (http://cna-classes-online.net)

Related Infographic on Senior Living Options and Costs

Senior Living Options and Costs Infographic
[Via: Alert1 Personal Alert Systems]