As the pandemic continues to dwindle, families are finally getting a chance to visit aging loved ones. But reuniting sometimes means facing a new reality that mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa may not be in great health. Warning signs like decreased hygiene, trouble standing, and stacks of unpaid bills could have been masked by distance and were not obvious on Facetime or Zoom calls. Some important considerations:
- Activities of daily living (ADL): bathing, dressing, mobility
- Instrumental activities of daily living (IDL): activities not done on a daily basis, but necessary for living independently—cleaning, shopping, paying bills
- Safety of living environment: are there stairs to navigate daily?
- Does the senior know what to do in an emergency?
Adult children are left with difficult questions about what to do next. Should we move mom to a senior community? Does dad need a caregiver? Is it time to downsize to a smaller home?
According to a recent AARP study, nearly 80 percent of people 50 and older wish to continue living in their own home as they age. Fortunately, there are many ways to balance independence with safety and health needs.
No Place Like Home
- In-home health care and aides provide assistance and respite care, giving family caregivers a break in their duties, and reducing the risk of burnout.
- Home modifications—ramps and walk-in showers—make life easier.
- Adult day care provides recreation, socialization, and even transportation.
- New technology—personal emergency response systems—makes independence more feasible.
- Meals on Wheels gives seniors a nourishing meal and face-to-face interaction with volunteers.
- Commercial meal delivery includes prepared microwave meals or ingredients and cooking directions.
- House cleaning and lawn services make large chores manageable.
Resident facilities incorporate levels of care and amenities including transportation, housekeeping, entertainment, fitness classes, and dining options. Residents have the ability to transition to different levels of care within the campus as the need arises. Prices vary based on the level of amenities, services, and lifestyle options.
Most communities are rental-only and it is not uncommon for facilities to levy an initial one-time fee for the privilege of moving in. Local campuses charge entry fees from $2,500 to $25,000.
Independent living provides residents with an apartment and the freedom to come and go as they please. Maintenance and housekeeping are included and concierge services manage details for reservations and outings.
Nursing homes are physical buildings where residents receive assisting living or skilled nursing care. Assisted living facilities add a level of care for residents who can no longer live alone, but do not require care. They are generally designed for seniors who require help with ADL, but still want to remain active and social. Staff is usually comprised of caregivers, not registered nurses. Sometimes this care is offered in the residents’ own apartments, so there is no need for them to move.
In addition to typical health care services, skilled nursing care may offer physical, occupational, and speech therapies. These residents tend to require 24-hour assistance and may be bedridden. The only location that offers a higher level of medical care than this would be a hospital.
Memory care is usually in a separate wing or building that offers 24/7 supervision and security. Trained in dementia care, staff work to stimulate their patients’ memory and cognitive skills.