People love the idea of staying in their own home as they age. In fact, as we get older, many of us look for consistency across many aspects of our life. A familiar home base is the very foundation for creating a sense of stability. But, aging in place can result in some serious consequences that are worth considering before you make a final decision about your own or a loved one’s future. Likewise, there are a host of favorable factors that make assisted living a smart, healthy, and more affordable option. Regardless of which path you choose, it’s helpful to become informed and proceed with your eyes wide open.
Here are 5 top reasons why assisted living might be your best bet.
- The isolation that accompanies a life at home is probably the biggest argument against aging in place. This is especially true if you or a loved one are no longer able to drive. It’s worth noting that when seniors stop driving, or when they experience a life-changing medical event that limits their mobility, they often transition from a world of independence to a situation where they are partially or fully dependent on someone else for transportation outside the home. Consider for a moment what it would feel like to have a health care provider visit your home only a few hours each day. This type of scenario is something that most of us can manage for a few days or weeks, but stretch that into months and years, and the stage is set for loneliness and possibly depression.
- Little to no flexibility. When you age in place, you are typically relegated to your caregiver’s schedule and the visits of friends or family members. In other words, if you choose to age in place and schedule a caregiver to come to the house for 2, 4 or 6 hours per day, then this is the set schedule you live by. You are required to sit and wait at home for the arrival of your support system. By contrast, in an assisted living residence, there is no waiting. You have ready access to support, friendship, and community throughout the day. You have the freedom to change your schedule on a whim. For many, this kind of flexibility is priceless.
- Dependency. By its very nature, the process of aging requires the help of others. For most seniors who have enjoyed a life of independence, this is a very challenging transition. Suddenly, we may find that we require help dressing in the morning, toileting, paying our bills, or preparing our meals. We may need a ride to the market, a movie, or a restaurant. In an assisted living community, the support systems for getting around and getting help are part of the community. Need help in the morning or at bedtime? Need transportation? Need tech support with your cell phone? Want to go to the theater with friends? When you age at home, you’re either at the mercy of your friends or family, or you’re required to organize and pay for in-home care when it’s needed. A well-run assisted living community has these support systems in place for every resident, every day.
- Cost. On the surface, aging in place often appears like the more affordable option. If you or your loved one are in great health and in no need of support or medical services, then aging at home can be a great option, especially if transportation and socialization needs are covered. However, if you or your loved one needs health services or a higher level of supervision, then the price of aging in place starts to rise dramatically. There is a common misconception that assisted living requires a steep entrance fee. At Holbrook at Piper Shores, those entering assisted living directly pay only a monthly fee. No entry fee is required. For a helpful summary and cost comparison, check out the Three Steps to Understanding Assisted Living Costs. To calculate and compare costs, try using this handy worksheet.
- Caregiver fatigue. Here’s a topic that often goes overlooked when comparing the cost of assisted living versus aging in place. In the aging in place model, a family member or loved one often becomes the de facto case manager – the person who keeps a keen eye on all aspects of care. When a homemaker or home health aide services provider gets sick or the system fails, a family member is usually left with the responsibility of caring for a loved one. Some agencies are great at finding replacements, especially in urban areas, where there are plenty of resources. But if a nurse or caregiver calls out sick, there is often a delay that leaves a loved one home alone and waiting for care. This is a challenging scenario for everyone, and it can be a recipe for caregiver burnout. Further, families often do not realize the management needs that come with caring for an aging senior. At an assisted living community, family fatigue is minimized because these residences offer 24/7 supervision. This leaves family members and friends in the position of being able to offer their love and emotional support without burning out.
Every family needs a plan. Some of us make long-term care decisions early; others wait until they need it. One important issue to consider is that there are record numbers of Americans aging right now, and there are not enough quality provider options to meet those emerging needs for care. Consequently, America is experiencing an enormous surge in the construction of new assisted living residences. But even with the new buildings, there is projected to be a shortage of options as baby boomers age. As with most weighty decisions in life, it pays to evaluate your options while you have time to consider the pros and cons. So, whether you choose to age in place at your own home, or age in place at an assisted living community, keep in mind that it can be more complicated to be at home, regardless of how comforting your own home may be.