Family · February 24, 2022

Taking Care of Elderly Parents: At Home or Assisted Living?

The fragility and vulnerability of the nation's elder care facilities became painfully evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continues, many sons, daughters and caregivers are questioning their plans for their parents' elder care arrangements.

Although safety questions certainly drive this issue, financial concerns also play a significant role. That's why it's important to compare the types and cost of assisted living facilities—as well as the costs of taking care of elderly parents at home—and learn what other elder care arrangements are available.

Taking care of elderly parents at home

Even if your parents are active and in good health now, it's important to start thinking about long-term care so you can plan and prepare for the future. Eventually, the time will arrive when your parents need assistance with daily living.

If you choose to take care of aging parents at home, you may need to make adjustments to living spaces, routines and finances to accommodate their needs. For example, is your home large enough to welcome your parents? What structural changes must be made to make it comfortable and safe for them? Renovations or upgrades could be as simple as adding safety bars to bathrooms or a wheelchair ramp for entryways.

You also may need to make larger changes to your home, such as building an attached apartment or repurposing an area into a livable space. Consider the extra costs, and keep in mind that this type of renovation has a silver lining—renovating to add an apartment could increase your home's value.

In addition to considering physical space when taking care of elderly parents, consider your own physical, mental and emotional health. You might be approaching—or already in—retirement yourself. If you're still working, you may need to arrange for a daytime caregiver or for your parent to spend time at a senior day care facility while you're at work.

If you have children at home, consider the impact this could have on their well-being. It could be a wonderful opportunity for them to spend time with their grandparents, but they also could resent the loss of privacy or additional responsibilities that come with caring for your parents.

Types of elderly living facilities

According to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, or AHCA/NCAL, there are more than 800,000 residents in elderly care living facilities in the US. It's important to understand the differences in the four main types of elderly living facilities.

  • Residential facilities: These are small and include personal care and meals, but they don't typically include medical care.
  • Assisted living facilities: These may offer varying levels of care for people who need some assistance with daily living but not the full care of a nursing home.
  • Nursing homes: These offer wide-ranging medical care for those requiring regular medical assistance.
  • Continuing care retirement communities: These offer a larger-scale combination of residential, assisted living, and nursing home residences and services for the elderly.

Costs of assisted living facilities versus home care

While each of these facilities offers different care options, they all cost money. Analyzing the cost of these facilities—in addition to understanding your parents' medical and social needs—can help you narrow your selection, choose alternate arrangements or start planning now for the future costs.

Although costs vary by type of care, type of facility and state, the AHCA/NCAL currently reports that the national median rates for assisted living services are $48,000 annually. This can range from $19,240 for adult day care to $105,850 for a private room in a nursing home. The AHCA/NCAL also reports that 16.5% of residents depend on Medicaid to cover their daily home care costs.

Rising costs, the pandemic's impact and your own family's unique situation are all important considerations to make when choosing how and where to care for aging family members. Talk with a professional about the financial side of this important decision so you and your parents can make the ideal choice for your situation.


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