What is the differences between Home Care and Assisted or Independent Living?

As our parents or grandparents age, we might find that a change in their living situation is necessary.  The most likely scenario is if mom falls and breaks her hip. This unfortunately is very common.  After surgery and a hospital stay, she will likely be discharged to a rehabilitation or skilled nursing center for around 21 days.   The discharge is usually handled by a case manager. A case manager is a nurse or social worker working in the hospital.  The case managers are not allowed to make specific recommendations but will provide a list of facilities, and there are various options in our area of Northern Virginia. Some will have available beds and some will not. Some are better than others.

Questions regarding Moms’ state of health

This can be overwhelming and confusing and obviously stressful. The simple questions for the family to consider regarding Moms’ health are: Can mom walk, communicate, use the bathroom?  There are medication issues and issues of cognition.  The decision about which rehab center to use is based on available beds, proximity to the family, quality, etc. After this decision is made, mom will be transported to the rehab center and therapy (physical and occupational) begins. This is very difficult for most elderly people because they likely won’t really understand what just happened. There is the issue of cost – who is paying for this?

When can I go home?

Assuming all goes well with the three-week stay, mom will be discharged.  Mom will probably want to go home since the great majority of the elderly prefer to remain in their own homes. Medicare will cover most of the cost of the hospital and rehab stays.  Also would be covered is the cost of the equipment that mom will need in the home – wheelchair, hospital bed, walker, and medications. The costs of in-home health care – the skilled care that mom needs – PT and OT and other skilled needs that she might need are too part of the covered costs.

The family now has to decide how to handle the situation when skilled care is not there. Is mom able to take care of herself under these circumstances? Is she safe alone in her home?  Medicare provides certain skilled care for a short period of time but that’s it.   Each family’s situation is unique and there is no one solution for everyone. Mom likely needs someone close by to make sure that she is safe, healthy, eating, and not isolated. If there is no one close by then the family can look at moving mom out of the home. It is not an easy discussion because as mentioned  most everyone wishes to remain in their own home.

Assisted Living

The family can look at moving mom into an assisted living community whereby the community provides a level of assistance to the patient. There are meals provided and activities. There is staff to help with the activities of daily living.

Independent Living 

The other option is moving mom into an independent living community. This is similar to living in an apartment but with meals and activities.  Many facilities have both independent and assisted living on the same campus. This enables patients to stay on the same campus as they age and their situation changes.

Home Care

The family can choose to have mom stay in her house or move in with a family member. If mom needs help with her daily activities, the family can look into home care.  Homecare involves a trained caregiver coming into the home for a certain period of time every day, every week, or a few times every month and helps mom take care of herself and assist with bathing, dressing, feeding, cooking, medication reminders, and providing companionship, etc.

All three options require the family and/or mom to pay out of pocket.

This is a very important decision because after moms’ house is sold it is almost impossible to go back in the event that mom doesn’t like the new living arrangement. There are many advantages to moving into a community. The activities, the opportunities for socialization, the safety factor, meals, and 24-hour care if necessary.

Can mom remain in her own home?

The downside is that mom just might really want to remain in her own home. If mom moves into a community, there might be issues with the community that you aren’t aware of.  What happens if the community is sold in a few years to a less scrupulous buyer?  The community may not be able to provide mom with the level of care that you are expecting.  Assisted living has a certain caregiver to client ratio which varies from community to community but it is certainly not close to one-on-one. The caregivers in the facilities are required to take care of many patients on their shifts. They usually have only a short time with each person.  If mom needs more care, the community will likely require you to pay for a caregiver to help out.  If you refuse to get more help they can ask her to leave.

The situation in a community can completely change, for example, the tragedy of Covid-19.

Outside caregivers

Homecare is an option whereby a company such as Nurturecare can refer a qualified and carefully screened certified nursing assistant to come to the home and help with the necessary activities.  The agency will attempt to match up the personality of the client with an appropriate caregiver. If the match is not successful, the agency will refer another caregiver and continue to do so until the right match is found.

The objective is to have continuity of care whereby your mom with have the same caregiver each time and there won’t be a parade of different caregiver’s which can be different on every shift.  Having a caregiver come to the home can be a less expensive option than moving to a community.

Cost of Home Care

Depending on the level of care that is required, Home Care costs can be around approximately $5000 per month for 8 hours of one-on-one in-home care in the Northern Virginia area.  This does vary based on where you are located in the United States.  This is around the same cost as an assisted living community. If mom needs more than, for example, 8 hours of care per day another option to look at is Live-In Care. A caregiver will live in the clients’ home. The caregiver will be provided a room and will sleep and eat in the home. The cost of a Live-In Caregiver is around $7500 per month. The caregiver and client will live together and a strong and healthy bond is formed between the client and the family. We have found this to be a good long term solution for many of our clients.

Live In Caregivers - Nurture Care