Helpful Advice for Seniors and/or Their Family Members
Welcome to retirement! You’ve had a long and rewarding career; now it’s time to relax and enjoy doing some of the things you never seemed to have enough time for before. Maybe that includes an expanded yoga and meditation practice, gardening, or artistic expression through writing or painting. Of course, if you’re anything like most of us in the over-55 crowd, you may have noticed that the warranty is expiring on some of your parts; perhaps you’ve also lost a degree of mobility. Also, there’s another thing…umm…what was it? Oh, right– if you’re in my age group, chances are short-term memory is becoming an issue. Our mental “hard drives” are cluttered with a lifetime’s worth of memories, and so far no one has devised a way of downloading some of the old stuff onto disk to make room for new information!
These downsides of aging are more or less inevitable, but the good news is that as the population as a whole ages, a profusion of excellent living-arrangement choices abound. Let’s consider the pros and cons of two typical choices for a dignified life in retirement: home care and assisted living.
Home Care Pros
1. You can stay in your home.
2. Care is (usually) administered by a loved one or home-care professional.
3. It may be less costly than other options.
4. Feelings of helplessness–and the depression that often arises from them–may be avoided.
5. If Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia should develop, familiar surroundings can produce feelings of calm and a sense of control.
Cons of Home Care
1. The people providing the care, if they are family members, probably have extensive responsibilities outside the home; as your dependency increases, their ability to care for you may become strained.
2. Home care by trained professionals can be costly. Home care pros often charge upwards of $30 per hour; if you should require around-the-clock assistance, the cost can quickly add up, decimating your savings and insurance.
3. Just as often as care is administered by loving family members, it may have to be provided by strangers with whose company you may or may not enjoy.
4. Your home may be ill-equipped to deal with changes in your mobility and the deterioration of your range of physical abilities.
5. Living at home, even with in-home care, may place you at a decided disadvantage in case of medical emergency.
Cons of Assisted Living
1. You may miss your home and familiar surroundings, and find adapting to a new environment challenging.
2. Assisted living is not the most expensive option, but neither is it the least expensive.
3. Depending on the facility, you may need to make another transistion–to a nursing home–if your condition deteriorates beyond a certain level of dependency.
4. Some facilities have semi-private rooms, and seniors who have lived alone for some time may find it difficult to adjust to having a roommate.
5. Some seniors love pets, while others have an aversion to them. Depending on the facility you choose, either preference could be compromised.
Pros of Assisted Living
1. Relinquishing the responsibilities of home ownership (and all the upkeep and maintenance that go with it) can actually be a great relief.
2. Doctors, nurses, and other geriatric professionals are on site at all times; knowing that help is close by whenever you should need it can be greatly reassuring.
3. The cost of assisted living, depending on geographical location and other factors, may well be lower than other options.
4. Various levels of assistance are available; as a result, you can retain independence in most areas of your life as long as possible and effortlessly slide into increased care as the need arises.
5. There are ongoing opportunities for social interaction at most assisted living facilities; at an increasing number of them, this includes yoga and meditation classes!
The Bottom Line
These are just a few of the advantages and disadvantages of home care vs. assisted living. We all have different needs: various physical limitations and psychological make-up, differing degrees of introversion vs. extroversion, and so on. When making the choice about how to spend your retirement years, it’s important to weigh all these factors, along with financial concerns, family availability, and many others. Assistance from a counselor specializing in elder care, a spiritual adviser, or friends and family in similar situations may be very useful is helping in making this important and highly personal life decision.