Finding care for a loved one extends beyond simply choosing when it’s time to make a chance. There are so many different types of care, and choosing the correct one can make all the difference. Here’s an overview of the various types of care for the elderly, including comparisons between home care and elderly care facilities.

Independent Living

Independent living homes are geared towards senior citizens, while offering more independence than other types of care facilities. The building will feature certain amenities that you typically don’t find in an apartment building, and will have trained staff on hand that you wouldn’t find at a regular apartment building. It ensures that there’s a bit of a safety net, without full-on assisted living care. The facility will likely have social areas, activities, outings, and other things.

Independent living can take place in an apartment complex setting, but it can also look like a retirement community where people have their own free standing homes, or townhouses, or condos, etc. Independent living is about the way the area is configured and staffed, and the services they offer, and the ages of the people living there, rather than referring to a specific type of building or space.

Seniors appreciate having their own space with privacy and independence, without having to deal with various hassles like yard work, maintenance, laundry, and other chores.

Assisted Living

When your loved one is no longer in the ideal situation at home, it may be time to consider having them move to an assisted living facility. Assisted living facilities have caregivers and skilled nurses on their staff, so they can provide assistance with day-to-day things like tidying up, laundry, and providing meals while skilled nurses can help with medical care.

Moving into an assisted living home doesn’t mean that life as you know it is over. It’s a change, especially for people who had been living on their own prior, but it’s something that everybody can adapt to. You can still maintain your hobbies and interests, and you can absolutely make the best of it. You can meet new friends, enjoy leisurely activities, read, watch tv, go for walks, in fact you’ll have more time for the things you enjoy since many of the monotonous chores and tasks of the day are taken care of for you.

Skilled Nursing Care

Skilled nursing care is for patients who require treatments that only a licensed/registered nurse can provide. Other types of caregivers are limited in what they can do, if they lack the necessary medical training. Skilled nurses have the training and expertise to administer medication using an IV, for example, but custodial care givers aren’t equipped for that.

Skilled nursing care can be provided in a number of different settings, including at an assisted living facility, in the home, or at an adult day care.

Continuous Care Communities

A continuous care community, or CCRC (for continuous care retirement community) is a great choice for people who want to stay in the same community throughout the aging process. Rather than starting with in-home care, then moving to an independent living facility, then moving to an assisted living facility, and ultimately to a nursing home, a CCRC allows them to stay in one place, where the level of care can evolve and change as needed. You can move into a continuous care community earlier on in the aging process, get comfortable, and know that as your needs change, the community can meet those needs.

You only have to move once, from your home into the continuous care community, rather than moving several times as your condition changes. This is a lot less hassle. You can live independently when you first move in, and the staff will monitor and help advise on when more care may be required, including assisted living, nursing care, and memory care, depending on the specific facility/community. 

Home Care

Home care is the preferred choice for anyone who is still physically and mentally capable to live in their own home. There are different types of home care, depending on the exact level of care somebody needs, including family-provided care in-home which we’ll be touching on in just a moment. It’s also possible to have caregivers come by the home as needed, either on a schedule like once a week to do laundry, tidy up, and to take care of other household chores, or more frequently to help with daily tasks like medication reminders, cooking, and just making sure everything is okay. If the homeowner has medical needs, this will have a big influence on the type of care they need, and whether or not home care is a good choice for them.

Home care means having a caregiver come into the home, which requires a level of trust and with time, a relationship is formed. A great caregiver will learn the nuances and the personality of the person they’re caring for, and they’ll earn the trust. This is easier accomplished when someone is still in their own home, people are just more comfortable at home as a rule of thumb, compared to moving into an assisted living facility.
Home care givers can provide care for wounds and injuries, respite care for family members who typically provide care, assistance with medication, and more. They have medical training, they have nurses at their disposal when additional help is needed, and they are trained in how to respond to a variety of issues that can arise. They are a friendly, recognizable face that drops by, ideally they’ll have a friendly relationship with your loved one, and they can simply make the home care process a much easier transition from fully-independent living.

It’s preferred to keep someone at home as long as possible, but at a certain point that’s just not a practical or safe solution, and that’s when it’s time to think about moving out of the home. It’s never easy, for anyone, to move from home care to care outside of the home.

Family-Provided Care

Sometimes, family members are able to come together to provide care. This either means the loved one stays in their home, and family members visit to offer care on a daily basis, or whenever it’s needed. Alternatively, the loved one may get rid of their own residence, and move in with a member of their family – this happens when they need more active-care, and just having somebody drop by isn’t good enough anymore.

There are many benefits to this type of arrangement. For one, it’s less costly than having to pay for additional care, since the family members are essentially volunteering to help out. It’s also better in the sense that they are with their loved ones, instead of relying on a stranger for care, not to take anything away from all of the incredible caregivers out there but sometimes family is the most comfortable choice. It saves the loved one from having to move into an unfamiliar place like a nursing home, instead staying in their own home or moving in with a family member.

But there are downsides, too. This can put quite a strain on the rest of the family, depending on how many family members are helping out and how much help their loved one needs.

Caregiver burnout is a serious concern, it’s not easy to care for somebody at the best of times, but when that person is really struggling, and their loved ones are watching them get worse and worse, and if there are mental issues like alzheimer’s or dementia, that can just magnify things. Imagine you’re making sacrifices in your own life to care for a loved one, and eventually they don’t even recognize you, so everyday is such a struggle as you show up to offer them care, they are confused or afraid, or reluctant to accept the help. It’s heartbreaking for families to live through.

Make sure the caretaker in your family is well-equipped, has all the support they need, and is able to take breaks, and knows how appreciated and important their work is. If you’re the caregiver in the family, it may feel thankless at times, and you may become frustrated if other family members aren’t stepping up in the same way, and these feelings are normal. Just remember that you’re doing what you have to do, you’re doing the right thing for your family, and most importantly remember that you have to take care of yourself too because you can’t care for someone else when you’re going through it yourself. You need to prioritize yourself so that you can offer the care that someone else needs.

Adult Day Programs

This is also referred to as adult day care. It’s a place for senior citizens to get out to during the day, to make friends, and to participate in various activities. If there is a full-time caregiver, for example if the senior is living with family and living with family-provided care, the adult day care gives the family some time off. If members of the family are working, or in school, or if their loved one just requires around the clock care, then this is a great option if they aren’t quite ready for assisted living outside of the home, or to have outside caregivers coming into the home for a portion of the day.

These are great programs for seniors who can still be out and about during the day, but need that extra little bit of care, just in case.

There are adult day cares, or adult day social care is another name for it. Also, there is adult day health care, which is similar to what we’ve described above except with the addition of being able to provide additional medical services to those who may need them.

Virtual Companion Care

This newer style of care offers a minimal level of care for people who are living on their own. They are given a tablet with software installed to help with things like medication reminders, keeping someone company remotely by having a video chat session, monitoring their mood and well-being, checking in throughout the day, having the ability to reach out if they need something, and so on.

Since this is a newer style of care, it may not be readily available from every service provider, but if you’re doing family-based care, this is a crucial tool. All of the members of the family can be dialed-in to the person who needs care, so that someone is always available to help them with day to day things, not to mention more important stuff like helping out in the event of a non-medical emergency, or helping to coordinate care if there’s a medical issue to address.

Comparing Types of Care

Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Hospice care is focused on getting rid of the pain and the suffering when someone is approaching the end of their life. At a certain point, their passing is inevitable, and there aren’t treatments or medical options available anymore or they are too risky or too intrusive and it’s time to accept that the patient is nearing the end of the road. At this time, hospice care is there to make their final days, weeks, or months as comfortable as possible by managing pain and reducing suffering, along with spiritual pursuits when the patient wants, and more.

Palliative care is dedicated to helping reduce the symptoms of pain and suffering as well. Hospice care is a type of palliative care, but palliative care can begin before the end of the road, so to speak, has been reached. Palliative care can begin at the diagnosis, to reduce pain throughout the treatment process, and once it’s recognized that the treatments are not successful, hospice care takes over to help with end-of-life care.

Skilled Care vs Custodial Care

Skilled care refers to medical care, such as skilled nursing. Custodial care refers to non-medical care, like having meals prepared, help with laundry, cleaning services, etc. Different people require different tiers of care, and any caregiver will be able to help you assess what’s best for you or your loved one based on your unique needs, but hopefully the overview of the different types of care for the elderly 

Memory Care vs Assisted Living

Assisted living and memory care have a lot in common, with some notable differences. Memory care is often more-staffed, which means that there are less residents per staff member, since the people living here need a higher level of care as they’re suffering from dementia and other mental challenges that necessitate this higher level of care at a memory care facility. Assisted living facilities, like memory care, will offer around-the-clock supervision, meals, laundry, social structure, and more. Memory care facilities take into the account the fact that they need to be careful about residents wandering off on their own, leaving taps running, etc. They’re under a higher-level of supervision, and things are arranged in a way to eliminate as many of the dangers of memory loss as possible.

Adult Day Social vs Adult Day Health

Adult day social care offers a social environment with trained staff who will know how to react to a variety of issues and emergencies that may arise during the course of a day when you have a group of senior citizens together. The primary difference between day social care and adult day health care is that the health programs will offer various health services and the ability to deal with medical situations more promptly. Without the health aspect of the program, it’s more about social.

The health component is a safer option for seniors who require more active medical intervention in their day to day lives, while still maintaining the benefits of being social, engaging in planned activities, and getting out of the home for a bit. A senior with medical concerns can’t necessarily just stroll into any regular leisure facility, but having healthcare staff on hand opens a lot of doors and makes these programs accessible for seniors who would otherwise lack this fundamental socialization and activity.

Final Thoughts on Choosing The Best Types of Care for the Elderly

Whether you’re leaning towards home care or moving your loved ones into elderly care facilities, it’s a deeply personal choice that has to take a lot of factors into account, including:

  • What you and the family are able to provide in terms of care
  • The budget and ability to pay for various types of care
  • What levels of care are covered by insurance
  • The preferences of your loved one, as much as possible
  • What’s safe and practical
  • What makes sense for the short and long-term

Many family members feel a great deal of guilt when dealing with these decisions, but don’t be hard on yourself. Understand that this is something most families deal with, the families who are fortunate to have their loved ones reach an old enough age where you have to worry about this. Trying to find care for your aging parents and loved ones is kind of a fortunate problem to have, since it means they’re still around, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a difficult and stressful time none the less. They may or may not be adapting well to the changes, so that can cause another layer of difficulties, not to mention if they are dealing with memory loss and the loss of other cognitive functions which can make the movie process scary and confusing on top of everything else.

Whatever your situation is, you can weigh the options at hand and act accordingly.