Assisted Living vs Home Care: Which One to Choose

If you’re an adult child of someone who recently began needing assistance with daily activities, you and your parent are faced with a difficult choice between home care and assisted living.

In this article, I’ll try to help you understand the difference between the two options, your older adult’s needs, and help you make the right choice. The choice between assisted living and home care depends on your older loved one’s specific needs and situation. There are many factors you should consider, such as the level of care needed, the senior’s personal preferences, and most importantly finances. That’s why it’s vital for you to understand the key differences of assisted living vs home care.

 Key Differences Between Assisted Living and Home Care 

When you’re considering the best senior living option for your loved one, the first step is to understand how assisted living is different from home care. Let’s have a look at some pros and cons of each option. 

Home Care

 Home care is when a hired caregiver comes to the senior’s home to help with daily activities like bathing, getting dressed, moving around the house, cleaning, cooking, and so on. The exact level of care depends on your older loved one’s needs and health condition. Remember that the level of care affects the cost – the more help the senior needs, the more expensive home care will be. 

Pros

  • Seniors can safely continue living in the comfort of their own home
  • Seniors get one-on-one care from a caregiver they get to know really well
  • Family chooses the caregiver
  • If not much assistance is needed, home care is an affordable option
  • Care arrangements can be very flexible 

Cons: 

  • The family has to be constantly involved in hiring and managing caregivers
  • There is a need to plan for a backup option
  • Tasks like shopping, housekeeping, and house maintenance need to be managed by the family
  • If 24/7 care is needed, the cost can skyrocket
  • Seniors can potentially become socially isolated, which may lead to depression and cognitive decline
  • The house may require expensive modifications for safety and/or wheelchair accessibility 

If you’re considering home care for your aged loved one, you should take into account all the costs associated with the senior staying in their home. While the caregiver will help the senior with chores and provide companionship (those are the things in-home care agencies emphasize when they sell to potential clients), they don’t provide nursing services like giving injection and medication, lifting to the toilet, and so on. If your loved one requires those services, you’d need to hire a nurse to handle them, in addition to paying for home care.

Add to that the cost of maintaining the house and taking care of the bills, and you’ll see why assisted living often is a much more affordable choice.

 Assisted Living

 An assisted living community provides accommodation and a wide range of care options for seniors. The monthly fee typically covers meals, housekeeping, group activities, transportation, and other care options, although residents who need a higher level of care may need to pay extra. 

Pros

  • 24/7 assistance, care, and supervision at a more affordable price
  • No need for the family to hire, manage, and schedule caregivers and be responsible for things like shopping, paying utility bills, etc.
  • The level of care can be easily adjusted depending on the senior’s needs
  • Lots of opportunities for social interactions and participating in engaging activities 

Cons

  • No consistent one-on-one care as staff changes are quite common
  • If a high level of one-on-one care is required, the resident will have to pay extra for it
  • Quality of care may vary depending on the staff
  • Less privacy
  • Not all seniors enjoy a group living environment, especially if the community provides accommodation where two residents share a room.

Now that you have a good understanding of assisted living vs home care, you need to figure out how much help your aging loved one needs. That will help you choose the option that works best. 

Determining the Required Level of Care 

Before you start calling assisted living communities or home care agencies, you should sit down and make a list of everything your older adult needs help with on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Be realistic about the help you or other relatives can provide on an ongoing basis and don’t overestimate your loved one’s abilities. Even if they can manage some tasks now, they may not be able to deal with them in the near future. For example, you can’t expect someone with glaucoma to keep driving. When you have your list, it should become pretty obvious which works best for your loved one, assisted living or home care. If you’re not sure, consult your older adult’s doctor.

 Take Finances into Account

 Before you make the final decision, you need to carefully consider your loved one’s budget. Assisted living and home care costs can greatly vary depending on the senior’s needs, location, and other factors. The best way to get a good estimate is to call some assisted living communities and home care agencies in your area. You can also use an online estimate tool for a quick check and have a look at average senior living prices in your state. Don’t forget that you’re doing some long-term planning, so don’t jump into the cheapest option that offers the most basic level of care. 

Let’s have a look at some basic expenses you need to take into account:

Home Care:  

  • Hours of care needed on a monthly basis
  • Personal and household supplies
  • Food and meal preparation
  • Housekeeping including laundry
  • Home and garden maintenance
  • Utilities, garbage, and water
  • Mortgage, rent, property taxes
  • Transportation 

Assisted Living 

Assisted living cost varies from community to community. Make sure you know what’s included in the monthly fee and what’s not in advance before you sign the lease. Typically, the monthly expenses include:

  • Base rate
  • Extra fees for additional services
  • Personal care supplies
  • Snacks and in-room dining 

While in-home care seems to be an easier and more affordable option at first, it usually works out a lot more expensive and stressful than assisted living in the long run. Once you add up the cost and project the expenses your older loved one will have to handle for the next few years, you should have a very clear idea of whether assisted living or home care is the best choice for you.