How is Assisted Living Different Than Home Care?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 4, 2022
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When an aging parent’s health begins to decline, it can be difficult to figure out where to turn for help. The senior care industry has so many options for support it might be overwhelming. It's common for seniors and their adult children to waffle between enlisting the services of a home care agency or deciding to relocate to an assisted living community.

While both of these options have similarities, there are distinct differences to consider before making this decision. Here’s some more information to help better understand the pros and cons of each one.

What Is Home Care?

Home care, which is also known as private duty care or in-home care, brings the services older adults need to the privacy of their house. These services enable seniors to age in place, at least in the short-term, as safely as possible. Depending on the situation, professional caregivers help with anything from light housekeeping and laundry to meal preparation and personal care.

Home care can be a good solution for seniors who live independently and need a helping hand:

  • Those who require minimal to moderate assistance at fairly regular intervals
  • People whose needs are nonmedical and can be met with a few hours of support each day
  • Someone who resides in a safe, senior-friendly home that is easy to navigate

Home care may also be used as a temporary solution while adult children search for an assisted living community. It can help keep a senior safe, so the family has time to make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Understanding Assisted Living

Like home care, assisted living promotes greater independence for older adults. Assisted living residents typically have their own suite with on-site caregivers available around the clock to offer support. This gives seniors and their loved ones peace of mind.

If your aging loved one has certain limitations, assisted living may be the best option:

  • Mobility challenges that increase the likelihood of falling
  • Health issues linked to isolation, such as depression or cardiac disease
  • Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia that puts their security at risk
  • Challenges living in an older home that hasn’t been modified for senior safety
  • Struggles finding reliable, affordable transportation after giving up driving
  • Difficulty managing and staying on track with their medication

Comparing the Cost of Home Care to Assisted Living

Older adults frequently assume it’s less expensive to age in their home rather than move to an assisted living community. Since seniors often reside in a home where the mortgage is paid, it’s easy to understand why. But that assumption overlooks the costs of maintaining a private home.

When comparing the cost of living at home to those of an assisted living community, remember to account for additional expenses:

  • Utilities, cable television, and Internet
  • Home security and emergency alert systems
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Maintenance and home repairs
  • Yard care and snow removal
  • Homeowner’s insurance and property tax
  • Appliance repair and replacement
  • Transportation costs, either maintaining a car or paying for services

If an older loved one only needs a few hours of support each week, family members may be able to handle the tasks. As the senior’s needs increase or the care they require becomes episodic (e.g., they need assistance at irregular intervals), hiring an overnight or around-the-clock caregiver may be necessary. Those expenses come at a premium and can quickly add up.

While the cost of assisted living might cause sticker shock initially, it’s easy to see the value and affordability when you understand what is included:

  • Private living space with safety features that generally include grab bars, an emergency call system, and step-in shower
  • Housekeeping, laundry, lawn care, snow removal, and maintenance
  • Caregivers on-site, around-the-clock for assistance with toileting, grooming, dressing, and more
  • Well-balanced meals and healthy snacks typically prepared by a chef under the direction of a dietician
  • Utilities, basic cable, and local phone service
  • Transportation to doctor’s appointments and group outings

What Type of Care Do You Need?

If you are wondering how to decide what kind of senior care is best for a loved one, this quick Care Questionnaire will be a helpful tool. With a series of questions, it will guide you to the type of support that best meets the senior’s needs.