Assisted Living vs. Home Care: What is the Best Fit?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 28, 2021
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When a family elder needs more help or has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, loved ones often debate which senior care option is best. For some, working with a home care agency seems like the best solution. Other families believe the intermittent needs of their loved one are best met by moving to an assisted living community.

If this is a situation you find yourself in, you might benefit from learning more about these 2 popular types of senior care.

What is Nonmedical Home Care?

Unlike home health care that provides skilled nursing and therapy services in the home, a home care agency focuses on nonmedical support. Depending on the older adult’s situation, caregivers can be hired to provide assistance with tasks such as light housekeeping, menu planning, grocery shopping, meal preparation, bathing, and grooming.

Here are several conditions that indicate a senior might be a good candidate for nonmedical home care services:

  • Only require a minimal to moderate level of overall assistance
  • Can benefit from nonmedical support a few hours a day at somewhat regular times
  • Don’t have intermittent needs, such as sometimes requiring help getting to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night
Reside in a home that is senior-friendly, such as a single level with an accessible bathroom and limited stairs

Home care can also be used as a short-term solution when a senior and their family is searching for an assisted living community. It gives families more time to ensure they are making an informed decision about which community is the best fit.

Understanding the Benefits of Assisted Living

Like home care, assisted living allows older adults to retain their independence longer. Assisted living residents usually have their own suite in a welcoming environment. They live with the peace of mind that comes from knowing caregivers are on-site around-the-clock, if needed. 

Assisted living may be best for your senior loved one if they have a recurring need or a special situation. Here are several circumstances to consider:

  • Having difficulty managing their medication schedule and refilling prescriptions
  • No longer driving and struggling with access to transportation
  • Living with a mobility impairment that increases the risk for a fall
  • Having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
  • Residing in an older house that isn’t modified for senior safety
Other benefits of moving to an assisted living community include having access to delicious, nutritious meals and opportunities to socialize with fellow residents.

Cost Comparison of Home Care versus Assisted Living

It’s easy to assume the more budget-friendly option for a senior is to age in place in their own home rather than move to an assisted living community. Since many seniors live in a house where the mortgage is paid, that’s an understandable conclusion. This perspective, however, overlooks the additional costs of maintaining a private home, such as utilities, cable service, maintenance repairs, as well as property and homeowners insurance.

When you are trying to compare costs equitably, it is important to include expenses most seniors will eventually need if living independently:

  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Lawn care and snow removal
  • Food shopping and meal preparation
  • In-home caregivers and aides
  • Medical alert emergency call system

If the older adult only requires a few hours of help each week, family members might be able to cover certain tasks. But if a senior loved one needs recurrent care (e.g., taking medication during the night or overnight assistance to the bathroom), it might be necessary to hire an around-the-clock caregiver. If that happens, overall expenses can add up quickly.

The bottom line is that there are a variety of factors to take into consideration. One tool you might find helpful is the Sunrise Care Questionnaire. This online assessment can help you determine what the best solution for your loved one might be.