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Evaluating the Level of Care an Older Person May Need

Part Two in A Four-Part Series on Elder Care 

In part one of our series (link to article) we highlighted 12 signs your loved one may need to begin receiving ongoing care. If you realize that a parent or other loved one is in need of long-term elder care, it’s important to determine the level of assistance needed. There are varying degrees of assistance available ranging from in-home health care, for someone who can still live relatively independently to hospice care for those who are terminally ill. Here is an explanation of some of the options to evaluate and factors to consider before choosing what may be most appropriate.

  • Home Modifications – If your loved one is active, alert and wants to stay in their home, making some modifications to their living space may help them maintain their independence longer. Home modifications are changes made to a person’s home or apartment to accommodate any physical limitations to help safely navigate their surroundings and minimize risk of physical injury. These modifications can range from something as simple as replacing cabinet doorknobs with pull handles to full-scale construction projects such as widening doorways, constructing wheelchair ramps, or installing stair lifts or elevators. Visit Homemods.org for more information on home modifications. .
  • Moving in With Children or Family Members – According to the U.S. Census, 3.6 million elderly parents were living with their children. If you have a good relationship with your parent(s) or family member, and an extra room, having them move in might be the right choice for your lifestyle and your budget.
  • In-Home Health Care – Home health care helps seniors live independently for as long as possible, given the limits of their medical condition. It covers a wide range of services and can often delay the need for long-term nursing home care. It may include occupational and physical therapy, speech therapy, or skilled nursing. It can also help the elderly with day-to-day activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, taking medication properly, cooking, cleaning, other housekeeping jobs. If you’re caring for a relatively independent older family member but can’t be there every day, this might be a good option for you. For more information on home health care options, visit The National Association for Home Care.
  • Adult Day Care – These centers are usually open during working hours and may be located in independent facilities, senior centers, nursing facilities, religious centers, hospitals, or schools. The services differ at each facility but may include: monitoring medications, serving hot meals and snacks, performing physical or occupational therapy, and arranging social activities. They also may help to arrange transportation to and from the center itself. If you and your loved one decide that having access to a more socially active environment is important, adult day care facilities may be the right choice for you. You can learn more by visiting The National Adult Day Services Association.
  • Assisted Living – If your loved one can no longer stay in their home (whether for physical or financial reasons) and you cannot care for them every day, an assisted living facility may be a good choice. Assisted living facilities offer a housing alternative for older adults who need help with dressing, bathing, eating, and toileting, but do not require the intensive medical and nursing care provided in nursing homes. Assisted living facilities may be part of a retirement community, nursing home, senior housing complex, or may stand-alone. To learn more about assisted living options visit the Assisted Living Federation of America.
  • Nursing Home – A nursing home may be necessary for an elderly person who must be confined to bed, needs intensive medical care, or access to medical professionals 24 hours a day. To find out more information on nursing homes, visit the website MedlinePlus, a service provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Hospice Care - Hospice programs are available to help terminally ill individuals live out their remaining days with dignity. Hospice care usually is provided in the patient’s home, but can also be made available at a special hospice residence. Hospice is a combination of services designed to address not only the physical needs of patients, but also helps loved ones cope with the impending loss. Hospice combines pain control and symptom management as well as emotional and spiritual support. More information on hospice care can be found through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

There are many levels of assistance available to older people who may not be able to live independently anymore. Any decision regarding what options to pursue should involve a frank discussion with your loved one, their health care provider, and other family members who have a personal and financial interest in your family member, or friend’s, ongoing care.

Part three of our four part series will address the financial implications of elder care and how to prepare.

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