Often times the terms “assisted living” and “nursing homes” are used interchangeably. However this is a mistake because the two are actually very different. A person who is a candidate for one facility will not necessarily be a candidate for the other.
While in-home care for aging seniors can be more cost-effective, those that require extensive caregiving will find that a nursing home or assisted living facility will be more cost-effective than attempting to create a nursing facility in the home. Despite the expense, most seniors would prefer to stay at home for as long as possible.
The term ‘assisted living’ allows the senior adult their own living space but provides a level of monitoring that most people can not afford in their own home. The key benefit is that services are already in place if the individual’s health continues to deteriorate. Most facilities allow residents to start with the basic apartment and live independently with additional services such as cleaning, meal preparation or transportation provided if needed. When additional assistance becomes necessary, such as dressing, bathing or walking, help is available on site.
In some states, some of the assisted living services are covered under Medicaid, but most people pay for them through long-term care insurance policies or out-of-pocket.
Nursing home care is often the last step for individuals who require constant round-the-clock monitoring and medical care. If an individual’s health has deteriorated to the point where that much care is required at home, it is no longer financially efficient to provide it. Annual costs for nursing homes can range from $50,000 to nearly $200,000 a year.
Although those costs are high, the cost of a home health aide 24 hours a day will range close to the same price. Costs on top of the home health aide will include room and board for the aid, covering shifts, housing and gas and electric, all of which are covered under the cost of the nursing home. Once an individual’s assets have been exhausted Medicaid will pay for most nursing home care that accepts the plan.
When choosing either an assisted living facility or a nursing home, evaluate the care that is given and the facility itself to ensure that your loved one receives the best care possible. Talk to residents and their families. Find out about the staff to resident ratio. While the published number may be one thing, the reality may be another, because nursing homes are chronically understaffed. Ask the nurse’s aide on shift and find out how many nurses there usually are staffed. Pay attention to the details in the facility. Is it clean? Is the piano tuned? Are in the cosmetics (wallpaper, paint, furniture) clean and well cared for? If the staff take care of small things they probably also take care of the big ones. It’s also important to remember that the care given to individuals in nursing homes and the assistance given to those at assisted care facilities is often the best when loved ones are present, visible and are involved.