Should we consider in-home care for my aging parent?

Learn the pros and cons of hiring a caregiver so your parent can stay at home.

March 15, 2023

6 min read

Senior man in a wheelchair being helped up by senior woman

When a parent or family member requires care that is beyond your capability to provide, what do you do? Bringing in a professional caregiver for your parent so they can continue living at home may seem like the obvious choice. In this article, we will share the benefits and limitations of home health care. We will also address this question: What are some other options if in-home care might not be right for your mom or dad?

In-home care for aging parents, defined

In-home care is a large, growing, well-established practice that’s designed for people who’d like to continue living in their home but need regular care. Some families hire professional caregivers to provide companionship for their parent when they can’t be there. More typically, the person needs someone to look after them while providing personal care services. If your parent lives with you ­– or you’ve moved into your parent’s house – bringing in a competent, caring home health professional might help your parent while relieving you of caregiver responsibilities.

Does your parent need in-home care?

When you arrange for in-home care services, the provider will perform an assessment based on your parent’s activities of daily living, or ADLs.

Here are the six essential activities of daily living, which may reveal your parent’s ability to look after themselves:

  • Ambulating: Ability to move and walk on one’s own
  • Personal hygiene: Bathing and other aspects of grooming
  • Continence: Controlling bladder and bowel functions
  • Dressing: Selecting and putting on clothing
  • Feeding: Eating on one’s own
  • Toileting: Using the toilet and cleaning oneself

Another key measurement is instrumental activities of daily living, or IADLs.

Here are the six IADL factors that make it possible for someone to live independently:

  • Competent management of personal finances
  • Obtaining and taking prescription medications as directed
  • Communicating successfully using phone and mail
  • Shopping for necessities including food and clothing
  • Cleaning the house and kitchen
  • Ability to prepare meals

Using these assessments will help determine the level of in-home care your parent will need.

Quiz: Does your parent need home care?

In-home care’s pros and cons

Once you have a clear idea of what sort of in-home care your parent requires, it’s time to determine the benefits and drawbacks of these services.

Pros

Living at home
In-home care makes it possible for your parent to continue living safely at home

Personalized care
Your parent is cared for one-on-one – with services customized to fit his or her likes and needs

Caregiver selection
You and your family select and approve the caregiver who will work with your parent

Caregiver familiarity
Mom or Dad becomes acquainted with the caregiver, which may increase their comfort with the arrangement and reduce loneliness and isolation

Customized costs
Costs are based on the services delivered, so you won’t pay for anything your parent doesn’t need

Cons

Accelerating costs
The more care that’s needed, the higher the cost will be; in the U.S., the average cost for round-the-clock in-home care is $2,800 per week (the actual price is driven by a variety of factors, including where you live)

Varied quality
Should your parent require 24/7 care, multiple caregivers may handle tasks, and the quality of care might not be the same between one caregiver and another

Care management
When you hire an in-home caregiver, you and the family become the caregiver’s “management team,” which increases the odds of bringing on the right caregiver by asking the right questions

Home modifications
Even with in-home care, the home may need modifications to make it safe for older adults – this might include everything from grab bars to wheelchair ramps to modifying the width of bathroom doors

Limited services
The in-home care agency may not provide services such as grocery shopping or cleaning the house – and you will still need to manage or outsource home maintenance like cleaning the gutters and shoveling snow

If the pros outnumber the cons, you might be on your way to a great solution for your parent that will keep them right where they want to be – in their own home. However, if any of the downsides above give you pause – or if you discover that the cost will be higher than expected – an assisted living community might make more sense.

What is assisted living, and will it benefit your parent?

Despite the fact that more than 900,000 people live in assisted living communities across the U.S., the general public is often unclear on what assisted living is and how it differs from other senior living options.

“Senior living” is an umbrella term covering 55+ neighborhoods that include apartments, condos or townhomes – along with planned communities where room, board and care are included in a single monthly fee.

Assisted living offers around-the-clock attention for each resident’s personal needs, be it managing their medications or helping them get dressed and bathe. Many assisted living communities have full-time licensed nurses on staff, and some communities have a nurse on-site 24/7.

What if your parent is experiencing cognitive decline?

If your parent has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, consider the advantages of a memory care community. Similar to assisted living (in fact, memory care is often offered within assisted living communities), memory care provides security and safety in a private area dedicated to supporting the unique needs of people with cognitive impairment.

How does assisted living differ from nursing homes?

Just to be clear: Assisted living and memory care are not the same as nursing homes. Nursing home residents require more care than what is typically offered at an assisted living community, such as palliative care. Nursing homes have a clinical setting that is closer to a hospital or rehab center and usually don’t provide the social and wellness opportunities you’ll find at an assisted living community.

Pros and cons of assisted living communities

Pros

Lower costs
Assisted living might cost less than an in-home option if around-the-clock care is needed

Adjustable care and costs
The amount of care – and therefore, the cost – can be raised or lowered as needed

Improved family dynamics
Since the family isn’t managing the care and home maintenance, they can concentrate on spending quality time with Mom or Dad

Socially stimulating
Your parent will have daily opportunities to socialize and form new friendships with other assisted living residents

Expert-led nutrition services
In some communities, menus crafted by a culinary team trained in senior nutrition offer varied and healthy meal options

Programs designed for older adults
Some communities offer programs designed to engage older adults and encourage them to pursue their interests

Cons

Moving challenges
Your parent might be leaving a home they love, and they’d likely need to part with some personal belongings in a move to assisted living

Potential extra costs
Should a very high level of personal attention be needed, you might need to hire a private duty aide; this will cost extra

Shared common spaces
While many residents thrive in an assisted living community, some people shy away from group environments

Making a fully informed decision

When comparing in-home care options, always have a licensed home health care agency do a thorough assessment of your parent’s needs. If you’d like to learn more about assisted living, this blog has some useful information. Also, feel free to reach out to your local Atria community director today for resources and support.

Illustration of garden entrance with arched gate

Not sure where to start?

Whether you’ve provided care for a parent for years or are just starting to notice signs of cognitive decline in a spouse, caregiving comes with challenges every step of the way. Explore our five areas of the journey for tailored support along your path.

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