Most of us would prefer to age at home. But the reality is not everyone can, or should. Sometimes staying in your own home as you become increasingly frail is a poor choice. It can be lonely and even dangerous. It can burn out family caregivers. And it can even be more costly than other options, especially for people with very heavy care needs.
Social isolation is a powerful risk factor for affecting senior health
“Aging in place” is the phrase of the moment. But, sometimes, both the patient and the family would be healthier and happier living in an assisted living community. Social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality in older adults. Social isolation also has been linked to other adverse health effects, including dementia, increased risk for hospital readmission and increased risk of falls. However, research consistently shows that feeling connected and involved benefits both mental and physical health.
Caregiving has negative impact on caregiver physical health
High rates of depressive symptoms and mental health problems among caregivers, compounded with the physical strain of caring for someone who cannot perform activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, grooming and other personal care activities, put many caregivers at serious risk for poor physical health conditions. Indeed, the impact of providing care can lead to increased health care needs for the caregiver. In 2005, three-fifths of caregivers reported fair or poor health status, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with one-third of non-caregivers. Caregivers also reported chronic conditions (including heart attack/disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis) at nearly twice the rate of non-caregivers (45% vs 24%).
“I don’t want to leave my home”
The biggest objection of older adults is that they don’t want to leave home. However, home is not giving them the life they once had. Friends have died, moved away, or are no longer mobile. Cooking is a chore, as is getting to the grocery store. Bathrooms may be unsafe. There may be stairs. As a caregiver, suggest that your loved one go with you to visit some assisted living facilities. Often their preconceived notions are dispelled once they see that assisted livings are more akin to hotels than nursing homes with dining rooms, activities, amenities, housekeeping, and often, very active seniors.
Guilt is often the driving force keeping family members from broaching the subject of assisted living. Part of taking care of a parent is making sure they have the best care. Often, finding a proper assisted living for a parent is the most loving act that a child can do because it improves the quality of the parent’s life from medical and social perspectives.
But, isn’t assisted living expensive?
Unfortunately, assisted living communities in Alabama, whether they be small homes or full-fledged communities do not accept Medicaid. Depending on where your loved one lives, prices can run anywhere from $1,800 per month for a studio to $7,000 per month for a prime two bedroom apartment. In reviewing whether a client can afford assisted living, remember that these prices are all-inclusive. They cover rent, utilities, meals and snacks, housekeeping, transportation, activities, 24 hour care on-site, and often extras like cable and personal laundry. Usually, the only out of pocket expense for the individual is their cell phone and out-of-pocket medical.
How does a family get started?
There are over 100 senior living facilities in the greater Birmingham area. Senior housing referral agencies like Assisted Living Locators are experts on what is out there and provide free help in sorting through options. It is important to select an agency that is “boots on the ground” consultants, not internet services. Assisted Living Locators only recommends places we’ve personally inspected and usually have existing residents who provide feedback on the good and the bad. A good agent will tour with the client to help them evaluate the community and help negotiate rates, which can save substantial sums over the long term.
Assisted living is an important piece of the senior living spectrum helping seniors live healthier, more engaged lives. Understanding when to consider it and how to talk about it can make the difference in how your loved one enjoys their last years.