When caring for an older loved one, the choices can seem limitless, and consequently, overwhelming. We are very fortunate, in the Atlanta area, to have so many great options available to us. But just how can you decide which one is right for your family? What are the differences between Independent Living and Assisted Living, and just where does the nursing home fit in?
First it is important to know what the needs of your senior are, and then you can narrow down how to best meet those needs. One method to determine what they require is to have a comprehensive evaluation done by a professional, either a physician or a geriatric care manager. After you know what you need, then its time to shop for the best options. Here are some guidelines to help in your selection.
To begin, the lightest amount of care is provided in an Independent Living Community for seniors, also known as a Retirement Community. You get no outside assistance, and you have complete privacy, but you must pay privately.
The next level of care is Assisted Living. In Assisted Living, you are provided with basic assistance such as prepared meals, light housekeeping, and usually linens service. If you need more “personal” care you may get it, but at an additional fee. Such things as medication management, help with Activities of Daily Living, etc. BUT they are not able to provide any direct skilled nursing, like wound care or tube feeding. For Assisted Living you either pay privately, or use LTC insurance.
Then a possible need would be Dementia Care. This is much like Assisted Living, but it is only for persons with some form of memory loss. It is usually an all-inclusive fee, because of the level of care required, so you will know up front what you will be paying for. They are also not permitted to do any “skilled” nursing care, but they are a locked, secure unit, to ensure the safety of the residents. For dementia care you pay either privately or with LTC insurance.
There are choices for those who want to remain at home as well. Home Care is also known as companion care. A non-skilled person comes to the private residence to do light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, bathing assistance and occasional transportation (the grocery store, hairdressers, etc.) It can become expensive for the hourly service, which is private pay, although some LTC insurance will pay.
Home Health Care sounds similar, but is very different. Home Health is skilled nursing that comes into the home to address care issues that others are not able to provide. It is very costly, and Medicare only pays when the senior is “home bound.” So it is usually private pay or by LTC insurance.
So, that leaves Nursing Home care. Nursing homes have been given the dubious honor of being the last resort for many. But they are able to provide the level of care that families at home are just not able give. It is skilled nursing, plus all of the Activities of Daily Living. It can be paid for through private pay, LTC insurance, or Medicaid. Medicaid can by tough to come by, as many Nursing Homes limit the “number of Medicaid beds”, you must qualify and there can be long waiting lists, but it can be done.
So as you can see, there are truly many choices in the type of care available, and making the appropriate selection can save you time, money and heartache. If you are unsure of the right choice, seek professional help, and they will assist you in finding the most beneficial options for your loved one.