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Assisted Living vs. Home Care: Which Is Right for You?

Maybe you’re an older adult looking for an easier lifestyle. Or perhaps you’re the child or caregiver of a senior who could use a little help with daily living activities. If you find yourself in either of these camps, you might be a little confused about your options. After all, there are so many types of senior care out there.

In this article, we’ll discuss two popular types of senior care: assisted living and home care. We’ll talk about the differences between the two, and we’ll touch on the reasons one might be the better choice for you or someone you love.

Assisted Living and Home Care Are on the Rise

According to a 2010 survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of aging Americans choosing assisted living and home care is growing. At the same time, the number of seniors opting for nursing home care is slightly declining.

This shift in elder care could be due to a number of things. For one, as medical technology improves, we’re living longer and staying healthier much later in life. For another, assisted living and home care tend to be more affordable than full nursing home care.

Assisted Living for Seniors Defined

young woman with senior woman, to illustrate assisted living

Unlike home care, assisted living for seniors generally takes place in a group retirement home, often similar to an apartment building.

Assisted living facilities offer help to older adults when it comes to the daily requirements of living. For some, that means help getting dressed, while others might require assistance with meal preparation, personal hygiene, or taking medication.

Assisted living residents generally don’t have extensive medical requirements. For the most part, they’re independent adults, relatively able-bodied and mentally sharp. They just need help with the basics, and assisted living offers that to them.

What Is Home Care for the Elderly?

caregiver giving senior man a meal, to illustrate home care

Home care involves elder care services that take place in the client’s residence. This could be a private house, an apartment, or even within an independent living community. These services may be personal or medical in nature.  

For example, a senior might hire a personal caregiver to help with getting dressed, cooking, grocery shopping, or keeping the house clean. A nursing caregiver might stop by for regular health checkups and medical needs.

The amount of care can vary widely. For some seniors, home care might entail only a few hours of assistance per day during the week. Others might require care 24 hours a day. Both options are available with home care for seniors.

How Assisted Living and Home Care Costs Compare

For many seniors and their caregivers, cost is a major concern. Some might think home care is less expensive, but that’s not always the case.

According to PayingForSeniorCare.com, the general rule is that if a senior requires 40 hours of care or less per week, then at-home care will be less expensive. But each case is different. For instance, Genworth’s 2016 Cost of Care Survey reported home care costing about $200 more a month than assisted living nationally, based on 44 hours of home care per week.

In the end, for seniors whose medical needs are minor, whose homes are paid for, and who have a robust network of friends and family willing to lend a hand, home care will likely be the more affordable option.

On the other hand, for elders who rent their homes, have medical conditions or mental health issues, or who have few loved ones living nearby, assisted living can be a more affordable choice. (Learn a lot more about assisted living costs by state.)

Which Is Better: Assisted Living or Home Care?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question. The right choice will depend on whether assisted living or home care best fits your specific needs and your budget.

The best strategy is to do a cost comparison to see which option will yield the best results. When the numbers are close, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of whichever choice will provide the best quality of life for you or your senior loved one.

More in this series:

Assisted Living vs. Independent Living

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

Assisted Living Guide

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