When preparing for retirement, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is where to live. Many of us, and our loved ones, immediately assume this will be at either an assisted living facility or a continuing care community. While there are benefits to these senior housing options, such as having medical care available around the clock, you may still be able to enjoy independent living with the help of in-home care.
Independent living communities, whether apartments or houses, and in-home care can work together to make your life easier and safer.
What Are Independent Living and In-Home Care?
Independent living is any type of living arrangement designed exclusively for people age 55 and older, such as senior apartments or retirement communities. Independent housing can range from apartments to multiple-bedroom homes. In general, these homes are compact and easy to navigate so maintenance is less of an issue.
In independent living, residents have access to services such as housekeeping and activities such as social events and educational classes.
In-home care can include:
-“Home health care,” including nursing to help you recover from surgery or an illness; and physical, occupational or speech therapy.
-Non-medical “home care,” which can include homemaker services such as household chores, plus help with daily activities like bathing, dressing and taking medications.
-Visits for individuals who could use someone to check in on them.
-Electronic monitors that automatically respond to medical and other emergencies.
How In-Home Care and Independent Living Work Together
Eighty percent of elderly people who receive daily living assistance, even those with severe limitations, live independently in senior communities or private homes. It’s easy to understand why.
For starters, independent living allows people to eat their own food and live according to their own schedules. In-home caregivers are there to help older adults so they can continue to live independently.
In-home senior care also is flexible. You might just need someone to spend a couple of hours per day to prepare meals and do light housekeeping. Perfect. However, if your needs change, such as requiring physical therapy, the agency will have a therapist come to your home.
Additionally, you pay only for the services you need. This means in-home care within independent living can be more affordable than assisted living or a nursing home. You also get to choose your caregiver. If you don’t get along or believe a caregiver isn’t the best fit, you can find someone else.
Finally, your caregiver can keep track of your overall health and address concerns to you or your family. While the caregiver can’t diagnose the problem, she could suggest that you make an appointment to have the issue checked out. Noticing and resolving health concerns as early as possible can greatly improve your chances of continuing to live independently.
The Role of Independent Living Communities
Most independent living communities provide a wide range of services, including meal preparation, laundry, transportation and housekeeping, at an additional cost to offer residents a maintenance-free lifestyle.
Offering in-home care as an amenity is embraced by independent living communities since it encourages residents to remain active and independent while at the same time providing help with daily activities. In-home care might, for instance, provide wellness checks or assistance with incontinence. This ensures the well-being of residents – and puts them and their families at ease, knowing they’ll have a support system if needed.
If a doctor orders in-home health care, independent living communities may allow third-party services into the homes of residents. These services could include physical therapy, hospice care, and podiatry or dentistry.
When selecting an agency for in-home care, you can ask for a referral from either your independent living community or your doctor. If neither can provide a referral, you can locate a home care agency near your ZIP code using the National Association for Home Care & Hospice agency locator. You also could contact your state’s department of health or a local social service agency for a recommendation.
When selecting an agency, make sure to ask questions about costs, the credentials and training of the staff, coverage options, and whether the agency accepts Medicare or Medicaid.
How Much Does In-Home Care Cost?
That depends on where you live. The average cost of independent living in the U.S. ranges from about $1,500 to $3,500 a month. You can expect to pay between $16 and $29 per hour for home health aides, while homemaker aides without medical training range from $13 to $24.
People with Medicare Part A and/or Part B are eligible to receive home health care if they meet certain requirements. People with Original Medicare pay nothing for home health care and 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers.
Medicare will not pay for non-medical home care, sometimes called custodial care, though Medicaid might. So if you are seeking in-home health care, ask your doctor or a friend for referrals to agencies that are Medicare-approved.
Learn more about independent living and other senior-living options in After55.com’s Senior Housing Guide.
Update, May 26, 2016: Senior living communities are recognizing their residents’ interest in in-home care, according to a report from Senior Housing News. In some cases, senior living properties are contracting with outside companies to provide “white label” in-home care under their name.