Nursing home versus home care: How to decide

As the substantial baby boomer population continues to age, more adults are presented with the dilemma of what to do in terms of long-term elder care. Often, the question comes down to whether or not you, or an aging loved ones, should age in place with the assistance of a home health care provider, or move into a nursing home. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but the answer should be determined based a holistic perspective of what is best for the individual physically and emotionally.

A checklist can help in your decisionHas an assessment been done recently?

A comprehensive assessment is the best place to start. If the senior is in the hospital, this assessment can be done by the medical team. If the senior is living at home, the assessment can be done by a reputable home health care provider. During the assessment, professionals will determine healthcare needs, social needs, and mental/emotional well-being, as well as the resources available in the home. The results of the assessment can be used to determine a long-term care plan, which may be graduated to include a home health care aide and transition to a nursing home when the time is right.

What is the status of the senior's physical health?

While caregivers are trained to provide basic day-to-day services such as meal preparation, house cleaning, some mobility assistance, bathing and grooming assistance, and medication reminders, they are not medical professionals. If you or your loved one has more serious medical complications, a nursing home can provide trained medical staff, 24/7.

Can the home be easily adapted for accessibility?

One of the main concerns for seniors who age in place is physical safety. The home assessment will determine whether the home is safe, or can be affordably adapted to meet the senior's long-term mobility needs. If it is not an easy retrofit, recommendations may be to move to a smaller, accessible location, or to an assisted living community so the senior can have independence as well as a built-in community of peers and trained staff.

What are the senior's social needs?

Some seniors are true homebodies, with little need for outside stimulation. Others are more social and aging in place can cut them off from friends and loved ones, which often leads to depression. Home health care providers can serve as companions, and transport the senior to favorite groups, activities, appointments, etc. If this is not enough to keep the individual stimulated, or a senior has more progressed stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it might be time to transition to a nursing home.

Does the senior need round-the-clock care?

Often, people are under the assumption that if seniors need 24-hour care, they should be moved to a nursing home. This is not always the case. Many home health care services provide 24-hour care, depending on the needs of the individual.

Once you have worked your way through these questions, you will have a better idea of whether home health care or a nursing home care is the right option for your needs.