Are you wondering whether it is possible to stay in your own home or whether it would be more appropriate to move to an Assisted Living Facility?
Many of us will find ourselves confronted with this question when experiencing limitations to our abilities due to age, illness or injury. Such limitations may make it challenging to move from room to room, navigate the stairs, access the bathroom, enter and exit the home or move around town.
The good news it that thanks to the latest advances in equipment and technology, the dream of living at home for a lifetime is now more possible than ever before. There are stair lifts to help with getting up & down the stairs, bathroom equipment to make it easier to get in & out of the bathtub, home safety sensors and home monitoring systems that can help you to stay more connected with family and friends…and much, much more.
That said, staying at home is not right for everyone. In order to arrive at the best decision for yourself, you will need to take into consideration many factors including your ability level, finances, available support network, local transportation options, and the amount of effort it will take to adapt your home for aging needs.
As an Occupational Therapist and Home Accessibility expert, I have worked in a wide variety of Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes, and individual’s homes over the years, and have heard first-hand perspectives from thousands of clients on the pros and cons of these different living arrangements. I’ve gathered and summarized these insights below to help you in making a more informed decision.
Let us first start by briefly summarizing the main characteristics of Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Homes:
- Assisted Living Facilities are designed to provide support for individuals who need minimal assistance with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and medication management. Most individuals have a private apartment, and meals and cleaning services are usually provided. A nurse is not necessarily onsite 24/7.
- Nursing Homes are more expensive, have nurses on site 24 hours/day and are set up to assist individuals who require more extensive assistance with daily activities. In many cases, the rooms are shared by more than one person.
Following is an outline of some of the pros and cons of moving into an Assisted Living Facility or a Nursing Home:
Potential Advantages of Moving to an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home
- You no longer need to worry about maintaining your home and property
- On-site opportunities for group activities, exercise and socializing
- On-site services are available for cleaning, meals, bathing and dressing (Note that many facilities charge extra for these services.)
- There are more people around to help in the event of a fall or medical emergency
- Depending on the care level of the facility, there may be greater availability of medical staff and supervision
- More age-friendly architectural features and equipment
Potential Drawbacks of Moving to an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home
- You will be isolated in a homogenous community comprised of only one age group
- Your eating, showering, and dressing times may be strictly dictated by the facility
- Instead of having one caregiver attending to you who understands your needs and preferences, you will be seen by many different staff members that change throughout the day, between weekdays and weekends, and whose time and attention are spread among many residents.
- Be aware that if you move to an Assisted Living Facility and your physical or cognitive skills drop below the requirements for remaining a resident, you will find yourself being forced out and in search of a new home again. Many people find themselves moving multiple times, from one facility to another as their ability level changes.
- Contradictory to what one might think, even in a 24-hour care facility, such as a nursing home, you will not receive continuous 1 on 1 supervision or attention. In many cases the nursing assistant who helps you will also be covering up to 10-30 other residents so if you need assistance to go the bathroom you may be in for a very long wait!
- In Nursing Homes it is not uncommon to share a room with one or even two other people, with little more than a curtain between the beds for privacy.
- The unpleasant smells and/or the overwhelming smell of chemical cleaning agents found in some Nursing Homes can be off-putting for many people.
With regards to staying in your own home, the following aspects should be considered:
Potential Advantages of Living at Home
- You are able to remain in your own home, a familiar place full of the memories that define the essence of who you are – near your friends, family, neighbors, local stores and restaurants.
- In your own home you maintain autonomy over when and how you want to perform your daily activities.
- If you do need additional assistance you can personally select the caregivers, and they will be focused on your individual needs and wants (in contrast to a caregiver in a facility who may have 10-30 other people to attend to as well).
Potential Drawbacks of Living at Home
Studies indicate that most people would prefer to stay in their own home, however there can be some potential drawbacks to doing so. Below you will find a list of some of the drawbacks, as well as some possible remedies for helping you to overcome them.
- You may feel isolated if you can’t come and go independently due to stairs or lack of transportation. (Remedy: There are a variety of ramp or lift solutions that can be installed to help you get in & out of the house independently, and there are specialized transportation services for seniors that you can hire to help you get around town.)
- You may need to interview and manage the caregivers and/or personally set up meal services, laundry, cleaning, and transportation services. (Remedy: There are agencies that can provide full-service assistance in helping you manage these areas.)
- You may need to rely extensively on family or friends for assistance. (Remedy: Home adaptations and the right equipment can substantially reduce your need to rely on family & friends.)
- The house and yard will require ongoing maintenance (Remedy: Hire someone to assist with the gardening and maintenance. If you are unable to afford to hire help, you may be a candidate to receive volunteer assistance from groups such as Rebuilding Together.)
- There is less supervision at home in the event of a fall or medical incident. (Remedy: There are various life alert systems available to assist you in getting help in the event of an emergency and there are also home safety sensors that can help in detecting falls.)
To learn about the financial aspects to take into consideration when making your decision about whether to stay at home or move to an assisted living facility, read Part II of this article .
More articles are steadily being added on the latest tips, tricks and technology to help you remain in your own home, so check back often or sign up for the Newsletter to be kept up to date when new posts are added.
More Topics You May Be Interested In:
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- Your Own Home vs. Assisted Living Facility: Cost Comparison
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- Invest in Your Independence
- Getting In & Out of the Bathtub: Benches, Lifts, and Transfer Chairs