Seniors can get numerous benefits from staying in their homes for as long as possible. For one thing, residing in a familiar environment can help keep their minds and memories sharp. For another, many seniors have relationships with neighbors or nearby friends that also help to keep them mentally or physically healthy. When older adults are engaging with friends or family members on a day-to-day basis, they have more reason to "stay young," a psychological factor that can benefit their health in the long run.
Eventually, however, most seniors just reach a point where they have difficulty maintaining a home by themselves. Perhaps their limited or declining mobility makes it difficult for them to do chores or take care of general upkeep and maintenance; maybe they just need help preparing their meals or cleaning up the kitchen after a meal has been prepared. Just because an elderly loved one isn't completely able to take care of themselves or look after their home doesn't mean that they have to move into an assisted living environment. On the contrary, in-home healthcare might be the perfect compromise, allowing a senior to get the help and attention they need without leaving the familiarity of their home and all of the benefits that offers.
The other advantage of in-home care? In general, it's markedly less expensive and easier to afford than other types of senior care.
The Costs of In-Home Healthcare
When it comes time to pay for assisted living care or nursing home care, you aren't just paying for around-the-clock medical services, but you are also paying to rent out a living space. One of the big benefits of in-home care is that the caregivers come to you. Since many seniors have paid off the mortgages on their homes and have modest monthly expenses otherwise, in-home care usually ends up being one of the most affordable options (if not the most affordable option) for long-term senior healthcare and assistance.
With that said, the costs of in-home care tend to vary more than assisted living, nursing home care, or even independent living. This variance occurs because those three types of senior living situations all come with monthly expenses attached-monthly expenses that cover rent, medical care, and other fees and services as an all-in-one payment. Looking at average monthly costs, then, makes it relatively easy to predict how much you might spend on care for a year. For instance, if the average monthly cost of assisted living in the United States is between $2,500 and $4,000 (according to the senior living website A Place for Mom), then you would plan to budget somewhere between $30,000 and $48,000 a year for care.
The challenge with predicting the annual (or even monthly) cost of in-home care is that most caregivers or in-home healthcare companies charge by the hour, with the average billing rate typically falling between $15 and $45 per hour. This payment structure is justified by the fact that every senior living at home has different needs, as far as assistance is concerned. Some just need help with getting to appointments, paying bills, cleaning the house, navigating things on the computer, or accomplishing other more intermittent tasks. Others might need help dressing, bathing, or preparing meals daily. As a result, in-home care arrangements can vary drastically, from caregivers to stop in to check on the senior once a week to caregivers who work almost full-time with a single client.
Deciding How Many Hours of In-Home Care Is Necessary
What all of this means is that if you are considering in-home care for a loved one, the first thing you need to do is determine what level of care is necessary. Does the senior in question need daily assistance with most tasks? Do they just need help preparing meals? Or are they still mostly independent, and just need intermittent help with a few tasks here and there?
It's also worth considering whether nearby family members can help. In many situations where in-home care is being implemented, the senior has family nearby who can help with things on the weekends or during an evening or two each week, but just can't be there all the time. In such scenarios, you can work out a schedule where a family member is helping the senior out sometimes, and a caregiver is helping at other times. Such arrangements can ensure that the senior is getting the care they need while keeping costs from adding up too quickly.
Paying for In-Home Care
Once you've figured out a tentative plan for the number of hours each week you will need to hire an in-home caregiver, you can start calling around to local in-home healthcare companies and getting service quotes. When you know how much you can expect to spend each month on in-home care, you can get to work determining how you are going to pay for it.
If the predicted expense is relatively low, you might consider paying for in-home care out of pocket. However, if you are bringing in a caregiver for an extensive number of hours each week, then the hourly rate is going to add up and these other options will be worth considering:
- Investigate your loved one's life insurance policy. You might be able to arrange early payouts to cover in-home care expenses.
- Look into long-term care insurance. This type of insurance policy is a must-have for any senior, especially for one who may need in-home assistance in the next few months or so. Not all policies will pay for in-home care, though, so choose wisely.
- Use retirement money. Many seniors have retirement savings or pensions that can be accessed to cover the monthly expenses of in-home healthcare.
- Remember Veterans Benefits. If your loved one served with the U.S. military, he or she may be eligible for financial support.
- Consider a reverse mortgage. If your elderly loved one is low on savings, but has equity in his or her home, that equity can essentially be sold back to the bank on a gradual basis to give your loved one the cash they need to pay for in-home care.
As you can see, there are several options available to help you and your family handle the expenses of in-home senior healthcare. Medicare and Medicaid are also options but are difficult to tap for in-home care and should be considered a last resort. Choosing the best of the other available methods, meanwhile, will require you to assess your elderly loved one's health situation, their finances, and your own ability to help pay for or provide assistance.