A Guide to Eldercare Options:


Quick summary

Evaluating your parent’s living needs — and abilities — is an ongoing process. And there’s a range of eldercare options available to meet those shifting priorities and concerns — from the freedom of living on one’s own (perhaps in a smaller place) to the supportive environment of assisted living to the round-the-clock care available at skilled nursing facilities. Each offers something different, so sorting out your options is the first step.

Approximately 30 million families are providing care to an older relative, a number that’s expected to double over the next 25 years. Planning ahead for eldercare can help cut down on the financial and emotional toll of caring for a parent. If your parent is starting to show even a few signs of needing more support, it’s time to start exploring the maze of options.

Independent living

Sometimes called "aging in place," this is the route that the great majority of older Americans say they hope to take. Your parent is likely to need some support if he chooses to continue living on his own, although how much help he’ll need will vary tremendously depending on his health and how connected he is to the community.


A good place to start looking for support is the federal Department of Health and Human Services Eldercare Locator, which can connect you with public and community-based agencies that offer services to elders in the area. You may also want to look at simple home renovations, such as adding a railing next to the toilet, as well as the growing list of gadgets that can make independent living safer and more comfortable as your parent ages.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? "A good candidate has family members who are able to check on him every day," says Pat O’Dea-Evans, COO of Paxem, a Chicago-based company that helps seniors who are contemplating a move. Your parent’s health is a central factor to consider — one you’ll need to re-evaluate periodically as he ages. Parents who are healthy enough to perform basic functions such as cooking and bathing and who can get around safely may do well living independently.

Also look at the kind of support your parent has in the community — does he live near important services like a grocery store, pharmacy, doctors, and a hospital? Is he connected to others in his neighborhood, or has he become socially isolated?

Moving to a new home

As parents age, they’ll sometimes choose to move into a smaller, perhaps single-story home, sometimes in a different state in order to be closer to their children. If this is something your parent would like to pursue, consider enlisting the aide of a senior move manager, a professional who specializes in the relocation needs of aging adults.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If you or another family member wants to offer support to your parent but live too far away, relocation may be a good solution. If your parent is already living nearby and is committed to living independently, it may be wise to downsize as he gets older and a larger home becomes harder to navigate and maintain.

In-home care

If your parent wants to stay in his home but is beginning to need more help, he has a number of options — from a personal care attendant, who can assist with tasks such as cooking and cleaning, to a certified nursing assistant, who can monitor your parent’s medical condition and help with activities like bathing and dressing.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent places a high value on privacy or the familiarity of his home and neighborhood, this may be the best choice. Finding the right match may take some time and effort, however. If your parent is cognitively impaired, you’ll want to be especially cautious before going this route. Although most caregivers are trustworthy, you’ll need to make sure he doesn’t get taken advantage of.

Moving your parent in with you: Eldercare at home

If you have the space and can handle the day-to-day care of your parent, you may want to think about inviting him to come live with you.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? Whether to move your parent into your home is an intensely personal decision. You need to think about the nature of your relationship with your parent, as well as his relationship with your partner and children.

The layout of your home is an important consideration: Do you have an in-law unit or even just an extra bathroom that your parent can use exclusively? Privacy can be very important to seniors, as well as to you and your immediate family.

You’ll also need to consider your schedule and your parent’s care needs and level of mobility. If you work full-time and your parent can’t get around on his own, he may feel more isolated living with you than he would in a eldercare community where he could socialize with other residents and participate in on-site activities. But if you and your parent communicate well and enjoy each other’s company, and you and your family have the time and ability to care for him, sharing your home with your parent can be a wonderful way to stay close as he ages.


Independent living communities

Usually apartment or condominium complexes, these communities generally offer on-site amenities such as beauty salons, banks, fitness programs, and communal meals. They may even have a doctor who makes regular rounds.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent values his independence and isn’t in need of daily care — but perhaps is ready to stop driving, is starting to worry about his safety, or just wants more support and companionship — an independent living community can be a great choice.

Assisted-living facilities

These eldercare facilities cover the middle ground: They serve elders who need more support than they can get living independently but who don’t need complex medical care on a daily basis. Most offer meals, housekeeping, and planned activities. Many will remind your parent to take medications but won’t do things like give injections.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent is finding daily life increasingly challenging but doesn’t have a serious medical condition that requires round-the-clock monitoring, assisted living may be the right choice. As with all eldercare housing communities, assisted-living facilities vary greatly, so make sure you know exactly what a particular location does and doesn’t offer before making a commitment.

Continuing-care communities

There’s a wide variation in what continuing-care communities provide, but most offer a range of eldercare options as your parent ages, from independent living units to assisted living to skilled nursing, all in one place. These facilities can be costly to start — most charge an entrance fee and may require your parent to purchase his apartment or condominium — but because many promise to care for your parent for the rest of his life, even if his needs change, they also offer security.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? A continuing-care community is a good choice for a parent who wants assistance making some of his healthcare decisions, says O’Dea-Evans. It’s also a good choice if you don’t feel able to manage your parent’s care on a daily basis — perhaps because you live far away — as everything he’ll require as he ages is generally on-site, and trained staff will help him move from one phase to another as the need arises.

Family care homes

These are usually private homes that have been converted to provide eldercare for a small number of seniors. An alternative to a skilled nursing facility, they generally offer all meals and round-the-clock staffing, sometimes at a lower cost.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent lives in a small town or rural area without a skilled nursing facility and wants to stay in the area, this may be the best option. Family care homes are also a good choice for people who need lots of personal attention from caregivers who know them well, says O’Dea-Evans. Such seniors might not thrive in a larger facility with different staff members coming in and out.

Skilled nursing facilities

These eldercare facilities provide round-the-clock medical care, usually administered by registered nurses and aides under the supervision of doctors. Your parent may also receive physical, speech, and occupational therapy, as well as assistance with activities of daily living.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent needs help from trained medical personnel on a daily basis — such as insulin monitoring and injections for diabetes, or intravenous medication — or if he’s unable to feed, bathe, and dress himself, he may need to be in a skilled nursing facility long-term. A limited stay in a skilled nursing facility may be necessary after a medical crisis requiring hospitalization.

Memory care or Alzheimer’s care facilities

These specialized eldercare facilities serve Alzheimer’s patients and those with other forms of dementia. They are generally secure, so that a patient who is confused can’t wander off the grounds. The staff is specially trained to provide eldercare to seniors with cognitive issues.

  • Is this the right option for my parent? If your parent suffers from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or a condition such as Parkinson’s or a stroke that has caused permanent cognitive impairment, he may well need this kind of specialized eldercare. But be sure a neurological exam confirms that any impairment is permanent before you make this decision. If a parent were to regain cognitive function, as may be possible after a stroke, this kind of setting wouldn’t be right long-term.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply