9 out of 10 seniors would rather remain in their homes than move into a nursing home. This “aging in place” trend is increasing and will likely become more prevalent as America’s senior population grows.
But what are the benefits of staying in your own home compared to moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility, how do the two compare, and what sort of challenges will you face if you choose to remain?
Aging in Place vs Nursing Homes
Most seniors would prefer to stay at home, but many of their loved ones would prefer they move into nursing homes. Both have valid points, and the one that works best for you will depend on everything from your finances and insurance, to your proximity to family members, and your pre-existing health conditions.
To help you make the right decisions, here are a few things to consider.
Home modifications might seem like the more expensive option, but the average nursing home costs $80,000 a year. That’s over $200 a day, which is the equivalent of staying in a 4-star hotel every single night.
The average cost of a brand-new fully adapted vehicle is also around $80,000, but that vehicle will serve you for many years to come. These are not always necessary, as some seniors can comfortably use public transportation or taxi services.
Actual home modifications tend to be much cheaper, including:
- Lowered Kitchen Counters = $500 to $1,500
- Lowered Appliances and Other Kitchen Modifications = $10,000 to $20,000
- Grab Bars for the Bath = $200
- Lever-Handled Faucets = $300
- Exterior and Interior Ramps = $1,000 to $4,000 (low-cost portable options also available)
- Handrails for the Stairs and Other Areas = $500
- Stairlift = $3,000 to $5,000
- Anti-Slips Mats and Rugs = $1,000 to $2,000
- Alert Systems = $1,000+
- Lift Chairs = $1,500+
- Adjustable Bed = $1,500+
- Walk-in Bathtub = $5,000
You can renovate with complete home safety in mind and it’ll cost you less than a year’s stay in a nursing home. Of course, you won’t reap the long-term care benefits provided by around-the-clock staff and care facilities, but you’ll cover all of your basic needs.
Remember that this only works if you own your own home, which is true for most older Americans.
Quality of Life
Independent living is great for older people who have retained some of their mobility, don’t have any serious health complications, and don’t require constant care. Regardless, what happens when you reach a point where it becomes a chore to wash, dress, and feed yourself?
Your basic daily tasks, from waking up in the morning, bathing, and eating breakfast, to getting the mail, climbing the stairs, and cleaning the house, can feel like unbearable and unnecessary chores. You become Sisyphus, constantly pushing that boulder up the hill, and putting everything you have into it, only to watch it roll back down so you can start anew the next day.
You have your independence, but only at the risk of your sanity and your well-being. Sometimes, even if you’re desperate to cling onto your home, you just have to admit defeat and realize that nursing homes are the answer.
They can provide a higher level of health care than you have in your own home. They can also assume all responsibility for your daily chores, such as cleaning, making your bed, and going to the grocery store, and leave you to enjoy yourself a little more. Your daily life should not be a struggle and, in an assisted living facility or nursing home, it’s not.
Most seniors have fewer friends than they had 30, 20, and even 10 years prior. People drift apart, they move away, they die. It’s one of the many unfortunate facts of getting older and it happens to all of us.
If you have managed to maintain a strong social circle, you may feel that a nursing home will ruin that by taking you away from the people that matter the most. If not, it will greatly improve your social interactions.
There is also a middle ground in the form of a senior living community. You’ll have your own home and your freedom, but you will also be surrounded by older adults who you can interact with on a daily basis. These retirement communities are the perfect choice for seniors who live alone, don’t suffer from mobility problems, and want to maintain their independence.
If you have a serious health condition and don’t have a full-time caregiver, a nursing home or assisted living facility is the only option. Home care can only do so much and there are limits to what you can do for yourself.
Handrails, grab bars, alarms, and maintaining close contact with healthcare providers and social services can help you maintain some independence, but it simply can’t compare to the care you’ll get in a specialist facility.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you’re recently disabled or widowed, it’s hard to make the right decision. You don’t have the experience of living alone with a disability and your judgment may also be clouded by determination to remain in your own home. To get some clarity, ask yourself the following questions:
- How will I purchase groceries and other essential living supplies?
- What happens in the event of a lockdown, as seen in states like New York during COVID-19? Will I continue to get the care that I need?
- Can I bathe myself and get dressed every day?
- Can I cook food without putting myself or my home at risk?
- Will Medicare or Medicaid cover me for modifications, mobility improvements, or nursing home stays?
- Will my family and friends visit me at home, and could it be easier for them to visit me at a nursing home?
- Can I get support from a non-profit organization?
- Should I stay in my home or move to a senior living community?
- Is it easier to modify my home or to move into a smaller, single-story home?
- Can I perform basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) with or without modifications?
Successful aging in place, like anything, is about doing your research, thinking things through, and not rushing into anything. Test your home out for a few days to see if you need any major improvements and to understand if you can deal with those changes. Visit nursing homes and care communities, speak with loved ones, and consult with accessibility specialists.
Regardless of the option you choose, it’s a big move and an incredibly expensive one, but it could also be one of the most important decisions you make.